What would you do if someone wronged you in a blatant way? You would probably have words and if that didn’t produce an apology would more than likely as a next step blog about it, right? And probably invite your blogger friends to also blog about it? Of course a lot of them will anyway, particularly if what the dude did was dumb, damaging or both. And of course their readers might well pick up the story. Then what if the guy, instead of getting the point threatens you with lawyers and all kinds of legal threats?
While posed as a hypothetical question, this has actually a basis in a real story that is playing out. Kris Krug first blogged about his problem in February. He had been contacted that some of his photographs (quite noticeable because of his style is quite distinctive) turning up on another guys portfolio. Kris blogged about it, the pictures disappeared, everyone wondered at the cheek of the guy (often on their blogs) then got on with their lives.
End of story right?
Turns out the alleged photo thief didn’t like the fact that his name was now turning up for a unsavoury Google result; Kris’ blog. So what did he do? Called his lawyer …
Now, this being the blogosphere what didn’t happen is Kris roll over and take the content down and say “please mr don’t sue me”. Actually, he posted the legal letter up on Flickr. And, this being the blogosphere, lots of people thought “no way!” and posted to their own blogs, of course using the lawyer-using-alleged-photo-thief’s name (as you do).
Rather than a small problem that might have been resolved amicably he now has a much bigger problem that might never be cleared up. If you wanted to get professional photography gigs you probably wouldn’t want potential clients seeing these sorts of search results.
So, interesting story, justice prevails, etc. End of. Right?
Well in this case it seems from where I am sitting things played out much as you would expect and the guy got something amounting to what he deserved. (Perhaps a bit more than really necessary but it does look like he acted like a twit then escalated the whole thing way more than he needed to).
What concerns me is the scale and ease that this man’s professional reputation has been shredded. Even if he deserved it, how much chance has he of ever showing his face as a professional photographer? People forget, Google less so. Take out the scenario and personalities involved in this particular case and just look at the cause and effect, that is a pretty big scary stick bloggers wield isn’t it?
How about next time someone is set up? Or falsely accused. What happens then? Searches for some innocent persons name show all sorts of sensational lies. You could say there are laws to protect the innocent in those cases, but that is assuming you have the time and money, but also that the sites and authors are in geographies where you can even go after them.
My worry is with bloggers as judge, jury and executioner, rule of the lynch mob will become the norm with very little anyone can do about it.