If you think that it is possible to go online, create a blog anonymously to defame your competition and get away with it… YOU ARE WRONG, SO THINK AGAIN!
This is precisely what Darren Richards, owner of EstatesDirect.com thought he could do. Running an online estate agency franchise company, Mr. Richards was in direct competition with a business run by Michael Pattemore and ‘Oxo Mum’ Lynda Bellingham. He proactively decided to take the steps of creating two anonymous blogs containing untrue and unlawful statements about Michael and Lynda, which resulted in their business taking a nose-dive to the extent that they were almost completely wiped out of the market.
Such devastating consequences and such serious damage to personal and commercial reputations was achieved by one man sitting in front of a keyboard, thinking he was shielded by the anonymity of the internet
When Michael and Lynda first came to see us, they had no idea who could be behind the blogs, and they had no idea what to do. However, by using a Court ordered ‘Unmasking’ Injunction, known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order, we successfully lifted the veil of anonymity and uncovered the identity of the person behind the offending blogs, namely Mr Richards. His failure to take primary responsibility for his actions quickly meant that substantive libel proceedings were commenced against him in the High Court, Queen Bench Division, the one and the same that had provided the ‘unmasking’ injunction
Starting litigation is never an easy decision to make, but when your business has been literally taken away from you by an internet ghost, alternative and diplomatic options remain few and far between.
However, last week, I am happy to confirm that a six figure settlement was secured for our clients together with an apology. Although this will not recover Michael and Lynda’s business they have been vindicated in the action and have dispelled the allegations that were made against them. They now stand as examples of real life victims of online defamation, whose perseverance never wavered and who achieved justice in the most difficult of circumstances. Take a look below for the apology provided to Michael and Lynda by Mr. Richards: words themselves will never be enough to bring back what they had hoped would be a business that would enable them to retire comfortably; but they definitely go some way towards alleviating the pain, suffering and damage to their reputations that had been caused.
John Spyrou, Director and Head of Internet and Media Law @ Pinder Reaux states “Michael and Lynda’s case shows practically the misconceptions as to anonymity the internet advertises. Internet users must know that you cannot defame, harass or bully people via the internet, under the guise of anonymity. You will be found out, you will be unmasked, and you will have to answer for your actions. The law and the Courts provide means for us to find you, and Lynda and Michael have shown just how powerful such action can be”.
The Sunday Telegraph’s article on this successful outcome can be read here:
Managing Director @ Pinder Reaux