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View Full Version : The BAD consequences of authors going after their reviewers...



Maxinquaye
04-04-2012, 09:33 PM
For once a news item relevant to writers. :)

Here is an example of what can happen if you fall for the urge to go after a reviewer that's given your work a less than stellar mark. The self-published writer Chris McGrath faces a six figure (in pounds) cost when his case against a reviewer was tossed out of court.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/author-chris-mcgrath-faces-six-figure-legal-bill-after-unfavourable-amazon-reviews-case-is-struck-out-7618976.html

An author who tried to sue a father of three from the West Midlands over comments made in a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case.

Chris McGrath, an online entrepreneur from Milton Keynes, tried to sue Vaughan Jones, 28, from Nuneaton, over a series of reviews and postings he made on the Amazon website about his self-published and little-known book “The Attempted Murder of God”.

Shadow Dragon
04-04-2012, 10:54 PM
I don't have the words to describe how stupid that guy must be. Suing someone because they didn't like your book? Really? Way to give yourself a horrible public image and drive down your sales.

mirandashell
04-04-2012, 11:04 PM
To be fair, it wasn't just a bad review. He did sock puppet Amazon and when the reviewer researched who he was, the whole thing ended in a flame war. The libellous bit involves the naming of the author's children.

Neither side has made themselves look good.

Seraph
04-04-2012, 11:29 PM
It's a huge warning bell for me that the guy was defending his self-published book in the comments under many different accounts/pseudonyms. When friends are wanting, invent them.

GeorgeK
04-04-2012, 11:47 PM
He did sock puppet Amazon and....

What does it mean, "to sock puppet," someone or something?

mirandashell
04-04-2012, 11:53 PM
It means to create identities solely for the purpose of posting in support of yourself.

It seems to happen quite a lot on Amazon reviews. You see a book with loads of 5 star awards but when you read a sample, it's really really bad. And the author creating different profiles and giving his/her own book 5 stars is usually the reason why.

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2012, 12:17 AM
Sock Puppetry is a little broader than just the positive review bit.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_%28Internet%29

The primary purpose is to create an illusion of views using false identities.

Lots of sites are a lot less careful than AW about making sure of people's identities.

There are tell-tale writing cues in sock-puppetry which makes most of them relatively easy to spot. Simple sock puppets often have that "gosh you're so wonderful" quality that is common to Mary Sue stories.

Strawman sock puppets are also often obvious because they tend to make the kinds of arguments one side of a debate thinks the other side makes even though they don't.

Anyway, they're annoying.

And we should all be grateful to Mac and the mods for their wonderful creation and maintaining of this sock-puppet free environment (bats eyelids and sparkles).

Okay, I don't think I can keep that up for much longer. Seriously, one of the reasons this site is so good is a lack of sock-puppetry.

Vince524
04-05-2012, 12:18 AM
It's a huge warning bell for me that the guy was defending his self-published book in the comments under many different accounts/pseudonyms. When friends are wanting, invent them.

Some of my best friends are inventing. Or is that imagined.

Is there a difference?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm an imaginary friend, but I'm convinced that nobody except me has that good of an imagination.

Alessandra Kelley
04-05-2012, 12:34 AM
I do think the reviewer should not have named the author's children when he revealed the author's pseudonym.

On the other hand, is the author kidding when
He rounded on libel reform campaigners, stating that British law had made it all but impossible for litigants in person such as himself to successfully bring a libel case.

I had the impression British libel law was somewhat imbalanced, so that in the UK people from outside the UK can sue people from outside the UK for things published outside the UK, and that unlike most places the burden of proof is on the defendant, and that many a despot, dictator, corporation and oligarch has taken advantage of this useful bit of law to overwhelmingly crush criticism and dissent. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Would that be the libel law whose reform the author is so bitterly criticizing?

Seraph
04-05-2012, 12:45 AM
Some of my best friends are inventing. Or is that imagined.

Is there a difference?

Well, imagining people generally takes place in the head or on the page. Inventing people usually happens when a couple decides to take that next step. Not much of a difference, but still.

lol, sockpuppets. I'm glad there's a word for that.

Stiger05
04-05-2012, 01:05 AM
The reviewer shouldn't have made it personal, but nor should the author have taken it personally. There will always be people who don't like something. Take it with grace and move on. If a reviewer gets nasty, the best thing is to ignore it.

It reminds me of the controversy over "The Selected," just a step further.

Maxinquaye
04-05-2012, 01:20 AM
Sure, it was bad to involve the kids, but using sock-puppets and launching into a war over a review is just... so out there. It's like road rage in publishing.

Celia Cyanide
04-05-2012, 01:38 AM
I don't have the words to describe how stupid that guy must be. Suing someone because they didn't like your book? Really? Way to give yourself a horrible public image and drive down your sales.

He wasn't suing because the reviewer didn't like it. It was because he published the book under a pseudonym, and the reviewer outed the author and used his real name, as well as the names of his two children. Not cool.

It was probably the author's sock puppetry that got the case thrown out, and made him look just as bad. But yeah...the reviewer was no saint, either.

Mharvey
04-05-2012, 02:17 AM
I do think the reviewer should not have named the author's children when he revealed the author's pseudonym.

This.

I have to say, while being defensive of your writing is about the worst thing you can do, this Mr. Jones guy went well beyond offensive in his review. I can't even imagine what would prompt him to bring up the author's children unless it was deliberately personal.

In that situation, a little smoke out of the ears from the writer doesn't seem out of the question, but a lawsuit and 100,000 pounds in legal costs? C'mon. That's just stupid.

JimmyB27
04-05-2012, 02:06 PM
I do think the reviewer should not have named the author's children when he revealed the author's pseudonym.

On the other hand, is the author kidding when

I had the impression British libel law was somewhat imbalanced, so that in the UK people from outside the UK can sue people from outside the UK for things published outside the UK, and that unlike most places the burden of proof is on the defendant, and that many a despot, dictator, corporation and oligarch has taken advantage of this useful bit of law to overwhelmingly crush criticism and dissent. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Would that be the libel law whose reform the author is so bitterly criticizing?
As it says in the article:
'Michael Harris, from Index on Censorship, said: “We want the government to ensure that libel actions cannot proceed unless the harm caused is both “serious” and “substantial”. We’re concerned that it cost Amazon £77,000 to have this case struck out by a judge, an amount of money that most ordinary libel defendants simply cannot afford. Change to our archaic libel laws cannot come soon enough.”'
Libel law sucks.

Mr Flibble
04-05-2012, 02:48 PM
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/author-chris-mcgrath-faces-six-figure-legal-bill-after-unfavourable-amazon-reviews-case-is-struck-out-7618976.html

So, a while ago, a man, calling himself Scrooby, self published a book. Someone else posted scathing reviews. Internet argument followed, with 'Scrooby' using sock puppets to defend himself. Once 'Scrooby' was revealed as a Mr McGrath....he decided to sue. Not just the reviewer, but Amazon and the Richard Dawkins Foundation (who had a discussion of the book on their forums)

Now, the actual reviews etc are not at Amazon any more (pulled when legal proceedings started) and I don't know what they said, though it appears that during the course of argument, the reviewer said a thing or two he shouldn't (said by the judge to be 'nasty'), but it does make it hard to see what's what, so I can't comment on that.

The case has been thrown out, with almost everything struck, and what was left (the 'nasty' bit I assume) deemed too insubstantial to warrant a trial. Some are using this as an example of why libel needs reforming over here (it is being actively lobbyed for afaia)

However for me, the absolute pinnacle of this is Mr McGrath's defence of using sockpuppets to bolster his arguments online: he was “trying to pull off a complicated satire” at the time.

O RLY?

Apparently he had artistic reason....

Diana Hignutt
04-05-2012, 02:52 PM
Yeah, that never works out.

Really, this should be the first thing they teach you in author school--ignore your reviews...the good ones go to your head and the bad ones give you a sad...just write.

waylander
04-05-2012, 02:55 PM
Mr McGrath appears to be largely the author of his own misfortunes. The action should never have got this far. That Mr McGrath is quoted as saying he will appeal gives one a strong indication of why it ended up in front of a judge.

Mr Flibble
04-05-2012, 02:57 PM
I did wonder if he was trying to pull off some sort of publicity stunt (if you recall all the media furore over the Da Vinci Code v Holy Blood, Holy Grail?)

Pretty expensive one though.

waylander
04-05-2012, 03:00 PM
Shame he didn't invest some of that money in an editor

Priene
04-05-2012, 03:03 PM
I had the impression British libel law was somewhat imbalanced, so that in the UK people from outside the UK can sue people from outside the UK for things published outside the UK, and that unlike most places the burden of proof is on the defendant, and that many a despot, dictator, corporation and oligarch has taken advantage of this useful bit of law to overwhelmingly crush criticism and dissent. Correct me if I'm wrong.


Still true in theory, but in practice the golden days of libel actions are in the past. The litigation of choice for despots, dictators, corporation and oligarchs is Article 8 (Privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights and its heavy-handed application, the superinjunction.

Mr Flibble
04-05-2012, 03:05 PM
Hmm one of the reviews he sued over is, I think, (it purports to be anyway) copied into a review on the amazon.com site. Nothing special, except he notes that the author is probably the owner of the 'publishing' company.

waylander
04-05-2012, 03:15 PM
Given the subject matter of the book (an attempt to refute evolution and justify creationism), I wonder if the author feels he has some kind of 'mission' to do this?

JimmyB27
04-05-2012, 03:18 PM
This thread seems familiar (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241876).

Wiskel
04-05-2012, 03:18 PM
The reason i sat in front of the tv on tuesday night watching game of thrones and ate three cake bars instead of going to the gym like i'd planned is that I'm actually trying to pull off a complicated satire.

It's really complicated.

Honest

I hope to understand it myself one day.

Craig

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2012, 04:08 PM
The reason i sat in front of the tv on tuesday night watching game of thrones and ate three cake bars instead of going to the gym like i'd planned is that I'm actually trying to pull off a complicated satire.

It's really complicated.

Honest

I hope to understand it myself one day.

Craig

This sounds more like performance art.

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2012, 04:15 PM
A parallel thread on this has started in AW Roundtable:
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241933

Mods, any chance of a merge?

jjdebenedictis
04-05-2012, 06:39 PM
The reason i sat in front of the tv on tuesday night watching game of thrones and ate three cake bars instead of going to the gym like i'd planned is that I'm actually trying to pull off a complicated satire.

It's really complicated.

Honest

I hope to understand it myself one day.You know how people look at abstract art and scoff, "My five-year-old could do that"?

I fear your satire may be subject to similar criticisms.

But don't sue! Lawyers can eat up (nyuk, nyuk) a lot of cake bar money.

Phaeal
04-05-2012, 08:13 PM
If there is a God, She's preparing a libel suit against Mr. McGrath for implying that anyone could murder Her in the first place. Dude, what part of "immortal" didn't you understand?

Momento Mori
04-06-2012, 01:04 AM
I did LOL at McGrath's statement that he was going to challenge the decision not to give him leave to appeal. Good luck with that, buddy. When the UK courts say "no", it should be read as a definite "NO!"

MM

MJNL
04-06-2012, 01:21 AM
He realizes that the use of "sock-puppets" violates many principles of business ethics, right? Last time I checked, unethical behavior was not a good thing on which to rest a legal defense.

Celia Cyanide
04-06-2012, 04:05 AM
I have to say, while being defensive of your writing is about the worst thing you can do, this Mr. Jones guy went well beyond offensive in his review. I can't even imagine what would prompt him to bring up the author's children unless it was deliberately personal.

I agree. The author has acted a bit nutty, and his book is probably terrible. Still, what on earth made the reviewer think that was ok? It goes beyond what an author should expect from negative reviews.

So he wrote a book you didn't like. Write a review and explain what you didn't like and why, then get on with your life. There's no need to get personal.

Celia Cyanide
04-06-2012, 04:11 AM
Now, the actual reviews etc are not at Amazon any more (pulled when legal proceedings started) and I don't know what they said, though it appears that during the course of argument, the reviewer said a thing or two he shouldn't (said by the judge to be 'nasty'), but it does make it hard to see what's what, so I can't comment on that.

This explains what was "nasty":




Mr Jones wrote a series of uncomplimentary reviews of “The Attempted Murder of God” and, after doing online research, outed Mr McGrath as the author. He also named Mr McGrath’s two children, something Judge Maloney described as “nasty”.

seun
04-06-2012, 02:29 PM
If there is a God, She's preparing a libel suit against Mr. McGrath for implying that anyone could murder Her in the first place. Dude, what part of "immortal" didn't you understand?

Ah, but does immortal equal invincible? Highlander was immortal but you could still cut his head off.

vjohn82
05-02-2012, 11:19 PM
Hello to all,

I have found a few threads on the net where it is a useful exercise to clear up some misconceptions about the libel case. I have read some comments on this forum and decided to tackle a couple of them because they are misconstruing the situation based on no evidence of what was written and leaping to odd conclusions as a result.



To be fair, it wasn't just a bad review. He did sock puppet Amazon and when the reviewer researched who he was, the whole thing ended in a flame war. The libellous bit involves the naming of the author's children.

Neither side has made themselves look good.

The "libellous bit" was nothing to do with this at all. It can never be libellous to name someone's children.


This.

I have to say, while being defensive of your writing is about the worst thing you can do, this Mr. Jones guy went well beyond offensive in his review. I can't even imagine what would prompt him to bring up the author's children unless it was deliberately personal.


How can you possibly say that I went "way beyond offensive" without any knowledge of the content or context of what was written?


He wasn't suing because the reviewer didn't like it. It was because he published the book under a pseudonym, and the reviewer outed the author and used his real name, as well as the names of his two children. Not cool.

It was probably the author's sock puppetry that got the case thrown out, and made him look just as bad. But yeah...the reviewer was no saint, either.


I agree. The author has acted a bit nutty, and his book is probably terrible. Still, what on earth made the reviewer think that was ok? It goes beyond what an author should expect from negative reviews.

So he wrote a book you didn't like. Write a review and explain what you didn't like and why, then get on with your life. There's no need to get personal.

As I have previously stated on my blog and in numerous interviews, the "author" was using his children to promote his publishing company and did so in a manner of ways which appear at odds with his most recent demands for privacy. For example, in one previous promotion he not only named his children but also told people where they went to school.

Rather than rely upon his the merits of either his book or his skills as a publisher, he used his children instead. Perhaps people think this sort of thing is ok? I'm one of those that thought it was quite crass and all I remarked was that I felt sorry for them being subjected to it.

My own children's privacy is paramount to me. I would not use them for any glorified self promotion. However, in the context of the authors unethical marketing campaigns (which the Judge was EXTREMELY critical of as per the Judgment) it seemed, at the time, eminently reasonable to offer my sympathy for them being caught up in their Father's plans.

Despite this, after the comment was posted for 4 hours, where I expressed my sympathy in course terms, I removed it because I didn't want it to be part of what the author was doing or being used as a club to beat me with.

In the end, the author complained to the Police and tried to use it as part of his libel proceedings. The police did not consider it to be an issue for them to deal with and, for those who are interested in facts, the Judge did not say anything at all about it being "nasty".

This word is a complete invention by the author. The Judge said "that was not a nice thing to do" (two court recorders picked this up) but the Judge ALSO accepted the reasons I provided for why I did it and was then critical of McGrath involving the police and for using his kids in his promotions. The Judge remarked on the hypocritical nature of the author's argument too which is all too evident to see.

It was not a classy thing to do by me by any stretch. But I had to face multiple accounts all calling me mentally deranged, disabled, intellectually challenged all for writing my opinion. So yes, I did feel sorry for the author's family because that sort of behaviour reflects upon them in the long run.

The author has used this as a club to try and hold me hostage with and it's clearly a tactic to divert people from what he was actually doing.

In any case, he is now appealing and this could drag on for much longer. The reality is, we should all feel sorry for his family because he has gotten them into £75,000 of debt and with the prospect of more to come because he doesn't want to stop.

But hey, let's also forget that this author has embarked upon a near year long hate campaign against me when all I did was write a few comments on a bloody Amazon forum and then a follow on article covering the threat of being sued for libel by a Creationist.

mirandashell
05-02-2012, 11:26 PM
Errmmmm mate. If you're still involved in that libel case, maybe posting here is not the best idea? Especially not for the mods on this board

MacAllister
05-02-2012, 11:30 PM
Thanks for your concern, Mirandashell -- but as this is an American server, we're pretty clearly covered under the DMCA.

I'm completely unqualified to offer an opinion with regard to the advisability of someone actively involved in a lawsuit commenting on a message board about that suit, however -- posters are responsible for their own words, and I will (of course) comply if presented with a court order for my server records regarding that member.

mirandashell
05-02-2012, 11:36 PM
Ok cool. I didn't know about libel rules in the US other than they are different to here. So thought you should be aware this was happening. I don't want you getting caught up in this private argument.

But if it's cool, it's cool.

Carry on, everyone!

vjohn82
05-02-2012, 11:50 PM
There is nothing preventing me from speaking about a case which is now part of the public record in the UK.

All of what I have said is part of my submissions to the court.

I'm quite comfortable in saying that this is not a "private argument". The type pf case that the author brought to the UK courts could have had massive implications for anyone using the internet in the UK; publisher, commenters, bloggers, journalists etc.

This case went beyond a private argument and this is demonstrated by the number of defendants and others who have been threatened by the guy suing me.

mirandashell
05-02-2012, 11:58 PM
Which may be a good reason not to talk about it in public?

MattW
05-03-2012, 12:01 AM
Everyone in this topic will now be sued by me for not saying nice things about me.

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 12:04 AM
Love you Matt! You're lovely!

vjohn82
05-03-2012, 12:32 AM
Which may be a good reason not to talk about it in public?

What I will consider is not taking legal advice from someone who thinks naming someone's children is "libellous".

Or from someone who will discuss it with others without due regard for the actual facts.

Thanks for your concern though.

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 12:34 AM
Oohhhh! Get you!

Pippi
05-03-2012, 12:40 AM
He's also taking on Nike: http://www.chrismcgrath.info/

veinglory
05-03-2012, 12:41 AM
Meow.

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 12:45 AM
He's also taking on Nike: http://www.chrismcgrath.info/


Uh huh.....

veinglory
05-03-2012, 01:07 AM
And Amazon, and Richard Dawkins and others. Sounds like an expensive hobby.

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 01:17 AM
And the talking about himself in the third person.....

Pippi
05-03-2012, 01:34 AM
miranda, are you implying what I think you're implying?

shaldna
05-03-2012, 01:35 AM
This sort of shit makes me ashamed to be a writer.

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 01:38 AM
miranda, are you implying what I think you're implying?

Hi, Pippi! You're new here, aren't you?

Pippi
05-03-2012, 01:40 AM
My lips are sealed.;)

mirandashell
05-03-2012, 01:40 AM
And so are mine!

Pippi
05-03-2012, 01:43 AM
Fairly new, I've been lurking or perhaps lurching around the place for a while, learning the writerly ropes.

Celia Cyanide
05-03-2012, 01:44 AM
As I have previously stated on my blog and in numerous interviews, the "author" was using his children to promote his publishing company and did so in a manner of ways which appear at odds with his most recent demands for privacy. For example, in one previous promotion he not only named his children but also told people where they went to school.

So naturally, you had to put that in your review, instead of just talking about the book itself.

Momento Mori
05-03-2012, 02:03 AM
And the conclusions drawn from this are as follows:

1. don't be an arsehole;

2. don't sock-puppet your own reviews;

3. seriously, don't be an arsehole;

4. when you realise that you're arguing with a moron, walk away. Continuing the argument turns you into a moron too; and

4. only attention whores resurrect otherwise dead threads and engage in self-justification.

This case came about because one nitwit butted heads with another nitwit on the internet and then decided not to let it go. As a result, neither nitwit comes out of this covered in glory.

MM

James D. Macdonald
05-03-2012, 02:33 AM
Wow. I need a scorecard just to keep track of the players.

IceCreamEmpress
05-03-2012, 02:36 AM
My only sympathies are for the children (on what planet is "But their parent mentioned them first!" an argument for dragging minor children into a nasty public dispute between presumed adults?) and for the judge who had to sift through all of this garbage.

JimmyB27
05-03-2012, 04:00 PM
4. when you realise that you're arguing with a moron, walk away. Continuing the argument turns you into a moron too;
"Never argue with a fool – they will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience"

:D

Sheila Muirenn
05-03-2012, 04:40 PM
Balanchine quote I always liked from my ballet days:

Critics have to eat, but you don't have to read them.

seun
05-03-2012, 05:14 PM
This thread makes my head hurt. I need a drink.

quicklime
05-03-2012, 06:10 PM
The "libellous bit" was nothing to do with this at all. It can never be libellous to name someone's children. no, but ridiculously tacky and offensive, probably.





As I have previously stated on my blog and in numerous interviews, the "author" was using his children to promote his publishing company and did so in a manner of ways which appear at odds with his most recent demands for privacy. For example, in one previous promotion he not only named his children but also told people where they went to school. so you decided you should be arbiter of his kids' privacy then?

Rather than rely upon his the merits of either his book or his skills as a publisher, he used his children instead. Perhaps people think this sort of thing is ok? I'm one of those that thought it was quite crass and all I remarked was that I felt sorry for them being subjected to it.

My own children's privacy is paramount to me. I would not use them for any glorified self promotion. but you'll throw his under the bus because you're upset with him?
However, in the context of the authors unethical marketing campaigns (which the Judge was EXTREMELY critical of as per the Judgment) it seemed, at the time, eminently reasonable to offer my sympathy for them being caught up in their Father's plans.

Despite this, after the comment was posted for 4 hours, where I expressed my sympathy in course terms, I removed it because I didn't want it to be part of what the author was doing or being used as a club to beat me with.

In the end, the author complained to the Police and tried to use it as part of his libel proceedings. The police did not consider it to be an issue for them to deal with and, for those who are interested in facts, the Judge did not say anything at all about it being "nasty".

This word is a complete invention by the author. The Judge said "that was not a nice thing to do" (two court recorders picked this up) but the Judge ALSO accepted the reasons I provided for why I did it and was then critical of McGrath involving the police and for using his kids in his promotions. The Judge remarked on the hypocritical nature of the author's argument too which is all too evident to see.

It was not a classy thing to do by me by any stretch. But I had to face multiple accounts all calling me mentally deranged, disabled, intellectually challenged all for writing my opinion. So yes, I did feel sorry for the author's family because that sort of behaviour reflects upon them in the long run. so you jumped to their defense by "outing" them for public recognition?

The author has used this as a club to try and hold me hostage with and it's clearly a tactic to divert people from what he was actually doing.

In any case, he is now appealing and this could drag on for much longer. The reality is, we should all feel sorry for his family because he has gotten them into £75,000 of debt and with the prospect of more to come because he doesn't want to stop.

But hey, let's also forget that this author has embarked upon a near year long hate campaign against me when all I did was write a few comments on a bloody Amazon forum and then a follow on article covering the threat of being sued for libel by a Creationist. or, lets straw-man this into a "you're taking hisssss side" whine....





bottom line, I guess I don't know which of you to hold in lower regard...the ignorant hypocrit, or the one who stoops to his level to fight it and then claims he's being unfairly judged. We have more than a few people in town I consider utter shitbags, where I deal with their kids in various ways throughout the week...I don't hold the kids accountable for, or put them up for ridicule in any way for, their parent's stupidity--that's just wrong; I"m not sure how you figure this is a point you can argue, especially while defending your own kids. If I read that right, you outed them when he was under a pseudonym...naming him is one thing, but them? that was just stooping.

mccardey
05-03-2012, 06:46 PM
bottom line, I guess I don't know which of you to hold in lower regard...the ignorant hypocrit, or the one who stoops to his level to fight it and then claims he's being unfairly judged.

<snip>

If I read that right, you outed them when he was under a pseudonym...naming him is one thing, but them? that was just stooping.


Yes - this bit is far more important than whatever caused the slapfight, in my opinion... If the bolded bit is accurate, it undermines the righteous stance.

An argument rests on its own strength. It doesn't get better by dragging kids into it.