Sue him — yeah, that’ll work

Some things you wouldn’t think you would have to explain to people — and yet, every day new examples appear: tags on an inflatable water toy that say “Not to be used as a rescue device,” or a label on a chainsaw that says “Do not stop chain with hand.” Today’s contribution comes from Maine, where if there was a warning sticker on the wall at Warren Kremer Paino Advertising it would read: “Don’t sue a blogger just because he doesn’t like your work.”

That’s exactly what happened late last week, when the firm sued a Maine blogger named Lance Dutson for what it claimed was “copyright infringement, defamation, trade libel and injurious falsehood.” Dutson, who also does some web design and advertising work, complained about the ad campaign that WKPA did for the state of Maine, referring to the agency at one point as “some big company in New York with no ties to the state, pissing away tax money.” More about the lawsuit can be found here.

First of all, let’s forget about the idea that this is about copyright infringement (for posting some of the agency’s work) or about defamation or any of that bollocks, although my pal Scott Karp is quite right to point out that this lawsuit is a warning shot across the bow of all bloggers. If you want to be treated as journalists in some sense, that includes dealing with the risk of libel and defamation lawsuits. Still, this lawsuit is clearly about WKPA (which of course makes me think of WKRP, being of a certain age) getting its nose bent about some criticism.

As Steve Rubel points out, suing a critical blogger is a particularly thick-headed thing to do. How could this possibly work out worse for the firm? It must have gotten legal advice from the RIAA’s lawyers, who came up with the brilliant idea of suing music fans across America, including high-school honour students, retired veterans and people without computers. Compared to that, WKPA’s strategy actually looks smart — but that’s about the only angle from which it appears anything less than moronic.

Now, instead of searches for the company’s name on Google producing a list of links with Lance’s website high up — which the firm said it was afraid of — it will produce a far larger list of critical links, all of which are about what an ass the firm is. Nice work there, WKRP.


The agency has withdrawn the lawsuit.

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