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Mar 26 2012

Getting Legal Threat Letters: Lessons for Bloggers and Website Owners

Both my original plan and backup plan for all-new commentary and content on the “Bachelor” producers lawsuit against Reality Steve went up in smoke. I couldn’t do a video that I had planned because my yard was getting done this afternoon and the noise from the lawn mower and weed-eater were just too loud for me to do a video recording. The yard work took up a good part of the afternoon and by the time it was done, it was getting late. In the meantime, I also took two consecutive ELI Phone Support Calls. By the time all that wrapped up, it was time for me to fix dinner.

When dinner was over, I spoke with Sarah (volunteer editor/proofreader) to catch up on things and I finally took some mindless down time for myself. One topic that came up in our conversation was that one of my motivations in writing the Reality Steve Lawsuit series is to educate others as well as advocate for Steve Carbone.  The legal mess that Carbone is going through serves as a live case study for others to learn from.

I have become a self-appointed teacher of sorts during the last two weeks. The ELI website started out as an educational website on stock photo extortion letters but we have obviously expanded discussions to other areas over time. In the case of the Reality Steve Lawsuit, we are discussing a case of Hollywood Extortion.

I thought about skipping tonight but given that I took a break from any in-depth writing, I thought some of you might appreciate some of my past experiences that helped me relate to Steve Carbone and the bullying lawsuit against him.

In that spirit, I am providing links to three incidents I have been through. It seems like I came out of nowhere with my first Reality Steve Lawsuit article. But it really is an extension and continuation from where we have been. You can see how some of my past situations influenced my views of what Carbone is going through now.

My first legal encounter regarding a website matter was 12 years ago. In 2000, I was legally threatened twice by the Napoleon Hill Foundation, keepers of the famous “Think and Grow Rich” book franchise. I learned my early lessons of how to defend myself on the Internet and fighting back.

In July 2011, ELI received a notification letter regarding so-called defamatory remarks against a Masterfile employee. Both Oscar Michelen and I provided email responses to that matter.

In November 2011, ELI received a letter from a California Attorney objecting to his name being associated with the word “extortion” and the ELI website. Oscar wrote his response to that attorney. I also wrote a lengthy response to that attorney.

I do not know if Carbone ever responded to the “cease and desist” letters he allegedly received from the “Bachelor” producers. But the biggest mistake most bloggers and website owners make is allowing themselves to be legally threatened behind-the-scenes and NOT openly sharing it with their loyal fans and readership who are their biggest supporters and defenders.

It is too bad that Carbone’s current lawyers discouraged him from coming out sooner and asking his fans and readership for help. Most lawyers have little or no experience in harnessing the power of the Internet on behalf of their clients. They are mostly concerned about their retainers and the billable hours. Not all legal disputes have to be taken into a courtroom to resolve. That is a luxury only the deep-pocketed can afford to do. The rest of us middle-class “non-lawyers” need to get a little smarter. Otherwise, your bank account will suffer immensely.

My advice to those who are legally threatened and being pushed around is to NOT suffer in silence. Certainly, take corrective measures and respond to the letters but also use their threat letters against them by openly responding and sharing them. It will make people think twice before sending another obnoxious, bullying, and ugly-sounding legally threatening letter again especially when you are advertising their letter for all the world to see.

 

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