Should I post Cease and Desists to my website?
January 31, 2012 9:50 AM   Subscribe

When my website gets legal threats, should I post them on the site?

I run a handful of Scientology-watchdog sites. One of them, Truth About Scientology, collects, summarizes, and analyzes information about individuals who have taken Scientology courses, using data published in Scientology magazines. (The site is linked in the second link in this MetaTalk comment, if seeing it will help answer this question.)

I have taken care to understand and comply with US law in everything I post.

Nevertheless, from time to time I get Cease and Desist notices from lawyers.

I've occasionally submitted the C&Ds to (especially the more patently indefensible ones).

I've thought about posting them on the website itself, as well. (So far, I've only posted one: the 2001 trademark complaint from Scientology.)

My goal in doing so would be similar to the purpose Chilling Effects serves - to show that protected speech is sometimes threatened, and to show others who publish controversial information that simply receiving a C&D doesn't necessarily mean the info or the site has to be removed.

Should I post some or all of the C&Ds I get? Why or why not?

Answers from lawyers and folks with controversial sites would be especially appreciated. I promise not to take any responses as official legal advice of the sort that I would (and do) get from my actual legal advisors.

posted by kristi to Law & Government (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used to be a paid blogger for a media news/gossip site and we always posted this stuff, but we also had a biggish company with a legal team behind us. Is your blog easily traced to your real name?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:54 AM on January 31, 2012

If I were in your shoes, I'd probably submit the C&D notices to chillingeffects, and then link from your page directly there. It accomplishes the same thing, but also gives chillingeffects some traffic that it deserves. That way, people can go from your page to theirs, or their page to yours, depending on where they started looking. They have a great legal team since they're a project of the EFF. (Full disclosure; I donate to the EFF.)
posted by juniperesque at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Given that Scientology has a long history of trying to silence detractors, any and all public record of their doings to this end are a good thing. I favor you posting your own, although I can see giving Chilling Effects a signal boost might snowball the cause a bit.
posted by medea42 at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2012

IANAL, I am an advocate of your goals, and a firm believer in the concept of taking moral stances when required, even against ridiculous odds and to the point of insane, even stupid, self-risk if and when justified.

That having been said - the reality of the situation is that protected speech is as safe as the price of the lawyers defending it, and you should probably think hard about what degree of expense you're willing to risk - and whether the benefit of posting the C&Ds outweighs the overall loss if it somehow results in your site going offline or becoming otherwise inaccessible.

The loudmouthed soapbox-hollerin' agitator in my head is EXTREMELY unhappy about this assertion - BUT I have effectively bludgeoned it into silence by reminding it that ChillingEffects already exists, and adding to their body of information is probably more overall helpful than creating your own archive, and that the linkage juniperesque mentions can only help.

If you want to draw direct correllation back to your site, you might consider a small manual "counter" of some type along with the cross-link: "5 C&Ds received since 01/01/11" or something like that. Otherwise, it seems to me that submission to CE is not only a better option for the overall cause, but generally safer for you - but your mileage may vary, and as always, I may be completely and utterly wrong.
posted by mie at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2012

Journalist here who used to run a site tracking a similar sect. While doing that, I received a handful of empty legal threats like these. I assume the group is claiming you're publishing their trademarked "technology"?

While I see no problem, from a perspective of muckraking and fun, with going ahead and printing the C&Ds, from a strategic perspective, you might want to stay above the fray and confine yourself to your original mission, rather than playing the legal paper game with David Miscavige's highly-paid attorneys. You can waste a lot of energy scrapping it out with cult creeps.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:49 PM on January 31, 2012

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