Boing Boing has been on the receiving end of one or two stupid legal threats in our day but this one from the firm of Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh takes the cake, the little cake topper, the frosting and all the candles, as well as the box and the cake-stand and the ornamental forks……………..
There's no legal merit to this, of course. "Commercial libel" is damned hard to make stick (that pesky First Amendment!), and it takes a lot more than a blog post that contains the words "academic" "advantage" and "scam" to make a workable legal case.
No, this is pure legal thuggery, a completely indiscriminate bid to intimidate bloggers and publishers into censoring themselves by threatening dire legal consequences.
And the sad thing is, it probably works. Most people don't know the law (see EFF Bloggers' Rights articles), and can't afford to ask a lawyer what they should do in a situation like this. All we can hope is that the next time someone gets a letter over "academic advantage scam" or similar false positives, they get to this blog post and discover that our legal pals at
Dewey, Cheatham and Howe Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh know even less about the law than they do about the Internet.
For those of you who missed it, Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh sent us a letter alleging that we had caused "possibly irrevocable damage" to the reputation of its client, Academic Advantage, by publishing a blog post that contained the phrase "academic advantage" and, later, in one of the comments, the word "scam." Neither the original post nor the comment were related to the Academic Advantage tutoring service, and besides, US law clearly places responsibility for message-board posts on the poster, not the people who put up the message board. Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh's threat was one of the sloppiest, most careless piece of lawyering I've ever seen, a breathtaking example of depraved indifference and bullying.
Text of the original 13 January 2011 legal letter (apparently written by one of the law firm partners) which caused all the fuss can be found at Chilling Effects here:
We represent The Academic Advantage, Inc. (“The Academic Advantage”). It has come to our client’s attention that there is a link on your website which defames The Academic Advantage. This unlawful and impermissible link address is causing my client significant and possibly irrevocable damage.
The Academic Advantage is a well regarded company and community leader, which has received recognition from numerous public officials, including from governors and senators throughout the country, as well as high accolades from scores of parents and children. Unfortunately, however, the BoingBoing website has created an association of “scam” with the Academic Advantage. The following hyperlink is where the libelous web address can be found:
Enclosed is a printout of the webpage for your convenience.
It is clear there is no purpose to this web address but to falsely accuse the Academic Advantage of being a scam or at least associating the Academic Advantage with a scam. There is absolutely no helpful reason for the website to have the words “Academic,” “Advantage” and “Scam” which leads me to believe it was created for malicious purposes. Claiming that our client’s tutoring services program is a “SCAM” is prima facie defamation and designed to do nothing more than damage our client’s reputation.
We are respectfully requesting that BoingBoing immediately take down any and all such links from the website in order to avoid any further damage to our client’s reputation and business as well as an unnecessary escalation of these matters as between my client and BoingBoing. The Academic Advantage provides tutoring services to thousands of children, from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. Given the nature of our client’s services, involving the tutoring of young children, false accusations of lying, cheating, and stealing is particularly damaging to our client’s business. BoingBoing cannot in good conscience allow this hyperlink to remain.
Please kindly remove or rename the above listed link from your site immediately. If you have any questions or would like to discuss things in more detail, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, I thank you in advance for your cooperation in resolving these matters.
While over at ACS:Law the problems flowing from a mass mail out to alleged copyright infringers and data breach are perhaps a little more serious and, its now blank original homepage and new web site under construction says it all.