Internet—and Law?—Supports Blogger in Spat
Posted Apr 16, 2007 12:45 PM CST
By Martha Neil
It used to be that a business suing an individual, with the help of a well-known local law firm, had a big advantage. But that's not necessarily true today. In an ongoing spat between a Nashville, Tenn., woman and a recruiting firm over a critical post on her blog about its work, the woman may be winning, at least in the court of public opinion, reports the City Paper.
Before the controversy began over Katherine Coble's biting blog post, material on the Internet concerning J.L. Kirk Associates routinely supported the company, the article says. But now, if you do a Google search on Kirk, Coble's blog is prominently displayed. An estimated 225 fellow bloggers now cite Coble's rant, which has generated 90 or more responses.
Truth is Coble's defense to the firm's demand that she take down her blog or face a suit for damages for defamation, her lawyer says. But Bruce Barry, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, told City Paper that Coble may already have won in the court of public opinion.
When deciding whether to sue an angry customer in the digital age, it may well be the better part of valor to refrain, Barry said. Otherwise, an online complaint is likely to get a lot of publicity, he pointed out.
“It’s astonishing that this firm wouldn’t consider this highly predictable consequence,” he said. “Whether or not there is a free speech issue here, it certainly seems like a dubious business call.”