A friend of mine is the administrator of a poetry message board that is affiliated with a nonprofit poetry organization.
The board has only two rules: One is essentially the same as the Dope’s rule “Don’t be a jerk.” The second is that all posters have to register under their own names.
A kid comes to the board, registers under a false name, trolls until he’s kicked off, and then the admin discovered that it was a false name.
The kid’s father claims to be a divorce lawyer and he says he’s going to sue the board and the admin personally for age discrimination and, I guess, general meanness, for a million dollars.
Now, she told me about it and I laughed. A lot. To me, it sounded completely ludicrous. But I am not a lawyer. He says he is.
With something like this, is there any sort of rule of thumb for when to consult a lawyer? Most of us can’t just run to a lawyer every time some dumbass on the internet starts to shriek, but most of us also can’t afford to get sued.
General insights or ones specific to this particular incident gratefully appreciated.
Edited to add: I’m calling him a kid. He’s 17. Man, I’m getting old.
Lie. We had a similiar situation happen at the message board I’m part of. You didn’t make up the rule, the owner of the message board (ezboard, vbulletin, etc.)did. When this person signed up for the message board they had to check the little boxes, then click “I accept” to join the board. The person isn’t a lawyer or they’d know how stupid this is. Tell him to sue you, it might be fun.
We had a crackpot troll that got banned. She faked her death- one of my favorites, and then her “lawyer” started posting and threatened to sue. This one was easy to spot, they had the same ISP and had their avatars hosted under the same photobucket account. Not one of the better well thought out plans.
Uhh since when can a privately owned website be sued for anything like that? I know when I administered websites I regularly banned people for being irritating and laughed off any such legal threats. My website wasn’t a government-operation nor was it even similar to a business and I did as I pleased to keep it running…
This board is a private one, not on any of those servers. Before registering (I just clicked on “register” to find out), it says, “Members post under their own names. We do not permit internet aliases. Therefore, we cannot accept email accounts like AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail that allow multiple identities.”
There’s a big honkin’ disclaimer and guidelines but they don’t require a “I have read the terms of service” or anything.
The best responses I’ve seen to legal threats are those done by SomethingAwful.com and their resident attorney, Leonard “J.” Crabs. They’ve changed their site around a bit, but I finally found their threat archive here. They’re entertaining reading.
Lesson: people who threaten to sue over internet disagreements are invariably full of hot air.
An anonymous “claim” from cyberspace doesn’t seem like anything to get worried about. If you get a written, signed document from a specific individual with a verifiable address, then maybe it’s serious.
Also, I am no lawyer, but I think that the dollar amount a person sues for has to have a reasonable explanation–reimbursement for damages caused, etc. If your web site caused the poster specific damages, (maybe lost income due to copyright infringement) then there could be a reasonable calculation of a dollar amount. But “a million” dollars is a little too vague-- I think a real lawyer would be smart enough either to back up his claims with factual calculations, or not to make a spurious claim that he might later have trouble justifying.
Good luck to him. It’s generally not illegal to discriminate against young people, only old people (in some cases). The only case I can think of is the states that forced car rental companies to rent to anyone 18 or over, but even then, that was a special case law, not a general principle, the limit is still 18, and they aren’t prohibited from charging an extra fee for younger renters.
Well, if the threatened suit had any merit, that would be a worry. Presumably the organisation is not incorporated. That means that the person could sue the officers of the organisation personally, and take their personal assets.
However, IANAL, but the threatened suit is ridiculous. The organisation has two simple rules, and the kid has broken both by trolling anonymously. To ban the kid is not unfair discrimination in any way.
I’d be tempted to write back with a threat to countersue foir an equal amount for the abuse done by the kid to the organisation, and the failure on the part of the parents toi control the kid.
I’ve seen some behavior from presumed poets that would make Jerry Springer cringe. I’ve seen death threats (been the recipient of same), suicide threats, suicide claims, plagiarism, false accusations of plagiarism, outright and acknowledged poetry theft, screaming, tantrums, threats of legal action, threats of police, threats of FBI, hacking, trolling, libel, slander, character assassination, and everything else you can think of. People are so vicious because the stakes are so small.