I've been remiss in not pointing out this story, which is a good illustration of why its dumb to threaten or sue bloggers. A husband and wife, struggling with unemployment, placed a resume online and a placement firm noticed it and invited the couple to an interview. The husband completed the application and the initial intervew seemed to go well. The placement firm calls back and asks for a second interview, this time requesting the wife join the husband, which seems rather strange. After awing the couple with stories of how difficult it is to find placement, the firm tells the couple that for just over $4,000 they are ninety percent certain they can find the husband a job.
Sound like a scam? Katherine Coble thought it was, and blogged about her experience with the Tennessee placement firm JL Kirk Associates. When the firm contacted her again, the offer of placement was no longer on the table. This time they threatened her:
I am being ordered to take down all of my blog entries pertaining to JL Kirk & Associates. If I don’t, they will so me for tortuous interference and other damages.
In a subsequent conversation with the attorney, Alan Kopady of King & Ballow Law Offices, if I do not take down the blog entries they will contact my Internet Service Provider, Comcast, to have my internet access shut down.
I have until April 13th to comply with the demands of the letter.
It didn't take long for this story to make the rounds in the blogosphere and for JL Kirk Associates to get blowback. Could Coble have been lying? Possibly, but a quick Google search of the firm shows this isn't the first negative review they've gotten. And this has happened before, as Bill Hobbs points out:
Someone at King & Ballow and someone at JL Kirk Associates should, right this minute, go Google "Warren Kremer Paino Advertising" and "Lance Dutson" and see how WKPA's frivolous and baseless libel/defamation lawsuit against a blogger worked out. (Short version: They soon dropped it, but not before coverage by a zillion blogs and news media coverage made them look like blithering idiots bent on squelching free speech.)
This heavy-handed effort by JL Kirk Associates to silence Mrs. Coble has done more damage to their reputation than they possibly could have imagined. They hired a law firm and sent a cease-and-desist demand rather than address her grievances, and when the story broke about the legal action, bloggers across the nation picked up the story (almost sure to happen when Instapundit is on the story). The good news out of this is JL Kirk and its legal team has recognized the futility of their effort:
Attorneys for JL Kirk & Assocs. contacted Media Bloggers Association attorney Ronald Coleman shortly after receiving his letter stating that the MBA was representing me in this dispute on Thursday afternoon. Both sides expressed their wish to avoid litigation or further aggravation of the situation. JL Kirk’s main concern at the outset was that we communicate their position - which is different from the information originally told to me by a JL Kirk employee - that JL Kirk is not a continuation of the defunct Bernard Haldane company, either in terms of corporate identity or stock ownership, and that JL Kirk’s principal, Kirk Leipzig, is only a former Bernard Haldane employee but did not buy any assets or stock of Bernard Haldane. I can’t vouch for the truth of that statement because I have no first-hand knowledge of the facts, but evidently anyone who wants more information can obtain it from JL Kirk.
As you know if you read their cease and desist letter, the company disagrees with what I have said about them here, but they have told the MBA lawyer that they are interested in discussing this with my husband and me personally rather than litigating in court. I have not decided if I am interested in talking, but I don’t mind the idea of putting this behind me and moving on, and will not write on this topic again.
This company attempted to bully a blogger into taking down language that made them look bad, and instead set off a storm of bloggers who feel that it's their right to tell the truth about negative corporate experiences. This is the impact blogs and the New Media are having on our society, and I think for the most part it's a positive development. The self-publishers of the web, your average, everyday joe, no longer needs to simply give up under the weight of someone with more power. Companies with shady business practices and shady ethics will now be at risk of suffering the publicity problems that JL Kirk faced. And trying to roll over someone's First Amendment rights is no small thing. Any company that makes the same mistake in the future will face the same full-blown negative publicy, which in today's world will be impossible to remove. Had JL Kirk simply asked themselves how they could improve their business and avoid such problems, things would have been different. With the advent of the New Media, consumers have networked themselves together well enough that any business that threatens their clients will quickly lose business.