Chronicling web "gripe sites" and other sites confronted with legal action

So You're Thinking About 
Establishing A Gripe Site...


Following are comments and opinions from somebody who established a gripe site
and was sued in federal court by the business complained about.

The following is NOT legal advice!
Prior to establishing any gripe site, this website's publisher recommends
you consult an attorney familiar with the law in your State.

 
   Think
Think about the following:
  WHY do you want to establish a gripe site?

   If it's because you're angry and want to "get even," give yourself some
   time to calm down. Think about it again in a week or so.
   Don't act rashly.

   If it's because you want to alert other consumers, and you've considered
   the possible consequences, you're on the right path.
   
 

Have you considered the possible consequences?

   The object of your criticism may be a business with lots of money to
    spend, and it may retain aggressive lawyers. What happens if you're
    sued?
   
   Are you prepared to spend countless hours, days, weeks, months
   defending your free speech right? It's really not "free," you know--you
    may have to fight for it.
   

   Prepare
Search for gripe sites similar to yours
  Search the web, or refer to our gripesites links, to see if somebody else
       has already established a gripe site about the same, or a similar,
       company. Find out what the website publisher(s) encountered and
      how they handled it. Learn from their experiences.
    
Familiarize yourself with internet and free speech issues
 

Visit this site's Resources section.
Use the web to learn as much as you can.
Benefit from the experience of others.
Issues that I found of particular interest, and which seem, from my observation, to recur in many legal actions: Trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and defamation (or libel).
 

Consult an attorney
  Most gripe site publishers probably don't consult an attorney before publishing a gripe site (that's my personal conjecture). It may save you later grief if you consult an attorney prior to publishing your website. Of course, it would be best if the attorney is familiar with internet-related issues as well.
 
   Don Your Mental Armor
Expect nasty e-mails - don't reply to them
  Once your website is online, be prepared to receive nasty e-mail from the subect of your criticism, employees, family and friends. A personal recommendation: Save them somewhere, but don't respond to nasty messages. Any e-mails you send could later be used against you.
 
Expect a letter from a lawyer
 

If you're complaining about a business, it's likely the business has more money than you, and a lawyer on retainer. I've observed a few gripe sites which the company complained about has chosen to ignore--but that appears to be the exception.  If you receive a letter from a lawyer, consult an attorney. A free speech advocacy group (see Resources section) may be willing to assist you, but much may depend on their available resources and the strength of your case.
 

Don't expect others to understand
  Don't be surprised if co-workers, friends, and family members don't share your zeal or idealistic determination to exercise and preserve your "free speech rights." However, you may find yourself receiving words of support and encouragment from strangers who do understand. But in the final analysis, don't depend on others--it's your battle.
  
 

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