The Internet today has many advantages as well as disadvantages. Although it provides a plethora of services and products, sometimes it opens up opportunities for deceitful practices that are designed to lure viewers in. One of the greatest advantages is that it provides uncensored comments from those who have personal experience with various businesses. Unfortunately, companies are now using unethical practices such as using copyright laws to hide the truth.
For businesses selling products and services, consumer feedback is extremely important. The last thing these businesses need are websites bashing what they offer. This is especially so for telemarketers who rely on Internet searches in order to gain the consumer base needed to turn a profit. In response to consumer forums that express concerns about products and services, some companies are now filing lawsuits against those launching websites designed specifically for the purpose of airing consumer complaints.
The federal government has recently passed legislation to protect the right of free speech exercised through the Internet against so-called SLAPP lawsuits designed to keep consumers quiet about their true feelings. When faced with a potential lawsuit, many consumers choose to withdraw complaints rather than face court action because they don’t realize laws have been designed to protect their rights. Unfortunately, lawyers are now lining up to take up the causes of big businesses against individuals who dare to complain.
There are many examples of court cases that have recently come to light. In one case telemarketing companies, such as Houlihan Smith & Company, Inc. have hired lawyers like Richard Darke of Duane Morris, LLP to represent them against the Consumer Law & Policy Blog which airs the grievances of individuals who have had bad experiences with telemarketers. These forums serve an important purpose in that they allow experiences to be shared with others that are considering dealing with such companies.
Although these blogs are seldom flattering, they do inform the public of current practices within companies that should be known in order to make an informed decision. Since lawsuits are failing to generate the response of closing down public opinion forums, more creative practices are being used by companies with business services and practices that are inadequate and frequently even deceitful. One way they have found their way around a lack of success through legal means is to implement the use of copyright laws.
Copyrighting is designed to prevent plagiarism of original works. Unfortunately, in this case if business names, products, or practices are copyrighted then it becomes illegal to use them in any written form. For those utilizing forums to express concerns about business practices, this means they are no longer allowed to use the business name, products, or services when complaining. Talking around subjects often results in others failing to understand who to avoid and why.
Groups such as Public Citizen are now banning together not only to fight litigation for those using forums, but to also fight these new copyright restrictions. Only by joining forces and becoming knowledgeable about the legal mandates that are designed to protect the right of free speech can censorship be contained.