Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(January 1998)

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Subject: Re: Ever Been Sued?
From: "Ronald F. Guilmette" <rfg @ monkeys . com>
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 23:55:37 -0800
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: Your message of Thu, 29 Jan 1998 23:28:30 -0600. <Pine . LNX . 3 . 95 . 980129230550 . 12957E-100000 @ spock . leben . com>

In message <Pine .
 LNX .
 3 .
 95 .
 980129230550 .
 12957E-100000 @
 spock .
 leben .
Mitchell Leben <mitch @
 leben .
 com> wrote:

>Time for me to come out of the woodwork and ask a few questions.
>A list member has threatened to sue me because I first filtered posts from
>his account, then removed him from the list...
>So my question is, what will happen if this goes to court? In my opinion
>the legal threat is frivolous, but I am not a lawyer. It is my
>understanding that a list I create/host/own is mine to do with as I
>I am anxious to hear from other list owners who may have run into similar
>situations. Thanks for any insight you can offer.

I don't run any lists, but you'll get my advice anyway.

There are two main rules you should follow:

Rule #1 is:  Don't even worry about it until you get served with papers.
The odds are better than 99% that you never will.

This same sort of intimidation tactic and legal saber rattling happens just
about once every two weeks or so on the net to either one of the USENET news
spam cancelers or else to some netizen who has made the mistake of complain-
ing directly to an E-mail spammer about some E-mail spam.  (You should never
complain to a spammer directly.  Complain to his ISP instead and let his ISP
explain to him why what he did was wrong.  It will have more of a lasting
effect that way.)

Anyway, few if any of the Kooks of the Internet ever actually follow thru
on these sort of threats.  They are just hoping that the bluff alone will
be sufficient to allow them to get their way.  As a matter of fact, I know
know of only one case... just one single documented case in all my years on
the net... where a Net-Jerk actually followed through on one of these threats
and actually sued someone, and that was when Sanford Wallace sued AOL for
his (alleged) right to spam _their_ network without restriction.  (I'm not
sure but I think that case may still be pending.  Either that or else he
lost.  Even the judge who was hearing motions relating to a preliminary
restraining order in the case seemed to agree that Wallace's moronic
``freedom of speech'' legal theories were utterly bogus and utterly without
legal merit.  Nobody has the right to tell you what to do with your private
property, not even the government... except in rare cases of eminent domain.)

Anyway, when trying to decide if you should be worried or not about these
sorts of threats, consider this... people who are _serious_ about suing
DO NOT generally announce their intentions with great fanfare and ranting
the way your kook has done.  People who are serious about suing don't talk
about it, they just do it.  In my experience, the very fact that someone
is _talking_ about suing you means that he isn't serious, and is just hoping
to get a rise out of you, or hoping that he can make you cower in unwarranted
fear of the legal process.

(Oh!  And by the way, I have been threatened with lawsuits four times while
I've been fighting junk E-mail spam... twice by corporations... and I ain't
been sued yet.)

Note that even if worse comes to worse and the Jerk manages to get his head
out of his ass for long enough to be able to file legal papers, you _still_
will have plenty of opportunities to pacify him with some token gesture of
conciliation.  The wheels of civil justice grind VERY VERY slowly.  I have
a suit pending now against the jerk who subscription-bombed my server (twice),
and my attorney told me that _if_ the jerk manages to respond to the initial
papers (which he has 30 days to do), I _may_ get my day in court some 10
months after that 30 day response period runs out.  In short, our legal
processe gives everyone plenty of time to reach friendly out-out-court

(If you want a whole long list of bogus legal threats along the same lines
as the one you received, just ask Chris Lewis, USENET spam canceler of long
standing, about all of the bogus legal threats he has endured over the past
couple of years.  I'm sure that he has many funny stories to tell about
these.  Also, it's really fun to see one of these spammer jerks show up
in one of the* newsgroups... as they  do on occasion,
just to give us all a laugh... and to then see them threaten Chris or some
other spam canceler with a lawsuit based upon the first amendment.  The
really hilarious part is the way that they all slink quietly back into
obscurity when someone explains to them that Chris lives in Canada, and
that they don't have the same laws or courts as we here in the U.S. do. :-)

Rule #2 is: Now that you have received the threat, DO NOT respond in any
way to the jerk ever again... no E-mails, no snail-mail, no phone calls, no
nuthin'.  Do not respond TO HIM and also do not write or talk ABOUT HIM in
or on your mailing list or in or on any other fora.  As far as is humanly
possible, you must now pretend that he doesn't exist.  Archive every E-mail
or snail-mail that he sends you, but DO NOT respond in any way to any of
them.  If he calls you, just tell him that your attorney has advised you
not to talk to him.  If he asks you for the name and/or address of your
attorney, tell him that your attorney has also advised you not to give
out that information and then say goodbye and hang up.

Trust me on this.  Once someone makes a legal threat, even if the odds are
very very high that it is utterly bogus (as it is in this case) you _must_
totally disengage from that person and direct all further correspondance to
your attorney.  But keep in mind that it is NOT your responsibility to tell
the jerk who your attorney is.  If he wants to be a prick, let him go and
do his own research.

Of course there are other good reasons to totally cease communications of
any kind with this guy once he has made a legal threat.  One is that this
insures that if you _have_ in fact said or done anything ``actionable'',
then at least you won't be doing it again.  Another is that total silence
is probably the single best way to get him to forget about the whole thing.
And last but certainly not least, total silence is (in my opinion) one of
the best and most eloquent ways of saying (in effect) ``Don't go away mad...
just go away.''

-- Ron Guilmette, Roseville, California ---------- E-Scrub Technologies, Inc.
-- Deadbolt(tm) Personal E-Mail Filter demo:
-- Wpoison (web harvester poisoning) - demo:

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