How not to handle negative feedback: A preliminary case study of Dozier Internet Lawon October 11, 2007 at 12:00 am
! ! This is a developing news story. Facts are subject to change without notice ! !
Dozier Internet Law, “cyber trail lawyers,” is a law firm founded by John W. Dozier, Jr. in Virginia. They were prominently featured in an excellent article by Franchise Times reporter Julie Bennet. Bennet’s article discussed mysterious tactics that Dozier uses, and the backlash it geneates. Indeed, Julie article is titled “Attacks from the blogosphere: What Cuppy’s learned the hard way” because Cuppy’s problems started because of Dozier’s mishandling of their case.
In spite of being aware of the “finesse, strategy, and tactics” required when operating with online journals and news magazines, Cuppy’s Coffee Company was forced to higher a P.R. firm to undo the damage cased by Dozier Internet Law.
Recently, Dozier was hired by DirectBuy to deal with negative feedback on three websites: Infomercial Blog, Infomercial Ratings, and Infomercial Scams. Dozier, on behalf of DirectBuy, send a copyrighted cease-and-desist letter (excerpts, full text, original pdf) that was challenged by Public Citizen, the public advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader.
Failures have a way of repeating themselves, and again Dozier is harming its clients reputation. This time, though, Dozier Internet Law finds itself being discussed, as well. The top ten search results for the firm include Slashdot‘s influent post, “How not to write a cease-and-desist letter,” critical legal analysis from New York Personal Injury Blog, strategic analysis from Dreaming Fifth Generation War, and two results from tdaxp (one on letter-writer Donald Morris and another describing DirectBuy/Dozier’s actions as a strategic lawsuit against public participation).
Overnight, Dozier responded with two letters. One is written to Eric Turkewitz. After apparently plagiarizing original research done on this blog by Curtis Weeks, John Dozier writes:
Unfortunately, the subject on which you have been blogging is a matter of first impression in the US, but your inappropriate insults demean you and our profession. Accident lawyers should stay out of copyright infringement cases, particularly if one is just trying to generate more business by getting a higher Google ranking to sign up more accident victims. That wouldn’t be your motivation, of course. Feel free to call me to discuss the matter.
The other, written to Greg Beck of Public Citizen’s “Consumer Law and Policy Blog” and available online (http://www.cybertriallawyer.com/dozier-internet-law), reads in part:
Let’s consider the problem. Today someone checking out a business will do a search and the results will include references to the company being a “scam”. The potential customer goes to the scam site and is presented with advertising from competitors either through banner ads or pay per click ads (adsense from Google is a prime example). The website owner generates income when the ads are presented or clicked on, and diverts the business to a competitor. The content is often created by the website itself or its associates and cohorts, and with your advice as to how to cover up the tracks of the poster these sites can assure anonymity and protect themselves by claiming the posts came from third parties and the site is immune from liability pursuant to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Some (most?) of these sites are extortion rackets. Businesses are told to pay protection fees, often in excess of $10,000 each month, in order for the posts to be removed and also, of course, to make sure that future negative posts stop. Once these payments are made the negative comments disappear, and for some odd reason no one ever has anything negative to say about the company on that site anymore. This is no different than running a protection racket. “Pay us a fee each month”, some of these sites demand, “and bad things won’t happen to you again”.
Yet, for some reason, despite claiming that you do not accept corporate contributions, these types of businesses are defended by you and your organization, and of course it is easy for these businesses to contribute to your organization. Some link directly to your contribution page and encourage payments of money directly to Public Citizen. Kind of like advertising through affiliate marketers, don’t you think? No wonder you claim that these “scam” sites are operating within the legal bounds of the law. No wonder you claim that even posts of the site owner are protected from liability, even in the face of unequivocally clear law that owner generated content is not covered by the immunity provisions of the Communications Decency Act. Many of these sites trade off of creating and/or publishing defamatory content, which is unlawful content, and some are violating criminal laws by running extortion rackets. You should not be supporting these practices.
It’s hard to know what to make of this. Is Dozier charging DirectBuy for these letters? If so, what legal purpose do they serve? If not, does Dozier believing a P.R. role does not distract from its litigious role? Is Dozier Internet Law in any way increasing DirectBuy’s legal risk by personally attacking attorneys, or is it acting like a good-faith caretaker for DirectBuy reputation by such inflamatory statements?
I don’t know what is going on. My assumption is that John Dozier (who likes to brag about the number of conferences he attends — see his letter to Eric) is a “people person,” which means that he has little control over displaying his emotions. When he’s happy or sociable, this is a good thing — everyone likes to see someone who is so happy he can’t contain himself, or so sociable that he bounces from conference room to conference room. But (and I am just guessing here) when he is angry or ticked off, he can’t control that, either. Which explains why (without a good reason and wit plenty of malice) he can attack Public Citizen and Eric Turcowitz so viciously, so publicly, and so vilely against his client’s interest.
If you would have told me I would feel sorry for DirectBuy so quickly after first covering this story, I would have laughed. Direct Buy creates spam web sites, has been criticized by , Channel 12 News in Arizona, Team 5 in Boston, WCBS in New York, CTV in Canada, and many blogs and web sites besides, and that’s before the avalanche of criticism they received from intimidating Infomercial Scams.
But it’s clear that their law firm is no good. If their experience is like Cuppy Coffee‘s, they just googled for a lawyer and found Dozier Internet Law. They found a lawyer who is better at destroying his client’s, and his, reputation than in actually making things better.