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Software Company Sues Popular Australian Forum 121

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'd-like-to-sue-a-bar-where-someone-was-mean-to-me dept.
Pugzly writes "In a recent announcement on the Whirlpool front page, it appears that accounting software maker 2clix is suing the founder of the forums as the founder "allowed statements 'relating to the Plaintiff and its software product that are both false and malicious' to be published on the Whirlpool forums."
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Software Company Sues Popular Australian Forum

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  • Owners of forums are explicitly exempt from libel prosecution.
  • Appliances? (Score:4, Funny)

    by macshome (818789) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:52AM (#20570557) Homepage
    I'm sure I won't be the only one, but on first read I thought the summary was about an appliance company.

    Took me a second to realize my mistake.
  • Thread Links (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:53AM (#20570563)
  • So in Australia I can sue someone for posting "false and malicious statements" about me on a public forum? Well, that's my college tuition taken care of!
    You'd think they'd at least have a penalty for starting the flame war . . . or, in this case, selling crappy software.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mwvdlee (775178)
      I'll just post some slanderous lies about myself on /. as an AC, then sue /. for million$!
    • by Belacgod (1103921)
      Worse. You can sue someone for operating a website in which someone posts false and malicious comments.

      Because it's the job of every forum operator to investigate the truth of every claim posted on their forum.

  • It happens (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:00AM (#20570659)
    I had someone make derogotory comments about some training firm on one of my sites and said firm emailed to ask we pulled the comment otherwise they might need to get legal on us. We pulled it. The firm were fairly reasonable about the whole thing given it took a week or so (ahem, the admin for the forum section had forgotton his pw).
    There was no real reason not to comply - it was a silly comment with nothing to back it up, from memory 'anyone know a good IT trainer? I tried xxx but they were crap and tried to fleece me out of more money'.
    Wouldn't have minded but when I looked it up, it had been there 3 years.
    • Re:It happens (Score:5, Informative)

      by davidmwilliams (1117749) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:07AM (#20570749) Homepage
      One of the many flaws in 2Clix is that you get an unhandled division by zero exception when reprinting payslips if a certain non-mandatory field is zero or empty. Now, surely division by zero is the most basic and fundamental example of error handling used in any programming course or book or tutorial or other. To my mind, 2Clix are receiving negative criticisms for having software which is poorly-written and unreliable in its behaviour and outputs. To then attempt to silence critics by demanding censorship of unpalatable comments is nothing short of arrogant, bullying and reprehensible. I can barely imagine 2Clix or its lawyer considered how massive and widespread the publicity would become! People worldwide now know of this tiny accounting software package - and not for good reasons. Whirlpool.net.au is a well-respected forum, frequented by many IT professionals and decision-makers. I think 2Clix will find that Simon Wright has far more credibility and supporters than they do.
      • by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @10:37AM (#20572439)
        way to go. now 2clix is gonna sue slashdot.org. i hear they're planning on suing the internet too.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by funkdancer (582069)
          Man, you nearly made my LCD screens become soaked with coffee. That was too funny. :D

          Fwiw I'm one of the many who chipped in a small sum. Just the cost of one lunch, but given the numbers of users, if a few get in on it it will quickly become enough to provide the support that we require.

          I believe this case is very important to the Australian online community. Therefore we are taking it quite seriously, as we should.

          Now to something completely different; is anyone taking bets on how long 2Clix will stay in
    • And that should never have happened. Can you say slippery slope? Where do you draw the line?

      I would be horrified if they had such laws here in the U.S. I would hate to be afraid of saying anything derogatory about any company for fear of being sued. It's ridiculous. IMHO, unless someone said something that was truly libelous -- that is, a deliberate falsehood designed to do nothing but destroy a company's reputation, they have the right to say anything they want about a company. I've made plenty of dero
      • by mwvdlee (775178)
        It's not a slippery slope if the criticism was given without any reason.

        Removing a comment saying "Product X sucks because they have a major bug (here's how to reproduce it) which I reported to them half a year ago and they still haven't fixed" is a slippery slope.

        Removing a comment saying "Product X sucks" is not.

        The difference is that the company could (try to) defend their product in the first comment by disproving/refuting the reason given.
        • by russotto (537200)
          Libel laws have it backwards from your example. You can write "Product X sucks" all day and it's just opinion and not libellous. If you write "Product X sucks because it has a major bug" (and give details), you may have committed libel if the product does not in fact have that bug.
          • And this is unreasonable, why, exactly?
            • by russotto (537200)
              It's not. The unreasonable thing is that if I say something bad (but true) about a product and the company sues me and the forum where I posted it, I am silenced, because

              a) Neither the forum nor I have the resources for a court fight, and the company does.

              and

              b) Even if I did have the resources for the fight, the forum doesn't and even if it did, it's easier and cheaper for them to silence me.
        • by torkus (1133985)
          wtb freedom of speech. Who are you to determine what speech is good vs. bad? Let people say what they want! You have the same power/freedom yourself.

          If someone tells me that i suck and provides no reason, i find that easier to defend against than someone pointing out actual flaws anyhow! I could simply state that i don't suck and the OP is a doody-head. BFD. Everyone needs to grow up.

          Granted this is in australia...and granted they're sueing the FORUM - not the poster. I doubt a court would allow the
    • Re:It happens (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:21AM (#20570951) Homepage Journal
      The comment as you have described it seems perfectly fair (it is someone's opinion of someone else..) and potentially quite useful to other users of the forum, especially if others add their views. I would be doubtful that it is illegal in almost any (sane) country to express a negative opinion of something. I haven't read the thread so I don't know what comments were made in this case, but in the case you describe I would be more inclined to put the company complaining and the complainant in contact and have them sort the issue out between them, any company that tries to fight negative opinions (however they are formed) about themselves with legal action, is not going to gain any confidence from its potential customers.

      Clearly it would be different if someone is claiming something as a fact but is in fact lying i.e. "CarMaker A is EVIL, they skin kittens to make their upholstery!! - Don't buy from them", but an opinion i.e. "I don't like CarMaker A" or "CarMaker A's Cars are not as nice as CarMaker B's" or even "CarMakerA is crap", is always valid (if it is an honest one, and its not really practicable to distinguish an honest opinion from a dishonest one).

      The real problem comes when companies can have negative opinions removed from sites under threat of legal action (whether it has merit or not). It gives corporations far too much control over what the public can and do see or read about them. Of course for a small website owner, a hobbyist or simply an enthusiast of some sort, the threat of legal action is almost always poses too much of a risk and the reaction to remove offending material is clearly understandable.

      What is needed is a mechanism whereby any person or organisation who receives a legal threat is able to evaluate its merit, and if it is totally worthless and/or malicious, to take action against the originator.
      • On the whole I'd agree with what you say but a great many websites and forums have no real financial backing and couldn't afford to get involved in a slanging match.
        As someone else noted, if it was a comment that 'doing x in product y causes z to happen, everytime. That sucks' then I'd say it was fair but then as a web master, is it my job to test the claim, evaluate it and then pull the comment if its false? If not, what are my responsabilities and how do those change from territory to territory?
        The we
        • by Ajehals (947354)
          IANAL this is opinion, but I think I am fairly correct, obviously take legal advice if you need it, and don't consider this legal advice.

          is it my job to test the claim, evaluate it and then pull the comment if its false?

          No It isn't, if it were an outrageous claim that you, as a reasonable person would see as impossible then by all means take action, you should be able to moderate posts without either stifling genuine negative opinions or allowing flagrant abuse. Remember that that in a case of X in Y causes Z is likely and may or may not be a reflection upon Y, its not your job o deal w

          • >By the way, with a nick like clickclickdrone...
            No, it's a line from an early 80's track called Underpass by John Foxx:
            Over all the bridges
            Echoes in rows
            Talking at the same time
            Click click drone
            Misty on the glass now
            Rusty on the door
            Here for years now
            Click click drone
    • by lazybeam (162300)
      said firm emailed to ask we pulled the comment otherwise they might need to get legal on us

      I would have replaced the post with a large "XYZ Company has asked us to remove this post due to a user posting a negative comment about them". It still shows that there is something wrong with XYZ Company but this is potentially worse for them and it doesn't say how bad they are - and since it is completely true they can't do anything about it. :)
  • by GaryPatterson (852699) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:04AM (#20570721)
    I'd never heard of them before, but now I have. I now know that they're overly sensitive to criticism and resort to litigation as a way of resolving complaints.

    I'll be certain to avoid them in future and recommend against such a dangerous company if ever I get the chance.

    Thanks 2clix, you've revealed your true colours.

    (I'm an Australian, living in Melbourne)
  • by Hellsbells (231588) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:04AM (#20570723)
    Australian Defamation Laws are ridiculously powerful.

    A failed restaurant recently successfully sued a major newspaper for a negative review [smh.com.au] in the Australian High Court.
    • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann,slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:14AM (#20570837) Homepage Journal
      Australian Defamation Laws are ridiculously powerful.

      BUZZZZZZZZZZZT! Defamation alert! Lawsuit!
    • by Christoph (17845) <chris@cgstock.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:08PM (#20578341) Homepage Journal

      Australian Defamation Laws are ridiculously powerful.

      A failed restaurant recently successfully sued a major newspaper for a negative review in the Australian High Court.

      I'm defending myself (and my website) at trial in federal court in two months (November, 2007) against "deceptive trade practices" and "interference with prospective contractual relations" (a defamation claim was dropped).

      My webpage criticizes a corporation that published my stock photos without permission and refused to pay the licensing fee. The federal court ruled last month that they were, in fact, guilty of infringement. Yet the court is still allowing their claims against my webpage to proceed, apparently based on comments posted by other victims of the same corporation (which, under the Section 230 of the CDA, I'm not liable for anyway)

      Next month is the TWO YEAR anniversary of the claims against me. Nothing on my webpage is specifically cited as factually untrue, no evidence the webpage is false has been produced, yet we are still going to trial -- ?!?. Although I expect to prevail, I'm not sure this is hugely better than the Australian case (which I read about previously and is pretty bad). I'm pro-se, doing this on my own (my webpage with a chronology [cgstock.com]). If I had a lawyer, my costs might be over $100,000 by now.

      I've posted about my case here even though it could lead to MORE claims against me as I truly in my heart believe in freedom of speech, and I won't concede to a "chilling effect" because of baseless, SLAPP lawsuits.

    • by Rizzer (122184)

      Australian Defamation Laws are ridiculously powerful.

      A failed restaurant recently successfully sued a major newspaper for a negative review in the Australian High Court.
      That's New South Wales defamation laws, not Australian. Each state is sovereign and laws are not (yet) fully consistent across the whole country.
  • The Statement of Claim from the company alleges that Simon Wright allowed statements "relating to the Plaintiff and its software product that are both false and malicious" to be published on the Whirlpool forums.

    Yes, I can see him sitting there, reading the articles, nodding his head, and going "Yeah, let's burn 'em!" Honestly, I'm pretty sure this is going nowhere. Has it suddenly dawned on companies that people are saying bad things about them? Software companies shouldn't be surprised -- look at the lambasting that Microsoft takes on a daily basis. I suspect the statements are true and 2Clix just doesn't want anyone to know about it.

    • by deniable (76198)
      Well, looking at two of threads in question, the moderators of the forum were removing some posts all along. The reasons supplied included mention of personal attacks. This would seem to preclude an ignorance defense.

      At the same time people claiming to be the heads of support and sales for the company were participating in the discussion. This indicates that they've known about this the whole time.
  • ...on forum I frequent. The site owner of EduGeek.Net [edugeek.net] (a site for IT Techies in Education) was sent a legal nastygram by Sophos for some unkind threads debating the quality of it's AV product. Some of the forums members tipped The Register off and Sophos rapidly backtracked [theregister.co.uk] on the idea. Hopefully, tipping off Slashdot will work for Whirlpool.
  • At least in Australia, and free speech here is a joke, you are free to agree, go visit 2clix [2clixsoftware.com] it might be enough to make a point that folks on the internet don't like being bullied by excessively litigous companies.

    • by simong (32944)
      None of their client testimonials have any attribution. Just sayin', like.
    • Actually that isn't true. To successfully defend against any form of defamation in Australia, you only need to be able to prove that:
      1. what you said was true, and
      2. that it was in the public interest to share the information
  • by smegged (1067080) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:15AM (#20570853)
    I am very concerned about this lawsuit. There are two very real outcomes that could occur should whirlpool lose.
    • Firstly, whirlpool are THE resource for finding out about ISPs in Australia. Their neutrality and open forums, should they be lost, would be very, very bad for consumers.
    • Secondly, a ruling against whirlpool means a precedent would be set which basically ensured that forums in Australia would be practically eliminated. This is both bad for a lot of businesses and bad for users.
    For these reasons I really really hope that whirlpool wins (well, for those reasons and the obvious moral reasons).
    • Secondly, a ruling against whirlpool means a precedent would be set which basically ensured that forums in Australia would be practically eliminated. This is both bad for a lot of businesses and bad for users.

      To be fair, it's worth pointing out that "forums", despite their growing popularity and usefulness, are neither the only available source of information on the internet, nor the only manner in which information can be made public.

      Usenet, for example, is alive and well, and friendly enough for the point
      • What's to stop a company from using the same argument against whoever is providing the Usenet feed?
        • What's to stop a company from using the same argument against whoever is providing the Usenet feed?

          As a practical matter, it doesn't matter. The content, once accepted, will be distributed worldwide in short order, so if your ISP's news server or your premium server is carrying the group, the content will be there and subject to the control of that news server only. Such mechanisms as cancellation messages, have a tortured history and are typically ignored by all news server admins.

          Personally, I think the
    • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
      I agree, it would set a very scary precedent. I've found Broadband Choice [whirlpool.net.au] immensely helpful over the years finding ISPs, all thanks to the in-depth user feedback. The court claim reads like any typical forum thread, which is why I have faith this will be thrown out at the first opportunity. While not having a constitutional protection of free speech, we do have rights enshrined in common law which should apply here (IANAL etc.)
  • regardless of whether it is realisticly possible or not, is anyone else envisioning a MS vs. Slashdot suit of the same nature? Or possibly Apple vs. Slashdot? Think of the thousands (millions?) of posts posted here that MS and Apple would take offense to. I think it would be a great chance for people to prove their claims legally, and it would dispell a lot of rumors.
    • by Ecuador (740021)
      Yeah, that would be bad. Imagine how much effort posting to slashdot will be after a disfavorable ruling:

      "I think Vista is maturing - wink wink, nudge nudge"
      "OOXML is a marvel of a file format - wink wink, nudge nudge"
      "What do you mean the iPhone is still overpriced? - wink wink, nudge nudge"
  • I think 2clix have been reading too much US business news.

    Courts in AU don't work the same way: harder to get a jury trial, judges still determine awards _and_ allocate costs. They'd better watch "paid into court". Lawyers are also "officers of the court" and IIRC forbidden to take %age contingency fees.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As was mentioned earlier Australia has some of the toughest defamation laws in the world. We have many things to be proud of in this country but legal protection of freedom of speech is not one of them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Umm.. software developers.. just a word of advice... most people on whirlpool, are IT managers and admins... we are all just about to say NEVER to any 2clix software.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by deniable (76198)
      ... or company decision makers who've asked us about ISPs for home. I've sent at least two MDs and one financial controller there for information.
    • by lottameez (816335)
      (cough) unless we're offered a free iPod or iPhone, a date with Kari Byron, or a complete DVD set of "The Simpsons". This bribe^H^H^H^H olive branch would be considered a way for us to become ambivalent wrt 2clix once again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Manaz (46799)
      "most people on whirlpool, are IT managers and admins"

      Oh please. Whilst I'm sure there are a lot of IT Managers and sysadmins on Whirlpool (I'm one of them), they're vastly outnumbered by kids and "enthusiast" internet users who's prime purpose on Whirlpool is to shop around for the most speed and monthly download capacity for their (parents) dollar.
      • by JoGlo (1000705)
        Yes, there are a lot of kiddies there, but there are more kiddies in Oz than there are movers and shakers. Just because the ankle biters get underfoot at times doesn't mean that they are the only ones watching Whirlpool. I'm also an IT manager, and a member of Whirlpool. I wonder just how many Whirlpool members also come over here to /.? And how many of the dual group are IT bods? Although I tend to regularly get sin-binned over there, I see it as an extremely useful set of forums to have around, and if it
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:37AM (#20571257)
    The thread/s in question cited by the lawsuit are actually something like #2 and #3 for a google search of 2clix - under their official site.

    So just to clarify, every time a potential customer searches for this company, they find a very easily accessible thread indicating user dissatisfaction.

    I think most of us can agree that this type of thing will absolutely ruin a software company.

    Not saying that they don't perhaps deserve repercussions but one can see how this has escalated when such a clearly damaging thread exists so easily discovered by sales targets.

    I post this because a lot of people are getting on the bandwagon about how evil these guys are when infact this is probably the end of their business. Its a regretful situation for all and I'm glad that Simon is protecting free speech on his board but I can't help but be sorry for those people.

    Maybe they deserve it.. who knows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      There were 2 ways to fix this problem:

      1) Post a reasonable response with an attempt to fix whatever problems the user was having. (Actual attempt is optional, it just has to LOOK like they are trying.)

      2) Lawsuit. A very public and damaging lawsuit that makes you scream 'EVERYONE THINKS WE SUCK BUT WE DON'T REALLY' to even have a chance at winning.

      Yeah, smart. Assuming you are correct that this means the end of their business, they handled it exactly the wrong way. Nobody succeeds these days in coverin
    • by ls -la (937805)

      The thread/s in question cited by the lawsuit are actually something like #2 and #3 for a google search of 2clix - under their official site.

      So just to clarify, every time a potential customer searches for this company, they find a very easily accessible thread indicating user dissatisfaction.

      I think most of us can agree that this type of thing will absolutely ruin a software company.

      Not saying that they don't perhaps deserve repercussions but one can see how this has escalated when such a clearly damaging thread exists so easily discovered by sales targets.

      I post this because a lot of people are getting on the bandwagon about how evil these guys are when infact this is probably the end of their business. Its a regretful situation for all and I'm glad that Simon is protecting free speech on his board but I can't help but be sorry for those people.

      Maybe they deserve it.. who knows.

      Pretty much every time I d business with a new company online, I do a search for the company specifically to find negative feedback about a company. I'd much rather do business with a company that does an average job with all their customers than one that does great with some people, but screws the unlucky ones.

    • by z0idberg (888892)
      Perhaps instead of trying to bury the problems with lawsuits they could actually fix the problems, release a new version with the issues resolved and post that fact in the forum itself.

      That way anyone that goes to look at that forum link off google can see the company pro-actively fixing any issues. Seems like a good form of advertising to me.

    • by t0nz0r (1134677)

      The thread/s in question cited by the lawsuit are actually something like #2 and #3 for a google search of 2clix - under their official site.

      The only reason they are #2 and #3 is because they filed this lawsuit and bought the threads to everyones attention. I love the whirlpool site, every time I have had a problem with my ISP (only when I was on Telstra) I would head over there and find solution to my problems (putting Telstras modem into bridge mode) and updates for anytime service outages (Telstras website never got this info). It also helped me select my new ISP Internode who I am very happy with and have had no problems to date (1 year, 2

    • by bailey86 (1049254)
      Errrmmmm... Google rankings will be affected by the fact that this story is now being so widely linked to. This is basic stuff.
  • I think I heard a can of worms being opened. If this gets through the courts, australian free speech on the net has taken a steep downward turn... The software looks absolutely dreadful - the screenshots I have found on the net look like they are from the mid 90s.... I'd bet this is a last ditch effort from the company before they get liquidated...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They made a shitty program and tried to steal all my money. They are a very shady company and I wouldn't touch them with a 10' pole. Don't say you weren't warned if you do business with them and they rape your bank account or livestock.
  • Careful, they'll be suing slashdot for knackering their server next! ;)
  • Microsoft sues slashdot.
  • by Col Bat Guano (633857) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:56PM (#20579821)
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=628356&r=12820406#r12820406 [whirlpool.net.au]

    The forum thread had been running for many months, but in late August there was some real action starting to occur on getting information for legal action against 2clix.

    My guess is that they would like to shut the thread down and prevent more people from getting involved in suing them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    2clix were hassling me a while back with cold-calls trying to get me to buy their software. When asked what their software was/did, they described it in pure marketing terms - telling me all the positive effects they supposed it would have on the business, instead of what it's actually used for and what roles it fills. I got their URL so I could look into it when I had time... the use of obnoxious stock photos on every page (see http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=stock_photos [thebestpag...iverse.net]) and the anonymous
  • I run a forum in Australia which is industry-specific and encourages subscribers to post critical information about suppliers and software vendors.

    The difference is that my forum is private, and not indexed on the web. Subscribers must join with a valid industry-specific email address, and no vendors or suppliers are allowed to join, read or post to the forum.

    We still get occasional requests from vendors to take down content that is negative about them.

    I am able to respond that the posts will not b
  • by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:19PM (#20580823) Homepage Journal
    Now we all know why the Maytag repair man doesn't get internet access.
  • "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"


    ROFL would you buy a 2clix franchise?

    http://secure.businessesforsale.com/F410/business-management-and-accounting-software.aspx [businessesforsale.com]

    Quoting the link "We have successfully launched businesses right around Australia, from Sydney to Perth, Brisbane to Melbourne, generating an annual turnover in Australia in excess of £1,800,000.00pa"

    1,800,000 GB pounds = 4,353,601.41 AUD 1 AUD = 0.413451 GBP at todays rate at xe.com So they are claiming to earn in excess of A

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