Saturday, January 30, 2010

Free speach

Criticism of a company is a dangerous thing. Good reason to support Wikileaks. Anywho.

Rather than responding to the substance of the criticisms, Apex took the matter to court to try to remove them from the internet. On December 23, Judge James Hurley issued a prior restraint against, and, ordering the websites to remove all postings about Apex Technology Group or its President, Sarvesh Kumar Dharayan, until further order of the court. The court also ordered the sites’ ISPs/domain name registrars (DiscountASP.NET,, Domains By Proxy and Network Solutions) to stop hosting and “immediately shut down and disable” the websites. Finally, the order requires the ISPs to provide identity information about their customers.

This order dangerously overreaches. By restricting access to entire websites, it places a prior restraint on all of the speech on the websites, even if that speech is unrelated to Apex or Mr. Dharayan. Imagine if a court could order or shut down because of a disparaging review of a single product.

This despite the fact, of course, that there is an actual law that says what they're doing is legal.

Yet, section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act protects websites that host content posted by users, providing immunity for a website from state law claims (like defamation) based on the publication of "information provided by another information content provider."

Never let the law get in the way of a good lawsuit, that's what I say. The best bit is this, though:

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Apex Technology Group, is a staffing and consulting services company. . . . The dispute apparently started when someone uploaded a document purporting to be an Apex employment agreement to, and noted several terms the poster considered unfair to H1-B workers (copy of original post). The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The defendant websites allegedly linked to this post and document, and Apex demanded its removal. Curiously, Apex simultaneously claimed that the document defamed them and that they were its copyright owners. This is unusual, since people rarely defame themselves with their own copyrighted works.

That's pretty classic. I think I'm going to publish a tell-all book, and then sue any bookstore that sells it for defamation. Profit!

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