A couple months ago I reported on the tale of an academic publisher suing a librarian and a university over a critical blog post by the librarian.
To make a long story short, Edwin Mellen Press was using a bogus defamation lawsuit in an attempt to silence a critic who had described that publisher's books as poor quality and not worth the cost.
That case was a pretty clear example of legal bullying, so when I read today that a lawyer for Edwin Mellen Press had made more legal threats against yet another blog I was not surprised. Appalled and angry, yes, but not surprised.
I've just read a new blog post over at The Scholarly Kitchen. That academic publishing blog has covered the Edwin Mellen Press legal shenanigans in the past, but today's post by Kent Anderson did not cover new details in the story. Instead it was a short explanation that TSK had received a couple threatening letters from an attorney and as a result had removed 2 blog posts:
Earlier this week, we received two letters from the attorney for Edwin Mellen Press. We have subsequently removed two posts by Rick Anderson discussing Edwin Mellen Press and all comments emanating from those posts.
You can read the letters over at The Scholarly Kitchen, but the tl;dr version is that Amanda Amendola, acting as Edwin Mellen Press's lawyer, threatened one of the commenters with a libel suit. She also threatened The Scholarly Kitchen with a lawsuit if that blog should
"publish or provoke any statement about our company or authors that is in the slightest bit defamatory".
In case you missed it, this is a threat to sue over comments.
Later in the letter Amendola goes on to claim that The Scholarly Kitchen has "a legal obligation to monitor these types of comments".
This is legal bullying, clear and simple. The goal of this letter was to scare the writers and publisher at The Scholarly Kitchen, and to that end this lawyer made an open threat which was backed up in part by a lie. Edwin Mellen Press wanted to silence one of their critics, and they succeeded.
Please note that I am not criticizing The Scholarly Kitchen for removing the blog posts; threatening letters from lawyers are scary and the safer path is to remove the posts. I support The Scholarly Kitchen in their decision.
But this letter is still legal bullying and Amendola still lied. In particular, she was lying when she claimed that The Scholarly Kitchen had a legal obligation over the comments left on that blog.
That is nonsense. Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code covers secondary liability for internet service providers, and it has repeatedly been interpreted in ruling after ruling that this section protects a blog from any legal liability for the comments left by readers. You could make whatever nasty comment you wanted about this publisher or their lawyer and I have no legal liability what so ever.
On a related note, Edwin Mellen Press is still suing Dale Askey, the librarian mentioned in the first paragraph, though they have dropped the lawsuit against the university. In other words this vanity press is only attacking its critics with legal threats and not unrelated parties.
How nice of them.