Sunday, January 29, 2012

Differering Perspectives on Online Reviews

Dina ElBoghdady has an article in this morning's Post (here) that starts with the story of a dentist who had her patients sign "non-internet-review covenants." 

A patient got into a billing dispute with the dentist and -- ignoring the agreement -- posted angry reviews online.  The dentist was perturbed enough to file suit. 

The article goes on to examine more broadly the differing perspectives (patients versus physicians) when it comes to online review sites.


The common law claims by an aggrieved doctor/dentist/reviewee (who feels that he or she has been unfairly maligned online) are defamation and/or libel.  It sounds like these claims can be quite difficult to prove, so some physicians have taken a creative approach:
Federal law protects Web sites from liability for the reviews its users publish. But the law carves out exceptions for intellectual property rights, including copyright. So Medical Justice’s contract assigned copyright in a patient review to the doctor, enabling the doctor to claim copyright infringement and demand that a Web site remove the comments.

These disputes raise interesting questions about moral and legal obligations related to (1) privacy and (2) a consumer's "right" to criticize a service provider in a forum that is basically unregulated and forms a permanent record.

516. Where should we draw the legal line in terms of allowing people to "say anything" online? Emily Bazelon has been examining this question in terms of schools that want to prohibit their students from criticizing and name-calling other students on Facebook.

517. Does the answer depend on whether the reviewer gives his/her real name versus remaining anonymous?

518. Are there any attorney online review sites?  If not, why are their so many sites for doctors but none for lawyers?

519. Unrelated, but how much has the traffic on the Times's website decreased since the paper implemented its paywall?  We cancelled our subscription at the beginning of January so I am dealing with the effects of the paywall for the first time. It is more powerful than I anticipated.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh...I have been dealing with the pay wall since inception. I have legitamately found using other sources (primarily Bloomberg and WaPo) liberating. I still look at NYT headlines, and occasionally click through, but I am shocked by how much it has made me realize that news is totally commoditized. This is going to marginalize them long term. I also do WSJ a lot, but they have become incredibly more liberal on what the non-subscriber is able to view. It is inevitable for the NYT too. Don't fall into the trap. Expand your horizons away from the NE bias. It is a good thing.