Defamation Law, the Internet and Advice

Defamation Law, the Internet and Advice

There are almost no cases left where you can own a hotel, restaurant, product, retail business, legal firm, business service, or any other product or service business, where customers or clients have not made comments on some chat room or message board on the Internet about your company. Moreover, due to the nature of business, and of people, there are hardly cases where people have not made negative comments as part of this practice. As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have to watch everything we say and everything we do so that the wrong person is not offended and angered, or it could end up online. This is the way of life for business in the 21st century. Even my doctor has been torn apart by a few people on health websites for giving too little attention, too little time and not providing a miracle cure in 15 minutes.

I have represented entrepreneurs in many different fields of business. Being an entrepreneur, in any field, means you are constantly seeking new ideas, new practices, making adjustments and working with new people. Thus, the risk is always there that someone will be unhappy. After many years of running a business, it is inevitable that this will occur. In the Internet age, it unfortunately occurs publicly.

Your Response:

Before you respond to any comments online- stop! Though your first reaction will be to immediately defend yourself and clarify the incorrectness or untruthfulness of comments, “Remember!”:

The comments are there and are staying there. Your immediate reply will not change anything. You are better to make a slow and methodical reply. Why?

  1. Your own comments will be there forever as well; and
  2. These posting boards want you to reply because it increases the content about your business on their site and improves the search engine results of the initial comments made- and, thus, of their own website. The more that is added about you or your business- even your own comments- the better the search results of the comments. Don’t help these message boards to hurt you. Slow down!

Take These Steps:

  1. Sit with a confidant (your spouse, lawyer, business partner) whom you trust and write a response offline that you and your trusted person are happy with.
  2. In your response, add links to positive comments about you which have been written elsewhere, or offer to make your own references available to any future clients or customers.
  3. Make your reply short and sweet. Why?

(i). People will not sit through long essays;

(ii). Long ramblings make you look as rambling a person as the writer of the untrue comments;

(iii). The more you write, the better the search results for the comments;

(iv). You make the writer look worse if he has rambled on and you made a simple clear explanation; and

(v)  The more you write, the more likely you can write a sentence that can be misread. Forgetting a comma here or there or not being clear in a sentence can confuse a reader.

  1. Research into the writer of the comments. If they left their name, which crazy people can do, pull up other nasty comments they have written online on websites, social media or anywhere else and link to it in your reply. It will be inevitable that people who wrote mean things online once have done it before. Though, most times, they do so anonymously.

When you and your confidants are happy with your reply, wait another day, give it a fresh read and then copy and paste it in response to the online comments.

Keep in mind, you may choose to not reply at all. This shows a complete disregard for the comments, which can be good. It also, as mentioned before, prevents you from helping out the site which benefits when you write more on the site.

Finally- here’s one other option: Simply copy and past this, and nothing else, under the comments:

stupid

The Law:

Bringing a defamation lawsuit against a writer is reasonable but you must keep in mind- like everything else in life today- that lawsuit too will end up on the Internet. Plus, in order to win a defamation lawsuit, you have to show how your business or personal financial situation was damaged, and, perhaps, how you have been emotional or psychologically damaged. You may not want this on the Internet either. Moreover, if you lose the lawsuit and have not shown that your business has been damaged to the satisfaction of the court or a jury- it’s all for naught.

Defamation “Per Se”:

Some states allow for a defamation per se claim- which means that whether you have damages or not, because of the nature of the comments, you can win the lawsuit anyway. Speak to an attorney in your state about this to see if such a claim is available and how much you could win from such a suit. If you can only get minor monetary damages, it may cost more to bring the claim then you can attain by winning it. Often, the defendant may not have any money (people who write things about others online are usually not the most quality or successful of people), so you may end-up with a judgment you can’t collect upon.

Bad for Everyone:

People who make comments need to realize that they are doing themselves and society-at-large a disservice. Negative comments hardly affect a large business which can easily ignore or waive off the comments, so small businesses take the brunt of this practice. Everyone should stop commenting on small businesses, lest we live in a world without an entrepreneurial spirit and become overrun by large corporations. For example, if someone writes about poor service from a major home improvement retailer, no one really cares. But if the same comments are written about a local hardware store, it can be harmful. As for the humanity of Internet writers, who knows? The owner of a business could have had a bad day, his wife could be suffering a fatal illness, his child can be in the hospital. So, people should try not to be cruel to others. But in reality, people are selfish, mean and thoughtless, and regardless of how bad a person is, their comments may need to be dealt with.

We Are All in this Together:

Everyone makes mistakes in business. Everyone deals with bad people and everyone gets into disputes at some point in a long career. Do not become forlorn. We are all in the same boat and living with the same issue of the Internet. Business missteps are necessary and in 1965 or 1975 (for example) were part of the game. But today, anyone can publish their thoughts to the world. It is scary- but it is reality. Often, it is the scariest of people saying the worst of things about their ex-spouses, schoolmates, their enemies and businesses. They just don’t care about people. And people still read the comments and don’t seem to care if they know who wrote it. But look at the most successful business owners you know. They rarely are laughing and dancing and happy-go-lucky. They are grizzled, tough, sometimes angry and hardened people. Why? Because Internet or not, they have dealt with the difficulty and ruthlessness of others in order to get where they are. You have to do the same. People are liars. People are mean. But people have always been this way. The only difference is that now they seem to want the world to know just how mean they can be. Strange, but true. So get over it and move forward. Success comes with all kinds of sacrifices and failings. Try, when possible, if at all possible, to only work with people you know or friends of friends and associates of associates. Business with strangers can be dangerous in this day and age. Relationships are everything.

Finally, I will leave you with some fantastic words given in a speech by Rocky Balboa to his on-screen son.

“The world is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently- if you let it……It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

None of the comments herein are intended as or should be taken as legal advice. The facts of every situation are different and should be handled based on those particulars.

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Laws To Protect Native Cultures

By: Neil Siskind, New York Lawyer http://www.siskindlawfirm.com

Neil Siskind is the Founder & Chairman of The Fatherhood Assignment
Neil-Siskind-photo
Learn more at:  http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/

Review Neil Siskind’s personal and professional references at: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-bio/

Volunteer, Pro Bono, and Government Background:
Learn about how we try to give back http://www.neilsiskindsupports.com

Neil Siskind’s Volunteer Work: Volunteer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Donate to one of my needy public classrooms: http://www.donorschoose.org/NeilSiskindGiving
Help Neil Siskind make sick children’s wishes come true: Neil-Siskind/Help-Make-A-Child-Smile.htm

Neil Siskind’s Pro Bono Work: Protecting New York’s senior citizens from fraud and financial abuse www.savingseniorcitizens.com siskindsenior-logo

Champion Children – The Siskind Law Firm We seek to inspire people with stories of  children who have overcome challenges: http://siskindlawfirm.com/champion-children/
FreeStart Business – The Siskind Law Firm We seek to help put war veterans and senior citizens in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of  the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/

Neil Siskind’s Philanthropic Work:
-Hudson Riverfront Land Preservation
-Founder, The Fatherhood Assignment: A think tank to educate the public about, and advocate for the children of absentee fathers. http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/

Neil Siskind’s Government Work:
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
Office of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Newington, CT, 1992, Intern
Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern

Neil Siskind’s Community Assistance:
Established and operated a temporary legal clinic offering inexpensive legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, plan estate matters, organize finances, start small businesses and obtain governmental assistance such as Medicaid.

Neil Siskind’s linkedin URL: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/

Laws To Protect Native Cultures

For those of you who, like myself, are interested in the continued protection and support of America’s Native American cultures, which I deem to have been the original and truest environmentalists, long before it became trendy and hip, here’s information on The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, an excellent piece of Federal Legislation:

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is a Federal law passed in 1990. NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items — human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony — to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. NAGPRA includes provisions for unclaimed and culturally unidentifiable Native American cultural items, intentional and inadvertent discovery of Native American cultural items on Federal and tribal lands, and penalties for noncompliance and illegal trafficking. In addition, NAGPRA authorizes Federal grants to Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and museums to assist with the documentation and repatriation of Native American cultural items, and establishes the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee to monitor the NAGPRA process and facilitate the resolution of disputes that may arise concerning repatriation under NAGPRA.

All Federal agencies are subject to NAGPRA. All public and private museums that have received Federal funds, other than the Smithsonian Institution, are subject to NAGPRA. (Repatriation by the Smithsonian Institution is governed by the National Museum of the American Indian Act of 1989, 20 U.S.C. 80q.)


What is the repatriation process under NAGPRA?
The principle steps of the NAGPRA repatriation process include —

  • Federal agencies and museums must identify cultural items in their collections that are subject to NAGPRA, and prepare inventories and summaries of the items.
  • Federal agencies and museums must consult with lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding the identification and cultural affiliation of the cultural items listed in their NAGPRA inventories and summaries.
  • Federal agencies and museums must send notices to lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations describing cultural items and lineal descendancy or cultural affiliation, and stating that the cultural items may be repatriated. The law requires the Secretary of the Interior to publish these notices in the Federal Register.


NAGPRA recognizes claims by lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

An Indian tribe is any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. The Department of the Interior has interpreted the definition of “Indian tribe” as applying to approximately 770 Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages that are recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A Native Hawaiian organization includes any organization that: (a) serves and represents the interests of Native Hawaiians, (b) has as a primary and stated purpose the provision of services to Native Hawaiians, and (c) has expertise in Native Hawaiian Affairs, and includes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hui Malama I Na Kupuna `O Hawai`i Nei. The Department of the Interior has interpreted this definition to also include the Hawaiian island burial councils and various ‘Ohanas (extended families).

Under NAGPRA, only Federally recognized Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations may claim cultural items. NAGPRA does not require museums and Federal agencies to consult with nonfederally recognized tribes. However, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee has recognized that there are some cases in which nonfederally recognized tribes may be appropriate claimants for cultural items.

Neil Siskind: Distribution is King

By: Neil Siskind, New York Lawyer http://www.siskindlawfirm.com

Neil Siskind is the Founder of The Fatherhood Assignment
Neil-Siskind-photo
Learn more at:  http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/

Review Neil Siskind’s personal and professional references at: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-bio/

Volunteer, Pro Bono, and Government Background:
Learn about how we try to give back http://www.neilsiskindsupports.com

Neil Siskind’s Volunteer Work: Volunteer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Donate to one of my needy public classrooms: http://www.donorschoose.org/NeilSiskindGiving
Help Neil Siskind make sick children’s wishes come true: Neil-Siskind/Help-Make-A-Child-Smile.htm

Neil Siskind’s Pro Bono Work: Protecting New York’s senior citizens from fraud and financial abuse www.savingseniorcitizens.com siskindsenior-logo

Champion Children – The Siskind Law Firm We seek to inspire people with stories of  children who have overcome challenges: http://siskindlawfirm.com/champion-children/
FreeStart Business – The Siskind Law Firm We seek to help put war veterans and senior citizens in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of  the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-free-start-business/

Neil Siskind’s Philanthropic Work:
-Hudson Riverfront Land Preservation
-Founder, The Fatherhood Assignment: A think tank to educate the public about, and advocate for the children of absentee fathers. http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/

Neil Siskind’s Government Work:
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
Office of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Newington, CT, 1992, Intern
Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern

Neil Siskind’s Community Assistance:
Established and operated a temporary legal clinic offering inexpensive legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, plan estate matters, organize finances, start small businesses and obtain governmental assistance such as Medicaid.

Neil Siskind’s linkedin URL: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/

Curriculum Vitae: http://neilsiskind.com/

 

Distribution is King

Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom, says, “Content is King”, meaning that if you own the content in demand, then you dictate the terms. This theory was developed by Redstone during his years as a movie theater owner. He saw that film distributors require movie theaters to license the distributors’ “awful” movies in order to get access to the “good” ones. So, Redstone decided he wanted to own a production company, the content owner, and not the theaters.

People approach me all the time with product ideas they want to develop or get financed, or with existing products they want to get distributed or into stores, and they want to know how to get these things done.

Inventors and good ideas…even great ideas…are a dime a dozen. Just watch Shark Tank and you can see, there is no shortage of ingenuity and inventiveness in America and across the world. What they all need is product development help and financing, or an outlet for product sales.

If you actually have a product you are selling online or in a few stores, it is far easier to find a distribution channel than if you simply have an idea, but no physical product. So at the very least, create a prototype product and sell it on a website. Even if your cost per product is high and profit margin is low, at least show proof of concept, proof of a market, and that the product is liked by consumers.

With this history and data, you will be in a much stronger position to approach a distributor or retailer with your product. (There are various strategies for this which go beyond the scope of this article.)

So, Redstone, in my judgment, is sort-of right, but not totally. “Content is King” if you have the right content (or product) that hits the mark and strikes a chord- because then you control where it goes and for how much. But in this day and age, there is so much great content and so many smart product concepts, that the real king is the channel that already reaches the customer. Distribution, wholesale and retail, is king. I have had clients with great products and content who are “desperate” for distribution outlets. But my distribution clients are always “interested in”, yet never “desperate for” new content and products. Good content and products cannot easily find distribution. But good distribution can always uncover new content and products to sell.

 

Defamation: Good People Bash Others- Right?

Business Libel, Slander and Defamation

I ate at a new restaurant in town last week. I did not like the food (it was over-cooked) and I did not like the service (it seemed slow). I also saw an ant on the floor. Plus, I think their coupon was a little misleading on how it worked. I took care of it though! I went home and got on the Internet and tore that new place apart! The new owner and his wife are only 25 years old. I can outsmart them easily. How dare they mess with me! I wrote about how bad the food was and that I saw bugs and that the manager was a jerk and that he tried to over-charge me, and I also wrote all kinds of other things to teach them a lesson in messing with me! I wrote online every single word they said to me when I started to complain. I made that new place look so bad I bet no one will want to try it! I’m so tired of new businesses and people trying to get one over on me. Now I think I got them back- we’ll see!

Okay, sooooooooooo..…of course I made all that up. If you wanted to use me as your attorney or invite me to a social event, how would you feel about me if I had really done this? You would probably be disgusted and not want to work with me- or even know me. Yet every day you read needlessly nasty, vindictive and self-serving comments by people whom you don’t know and situations you have no insight into all across the Internet and you take it seriously. Why?

The only person under such a scenario that you know for sure is in the wrong- is a person who would be so intentionally mean towards another person who’s trying to earn a living. Is that the kind of person you trust? Especially when no one else on earth has made any kind of similar comment, ever, it should tip you off that something smells rotten. It should tip you off to the lack of veracity and basic decency of the comments and the writer. Most people are posting after using a service or patronizing a business in order to get revenge. And It’s never the writer’s fault. They are always in the right and everyone has done them wrong- professional victims who, often, have never done anything in their lives for anyone except themselves. A culture of TMZ and The Housewives has degraded society to a level where people find it cool to degrade and embarrass others. If you find mean, critical people-bashers offensive in your own life- why accept it on the Internet from strangers?

Month after month my clients complain to me that people are writing about their stores or services on the Internet and they never even knew who the person was or had any idea they were going to be so awful. Who can ever anticipate in the course of a workday that someone is out to get you while you’re simply doing the same thing you’ve been doing over and over for years- working. But we all know that those people are out there. Watching and waiting to let someone have it. Often, their biggest achievement in their life is writing something on the Internet that people can read. When they hit that “submit comments” button and laugh, it gives them a sense of power and accomplishment which they otherwise lack in life.

Business and people-bashing since the Internet came along is pervasive and ridiculous. People can be very mean and nasty. If you want to patronize a business, but you trust the comments of a ranting, vindictive person with no credentials, whom you don’t know- you cheat yourself out of living life based on useful, thoughtful, true information from people you know and trust. Always look at the totality of comments- not one person who is entirely against the tide of facts- as you would do in any area of your life. And always check into who is the author of comments and their habits online. Sometimes it’s easy to do and sometimes they hide behind online identities. Either such case will tell you much about them. If you met such person, it might make you sick who you almost trusted.

Perhaps we should all remember what our mothers told us: If you have nothing nice to say…..then I feel sorry for you.

Hopefully those young entrepreneurs whose new restaurant I degraded will forgive me. I feel bad even pretending I would be so mean towards them…….and they don’t even exist! But not everyone thinks and lives like you and me.

Good people who deserve our trust bash other people to their faces, behind their backs, and on the Internet- Right?

People’s true colors come out online: http://features.aol.com/video/pregnant-meteorologist-responds-bullies?icid=maing-grid7|maing15|dl6|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D638475

gratitude

 

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Entrepreneurship in the Internet Age

The Internet offers people an avenue of entrepreneurship different than in the past. First, it provides people with new careers that provide technical and technological skills and services to people and businesses. Second, it allows people to start businesses and market to the public at a lower cost than they’d historically been able to. For example, instead of needing an office or retail store to sell goods or services, entrepreneurs can do so from their own homes, which lessens their space or real estate costs, something that can be significant to a new business. Still, getting people to a website has costs and challenges, but they may be far lower than the cost of the aforesaid space needs.

However, there is a darker and more challenging side to entrepreneurship in the age of the Internet. People who are unhappy with a product or service, or with a product or service provider, can lash-out in anywhere from modest to despicable ways. This happens to doctors, lawyers, restaurants and other businesses on a daily basis. So while the Internet allows for some more creative businesses, and allows start-up costs to be minimized, it allows for such businesses to be easily damaged.

Entrepreneurship and ambition requires entrepreneurs to try new things, add services, spread into new markets by reaching new clients, and offer complimentary products and services. By doing this, the entrepreneur not only risks capital, but risks dealing in less familiar business areas and has to deal with new and unfamiliar clients, customers and people types. Pre-Internet, this was an expected part of having ambition and was smiled upon. It’s called risk. But in the Internet age, it can blow up in an entrepreneur’s face if vindictive or mean customers desire to get revenge or simply hurt a business because they did not get everything they wanted from it. It is narcissism and arrogance that makes people think the whole world needs the help of their important opinions. When dealing with new people, a business owner can never know how such a person will handle issues related to strategic differences, private business matters, personal disputes, common courtesy and disappointment in their expectations. You never know who you are dealing with- often until it’s too late.

Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone of America. It drives people and economies forwards. It is supposed to be a badge of honor for people to get creative, be ambitious, attempt to grow and take necessary risks to do so. But in the Internet age, those people who are only out to be critical, hurtful and selfish make entrepreneurship in and of itself a risky venture. A person who invests in a motel only to have 1 in a hundred unhappy guests be over-the-top nasty, can lose his or her motel clientele as a result of nasty, unnecessarily vicious comments. A realtor trying to expand from residential houses into commercial real estate may make an error along the way. People who are vindictive can be very mean about that error and hurt a person’s aspirations and efforts, and even damage that realtor’s core business. It’s just not right.

A part of dealing with people is the obligation on a client or customer’s behalf to be decent and handle confidential matters like an adult and a respectable human being….no different than the ethical obligation they had before the Internet. The social contract to be decent still exists- no matter how angry you are.

We already have a dearth of good political leaders coming forward. As people seek to advertise every mistake a person made from elementary school up through their career in ways to embarrass or hurt them, which is, of course, what is being done, the good and decent people who could be leaders will dwindle. Who wants to be humiliated by every ranting person whom you met along the way?

It is usually only unsuccessful people who spend time trying to harm others on the Internet. They have no mission of their own in life except to see others fail and be at their level. I promise that if you do research of your own, you will find that those who have disparaged others online, have done it many times to many people. Just check. It’s usually habitual resentment of successful people which drives these people- and they are usually young or unemployed.

When good people limit themselves in public service and in commerce to avoid attacks, we all suffer as a society from such vain, selfish, narcissistic and nasty critics. It is unfortunate to see large search engines promote and assist these people. It says a lot for their values as well.

If you are an entrepreneur, try to keep the faith despite those people who have had no moral boundaries or business or financial success from losing control of their jealousy, anger and indecency. If possible, though it’s hard, try to do business only with people whom you know, or friends of friends. I realize that is a challenge.

While the internet offers people a way to get a business going, it also offers people who are determined to be mean and hurtful a way to do so in a widely public manner. I don’t have the answer. But to those of you who are determined to try new things, spread your wings, examine all of life’s interesting avenues, add complimentary products and services and expand your opportunities in life- I salute you and hope that this invention called the Internet does not become something we all regret. The way media and people use the Internet, it is unfortunately true that there is a dirty side to progress and a dark side to people. Don’t be afraid to fail. You can’t be. You have to try, believe in yourself, and keep moving forward. That is the American way- that is the “human” way.

neil-siskind-pic   what is right

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