I received an email last week that looked like spam. So I ignored it, but I left in my inbox and said to myself that I would look at it later – most spams don’t ask for receipts.
A few days later I opened the email, and seen that it was addressed to me but with a PDF attachment, I tried to open the attachment. No luck. “OE removed access to the following unsafe attachments in your mail” it said. So I was left with what looked like a legitimate email, but not able to open it. I then dutifully emailed back, saying that I was unable to open the attachment.
A friend offered to take a look, and asked me to forward to him, by clicking forward it gave me access to the attachment. So I opened it.
To my surprise it was a formal letter from a firm, Phillips, Erlewine & Given LLP, Attorneys at Law, with a subject “Cal. Civ. Code 48a Demand for Correction”. I was being told in the letter that I must retract a remark made on my blog last November, and to publish an apology, within three weeks. The remark is considered it said “false, unprivileged, and defamatory”.
My reaction? I think a little shock mixed with surprise that my little blog could be the subject of such an action. And not even from my own jurisdiction, or continent, not even from a US Federal law as such, but from California. From San Francisco.
A copy of the letter is now available on my blog. In PDF format, so get your Adobe reader ready.
The letter refers to this entry. This entry in turn links to Deborah Branscum’s blog, where she talks about the same issue. I have been in touch with Deborah and she has not received any demand for retraction in relation to her blog entry.
The email was sent on the 10th of March so the deadline by which I have to comply with the demands set out in the letter is the 31st of March. Unfortunately I will not be in my own jurisdiction on that day, I will instead be in Canada. So what to do?
I better ask my friends in the blogging community for advice. I am not seeking a campaign for vindication, but I will attempt over the next number of days to detail the story, the ins and outs of internationl legal jurisdiction, the possibility of being sued from another country – and what exactly constitutes defamatory remarks.
What does this mean for blogging? What does this mean for the future of online publishing? And can anyone point to examples where bloggers have been successfully sued, or have been issued with letters such as the one I have received. Answers on a postcard please to this address : gavin at gavinsblog dot com.