By Courtney Cochran
At first glance, Korbel Champagne Cellar’s
new legal action
aiming to “out” an unidentified Internet user who posted negative remarks about the winery on Craigslist.org seems like an assault on free speech. But, examined more closely, the 100+-year-old Sonoma sparkling producer’s aggressive stance on the issue seems more than a little justified – especially considering the allegedly untrue nature of the targeted user’s remarks.
The upsurge in so-called user-generated online content in recent years has left businesses – as well as their lawyers – scratching their heads over how to go about monitoring their reputations on the Web. Indeed, Korbel’s difficulties are just another chapter in the ongoing saga of regulating user-generated online content, which is still largely uncharted territory for the legal profession (for more information on legal battles pertaining to digital freedom of speech, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation
). In one landmark case, a San Francisco-based chiropractor reached a settlement in his lawsuit
earlier this year against a client who posted a scathing review on the popular web site, Yelp.com.
In Korbel’s case, an unknown person accessing the web via Comcast posted several comments on Craigslist claiming that the company mistreated employees reporting sexual harassment, plotted to cut down redwood trees on its property and bribed law and court authorities to keep the company out of trouble. Management says the claims are untrue and have damaged the business and is asking Comcast to disclose the name of the poster so that further action may be taken. Right or wrong???