Mon Dieu! Wine gossips were smirking and tutting over an international Internet defamation dust-up. An industry commentator, popular for parodying oenophiles, spilled some satirical shade on a well-known wine glass maker. A lawsuit was threatened, but civility – and a joint statement – prevailed.
Despite the quick detente, the case is worth a gander, as it raises two defamation law issues:
- Satire v. Defamation; and
- International defamation considerations in a digital world.
The International Internet Defamation Incident: Glass Maker v. Win Blogger
His name is Ron Washam and he calls himself the HoseMaster of Wine™. Think: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Vineyard Division.
And like any “insult comic dog,” Washam occasionally encounters people who don’t appreciate his humor. Recently, one of Washam’s works, which posted on U.K.-based Tim Atkin’s wine blog, ignited an international defamation flame.
In the contested article, Washam used a long-established satirical tool: fake dialogue. Specifically, he put these words in the mouth of high-end glassmaker, Georg Riedel:
Another passage from Washam’s post:
To shorten a long story, Riedel wasn’t impressed with Washam’s parody and pursued legal action. When the Toastmaster learned of the possible claim, he publically responded on his blog:
It’s important to note, for reasons we’ll reveal below, that Tim Atkin, on whose site the offending article ran, had tweeted about the article.
U.K. Defamation Law Prompted Atkin To Take Precautions
A few days after the news hit, U.K. resident Atkin said he was consulting with solicitors. Shortly after that, he added a preface to the Washam’s piece on his blog. It reads:
Why the statement? Because, under U.K. law, Riedel may have been able to successfully sue Atkin, if Atkin hadn’t back-tracked a bit.
You see, in Her Majesty’s Realm, since approbation of the 2013 Defamation Law, upon notification, website operators are required to remove defamatory content – before a court declares a statement libelous.
In this instance, if Atkin hadn’t posted the clarification, nor removed the article, there’s a significant chance he would have lost the case.
Smart To Settle This International Internet Defamation Case?
After Atkin posted the preamble – and the wine industry expressed exasperation over the suit – Riedel withdrew the legal action.
Was it smart to settle? Of course. If you can handle a situation amicably, do it!
But, in a way, it’s too bad this case didn’t play out. We’d never wish a protracted legal battle on anyone, but if this suit had made it to court, the decision may have further established case law regarding the responsibility website owners assume for defamatory guest blog content.
Under U.K. defamation law, did Atkins stir the proverbial pot by re-tweeting Washam’s message about the lawsuit? In doing so, did he attract more attention to the piece? And if so, is that contrary to the U.K.’s set of online defamation standards established in 2013? These questions may have been answered if the case made it to court.
Speak With An Internet Defamation Attorney
Maintaining a good online reputation is essential. Kelly Warner has worked with over 700 individuals and businesses with their Internet defamation issues and challenges. A top AV-rated practice, attorneys at our firm enjoy stellar litigation track records.
Let’s talk. We may be able to solve your online defamation or reputation issue quickly – and for less money than you may think. Get in touch today to schedule a consultation.