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Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968271
05/27/04 08:55 AM
05/27/04 08:55 AM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 705
Irvington, NY
irving Offline
500 Post Club Member
irving  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 705
Irvington, NY
Quote
Originally posted by Piano World:
I agree with Christopher and some of the others.
[b]If all we post is positive information we do a disservice to the thousands of people who come here every day looking for help and advice.


We need to find a way to convey negative information without worrying about legal threats every time.
Maybe some of our friends/members in the legal professions could offer some advice?

Here's what I'm thinking (but I'm certainly open for other ideas). We ...

Post Polls either one poll per dealer, or multiple dealers in one poll. I can set it so voters can only vote once. We indicate that a poll has to have had at least 10 votes to be considered a reasonable representation.

Star Ratings Use the 5 star rating system

Personal Experience
Negative posts should be based on personal experience and include facts, not based on hearsay.

Other suggestions?
Legal opinions? [/b]
Frank,

Clearly, people here are frustrated by, even resent, a rule that muzzles them. Most of us have always taken for granted that as Americans we have the right to express ourselves freely. ďFreedom of SpeechĒ, to most of us, means that we can say whatever we want, whenever we want so long as what we say is not libelous and so long as we donít yell ďfireĒ in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. If a piano dealer treats people unfairly, has an inventory that is sub-par or is simply unpleasant, surely we should be free to state this here without constraint. Or should we be?

This forum offers no protection to anyone (dealer, manufacturer, distributor or whatever) who might be the victim of a smear campaign run here by devious shills masquerading as innocent piano lovers. Believe me; I would like nothing better than for each and every crook and incompetent to be exposed for what he or she is. This would only help my business so long as I would be sure not to be one of them. But if by allowing the crooks and incompetents to be exposed, we make it possible for innocents to be unfairly maligned, we should perhaps not be so free to expose them.

Even a well-meaning person can, perhaps a bit thoughtlessly, say something negative about a piano person or entity that is not completely fair. This can and does happen here at times and it can and does cause harm. If the negative comment is well deserved, thatís perhaps okay, but it isnít always so well deserved, it isnít always sure to be adequately countered and we canít always know when it is undeserved.

So what should we do? If we canít be fully free to express negative opinions that would surely make this forum less fun. Some of our best contributors might find themselves too bored to want to stay on. And, as you say, If all we post is positive information we do a disservice to the thousands of people who come here every day looking for help and advice. So there seems to be no question but that we must provide a way for people to express all of their sentiments, both positive and negative, without constraint. Self-policing has worked pretty well here and this has been sufficient to ensure against most abuses and to counter most unwarranted slights. But the system is not fail-safe - some abuses have not been caught; some unwarranted slights have not been countered. Because the system isnít fail-safe we have a dilemma that must be addressed and resolved.

Does your proposed system do the trick? If itís sufficiently tweaked, perhaps it would work. So letís start tweaking and see what happens. First, if weíre going to have any sort of ratings, we must make sure that the raters are as credible as possible. One way to do this would be to require that each rater be open about who he or she is and to also require that he or she be a reasonably frequent poster (100 total posts, perhaps, or 50 posts in the last year) with a star rating of 4 or more from at least a dozen other frequent posters. Not too many cheaters would achieve ďraterĒ status with requirements like this. Second, the raters must always be open to challenge. Should the forum community feel that a particular rater is unfair or biased, it must have the means to boot him or her from the rater pool.

I might have more to say, but Iím late for an appointment. I hope that this dialogue continues with more ideas along these lines.


Irving
Faust Harrison Pianos
We sell new Bechsteins, Yamahas, Mason & Hamlins, Brodmanns and W. Hoffmanns, and rebuilt vintage Steinways. All rebuilding is done in our own factory. www.faustharrisonpianos.com
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968272
05/27/04 09:19 AM
05/27/04 09:19 AM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,342
S
Sir Lurksalot Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Sir Lurksalot  Offline
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S

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,342
Quote
Should the forum community feel that a particular rater is unfair or biased, it must have the means to boot him or her from the rater pool.
In other words, throw out the scores of the American and East German judges.

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968273
05/27/04 09:34 AM
05/27/04 09:34 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
K
kenny Offline
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kenny  Offline
7000 Post Club Member
K

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
Usenet
RMMP

Please explain.
First, I've have seen RMMP.
It is a google group, rec music makers piano.

Don't laugh, but what is usenet?
Is RMMP part of usenet? or vice versa?
And why are they not sueable?

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968274
05/27/04 09:38 AM
05/27/04 09:38 AM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,044
Colorado
M
Manitou Offline
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M

Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,044
Colorado
Epinions, Crutchfield and a host of other sites have plenty of ratings and customer feedback, I wonder how they get away with it?

I also like the Star rating system. But limiting this rating to users with a certain number of stars may not work as; those piano shopping are newer and have few posts.


Manitou - Pianist - Technician
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968275
05/27/04 09:52 AM
05/27/04 09:52 AM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,454
Maine
Jack Frost Offline
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Jack Frost  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,454
Maine
Any cease and desist letter from a lawyer needs to be taken seriously--not because there is necessarily any substance to the underlying claims, but because even a frivolous lawsuit can be expensive to defend. Having said that, 99 times out of 100 (or 1000?), there is no suit. the letter is puffery and an inexpensive way of stiffling legitimate expression. You back down because you do not understand your rights or you are not willing to take the chance that this is the 1 in a 1,000 case that will be litigated.

Typically, the letter wants you to stop doing something or remove something from the marketplace. In my experience, if you ignore the first letter and they do indeed file suit (unlikely), then you can decide to do what they originally requested and they will go away -- USUALLY. In court it is VERY hard to prove monetary damages. BUT WHO WANTS TO GO TO COURT?

There are two defenses that protect everyone and Frank has highlighted a third that protects him.

The two defenses that we all share are:

1. Truth. If what you say is true, you are not liable for saying it no matter how badly it reflects on a dealer.

2. Opinion. You are entitled to yours, and as long as your remarks are clearly an opinion, you cannot be liable for expressing it. It doesn't even have to be reasonable. If you begin your expression with: "In my opinion...." you are safe (as long as the "opinion" does not go on to make a factual mistatement too).

Now, what gets you in trouble? A statement purporting to be a statement of fact that is untrue and causes harm to another. Such as (assuming they are untrue): ABC Piano Dealer has the highest prices in the NYC area. ABC Piano does not even have a service department.

There are many forums and publications where products and businesses are rated and customers allowed to comment. As Frank notes, on the web a forum host is protected.

Lawyers write cease and desist letters with nothing to back them up all the time. Nobody wants to get sued, and defending even a stupid lawsuit can be expensive. The vast majority of such letters do not result in a suit if ignored, and most of the ones that are litigated probably have some merit. But in the end, anybody with $125 can start a lawsuit.

How you respond to these letters depends in large part on how "risk averse" you are. I have not seen the letters and know nothing about the underlying claims and allegations, but I suspect they are just phooey....

jf (Esq.)


"Make the pie higher." GWB
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968276
05/27/04 09:54 AM
05/27/04 09:54 AM
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,515
P
pianojuggler Offline
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P

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,515
I am not sure there's that much value in setting up a rating system for dealers. There are so many scattered throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, I just don't see that there's a large enough sampling of consumers to reliably rate any but the largest dealers or the chains. Just my opinion.
_________________

Would it provide any coverage of your or our collective posteriors to have a prominent banner on each and every page (especially the "New Topic" page) that "the comments posted are the opinions of the respective posters and full responsibility for those comments lies solely with the person making the comment"?

BTW, Frank, I don't use PainPal, but if you send me a private message with your mailing address, I shall drop a check in the mail.

Finally, relevant to Frank's first reply on this thread (about another public forum for ranting), didja see this morning's recycled Calvin and Hobbes strip?

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968277
05/27/04 09:57 AM
05/27/04 09:57 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,416
Washington D.C. Metro
Cindysphinx Offline
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Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,416
Washington D.C. Metro
For some reason, this whole thing would make me want to fight fire with fire. It really would.

What's to stop Frank from posting the entire letter he received from the dealer's lawyer right here, without comment? That's certainly not defamation, now is it? Surely any new members ought to understand that the dealer in question is one that threatens frivolous litigation? Sometimes if you expose a roach to the light of day, it will scurry off and leave you alone.

Honestly, I think that "covering" for this dealer by maintaining their anonymity might be making matters worse. They know that having their lawyer ink a letter for $50 will chill discussion on this board. Frankly, I think they're bluffing, and they'll never file suit. If they do, then they'll lose and this harassment will stop once and for all.

That said, my lay opinion on this is that I wouldn't start any formal system for ranking or evaluating dealers. My hunch is that allowing people to voice their opinions is one thing, and your exposure is limited. I think you're allowed to run an internet discussion board like this and not be responsible for everything that is said.

Once you take the next step and encourage a ranking system, thought, you might be in a different situation. You might need to take reasonable steps to guard against someone spamming the poll/rating results, voting again and again under different identities to malign a dealer. I don't know.

I think the best defense is to keep the forum exactly as it is -- a place where individuals can say what they want publicly, and anyone who wishes to defend his/her honor can do so publicly.

Oh, and one more thing, Frank. You probably don't want to post anything your lawyers sent to you or tell us what they're telling you. Your adversary might take this as evidence that you're waiving the attorney-client privilege and argue they're allowed to review your confidential communications with your lawyers. That would be something to avoid, to put it mildly.

Cindy -- conceding that it is easy to be a tough guy when she's not the defendant

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968278
05/27/04 10:03 AM
05/27/04 10:03 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 9,217
Deep in Cherokee Country
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member
Larry  Offline
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 9,217
Deep in Cherokee Country
I think the lawyer who sent the email should be sent a letter back from another lawyer telling him that any more attempts to intimidate this forum and its members will be viewed as an attempt to violate our collective civil rights and will be aggressively pursued. My guess is the attorney who sent the email is not convinced he has a leg to stand on, but because his client is demanding he threaten you, he does so via email to see if that's enough to scare you into submission.

You have a right to state facts. The dealership this lawyer works for is a known fact. The contents of the email is a known fact. I'd post all that information, with a well worded little disclaimer at the top saying this is what you got, this is why, and nail it down so it won't move from the top. There's nothing they can do about you posting facts.

PS: Cindy, you posted yours while I was writing, so I just saw it. We're thinking alike, you just said it better than I did. I think the email, along with the name of the dealer involved, should be posted without comment, and nailed down to the top of the list with no way for anyone to respond to it. And it should stay there for a long, long time.


Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968279
05/27/04 10:07 AM
05/27/04 10:07 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 3,291
Yorba Linda, CA
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Steve Miller  Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 3,291
Yorba Linda, CA
Quote
Originally posted by Piano World:
I just received another lawyer letter (via email) asking to have posts removed about a
certain piano dealer and threatening legal action.
Via e-mail?

Is this how they do things these days?


Defender of the Landfill Piano
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968280
05/27/04 10:19 AM
05/27/04 10:19 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,010
NM, GE & Wash. DC
JPM Offline
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JPM  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,010
NM, GE & Wash. DC
Frank said,

"We need to find a way to convey negative information without worrying about legal threats every time."


CJQ's comments suggest a possible solution. If we cannot post negative comments on PW for fear of law suits, how about posting to RMMP instead?

If someone asks about a dealer one of us knows to have problems/issues, we tell them we cannot respond on PW because of litigation concerns. We tell them to post their question to RMMP where it will be candidly answered.

Can PW be held liable for comments posted by one of its members to RMMP?

Of course, Irving is right, it is important that negative posts be based on fact, not hearsay. I would think that in order for someone to pen a creditable negative comment about a dealer, it ought based on first-hand knowledge or involvement in the issue at hand. That's only fair to the dealer involved. The dealer can respond with his side of the story on RMMP if he so chooses.

Could something like this work?

JP


"Piano music should only be written for the Bechstein."
-- Claude Debussy
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968281
05/27/04 10:19 AM
05/27/04 10:19 AM
Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 2,948
New York
Jeffrey Offline
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Jeffrey  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 2,948
New York
Just my 2 (or 3) cents on this. I was recently a beginning-player newbie piano buyer. This is a very common circumstance. I didn't think it was possible in a two week period to be subjected to quite as many misleading sales pitches (i.e. lies) and high pressure sales tactics as I was, for a purchase that was emotionally important to me (I have for a long time wanted to play, but for various bad reasons never started), and involved a reasonably large amount of money.

I found that by posting on here I was able to get some outside sources of information and an independent perspective. In particular I wound up purchasing a less well-known piano (a Schulze-Pollmann) from a dealer I had never heard of before (Faust-Harrison), rather than a well-known piano (Yamaha) from a dealer my teacher had initially recommended (Frank and Camille's). In part this was my judgment, in part my teacher's ultimate endorsement, but also in part due to the reputation of both the product and the dealer on this website.

I also felt better once I realized that it wasn't just me who was subjected to the sleaze of the piano sales industry, but that this was common. I feel it is essential that people be allowed to post negative personal opinions and information about piano brands and dealers. I find it interesting that only piano dealers seem to feel the need to resort to lawyers to stop personal opinions being posted in a chat room. Apparently, car dealers, guitar dealers, political candidates etc. do not feel the need to do this. Further evidence of the general sleaze level of the piano sales industry.

I must respectfully disagree with Irving. He is understandably concerned about either malicious posting from rival dealers or general social malcontents, or even perhaps harmful information from ignorant piano buyers just saying random stuff they don't really know about. I agree that all of these are possible negative results from a free press and free information on the internet. (My industry - financial advice - also faces the problem of false reporting and commentary, not just in chat rooms, but in respected newspapers.) The trouble is that the cost of excluding these problems (censorship, entry requirements that exclude most new posters, voluntary restriction to only happy positive comments) are worse than the potential problems. Given the number of posters on here, I doubt that any truely false comment would not at least be challenged, and anyone with a brain in their head should know to take an isolated free internet chat room comment for exactly what it is worth. The benfits to good dealers (including F-H) of an open forum like this, in my opinion far outweigh the potential negative consequences. Dealers deserve protection, but consumers also deserve a wide range of viewpoints (accurate or not), and free speech usually works both out fairly.

The problem as I see it is for PW itself to give us guidelines for what can and can't be said (i.e. always say "this is my personal experience", or something like that) so that PW doesn't get tied up with lawyers, itself a reflection of the unethical sleaze level of the industry. In Britain manufacturers can sue a paper for false information. In America they cannot (in general, there are some archaic agriculture laws in Florida and Iowa.) I personally believe that if PW were to fight it, it could win. (However, I am not a lawyer, so this is just a random personal opinion.) But that is not economically feasible. So what forum members need is guidelines as to how to give their opinions, in a way that helps real consumers (and quality dealers, over time), but does not cause a problem to the good people who run PW.

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968282
05/27/04 10:32 AM
05/27/04 10:32 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,373
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Piano World Offline OP

6000 Post Club Member
Piano World  Offline OP

6000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,373
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Believe me, I've considered saying ok, let's go to court.
It would be interesting to have a couple hundred (or more) Piano World members show up in our defense. Piano World has done nothing wrong, we provide a public forum that many thousands of people around the world find very helpful.

We average over 9 million hits a month, that translates into a whole lot of people!
Getting our friends riled up by threatening to censor them might not be the best idea.

And I will not have our forums compromised by
someone trying to twist the legal system around to their advantage.

However, that said, I think it would be more prudent to find a way to protect ourselves and be allowed to continue to provide information to our thousands (make that millions) of wonderful guests/friends/members.

We need to work through the details, and once again any suggestions from a legal standpoint would be welcomed (feel free to contact me off line if you prefer not to be construed as offering legal counsel).

I'm thinking we need:

~ A good disclaimer [public forum, Communications Decency Act, etc.,etc.]
~ A means for providing rebuttals [which we already have, just post your rebuttal]
~ Continue to be self-policing
~ Guidelines
~ Open Communications (if a business or individual feels something is unfair/unjust, they can contact me).

You should be aware while Piano World cannot be
held responsible for individuals posts (beyond possibly being asked to remove/edit the post), the individual making the post may be exposing themselves to possible litigation.

As to posting the letter I received this time, or anything about the dealer, I will wait to hear back from our lawyer first.

I did previously post (with my lawyer's permission) an excerpt from his reply to a similar issue...

"My client has absolutely no legal responsibility for this posting. The law is very clear in this area. As the host for a forum, Piano World is treated as a news vendor, bookstore or library and is not liable, since he neither knew nor had any reason to know of any purported defamation. He exerts no editorial control over the content of forum postings. "

There is more to it, but you get the idea.

And yes, I will contact other forums to see how they handle these things. In the meantime, keep the ideas flowing!


- Frank B.
Founder / Owner / Host
PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
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Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968283
05/27/04 10:33 AM
05/27/04 10:33 AM
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 267
SW Florida
T
TomFL Offline
Full Member
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T

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 267
SW Florida
Unfortunately, there will ALWAYS be people who will NOT follow guidelines, no matter how many times they are told. mad

It could be the unscrupulous dealers themselves who would/could violate the guidelines. mad

This is a terrific forum. It needs to remain alive and well in its present format.
thumb

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968284
05/27/04 10:34 AM
05/27/04 10:34 AM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,114
El Cajon, California
S
Steve Ramirez Offline
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Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,114
El Cajon, California
Post the "cease and desist" letter or e-mail or whatever the heck it was, for all to read. Make it a "sticky" thread so it won't be missed by anybody checking out the Piano Forum for the first time. Let the letter speak for itself, and let Forum browsers form their own opinions of the folks who sent it, and their motivation and their ethics.

Why not shine some daylight on this stuff?

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968285
05/27/04 10:37 AM
05/27/04 10:37 AM
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 646
Plano, Texas
J
jdsher Offline
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jdsher  Offline
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J

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 646
Plano, Texas
To begin with I am not a lawyer. I'll take a stab at what might be happening. If only individuals wanting opinions on pianos occupied this forum and someone made a comment about a dealer experience, then that would probably not be and issue. However, this forum also contains piano dealers, technicians, designers, professional musicians, who as a group could "restrain the trade" of a particular brand of piano, dealership, parts manufacturer, etc. In other words, the dealership's argument might be that by disparaging them you are restraining them from operating their business and are therefore liable for damages. I belong to another forum run by members of my particular profession and we are constantly reminded not to mention any specific manufacturers in a negative way for this exact reason. Just my 2 cents.
Jon


"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
Charles Walter W190 Ebony
Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968286
05/27/04 10:54 AM
05/27/04 10:54 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,416
Washington D.C. Metro
Cindysphinx Offline
6000 Post Club Member
Cindysphinx  Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,416
Washington D.C. Metro
Quote
As to posting the letter I received this time, or anything about the dealer, I will wait to hear back from our lawyer first.
Fair enough, Frank.

If you want to be conservative about it, there is another approach. You could write to the dealer's lawyer and say, "I have received your e-mail. I have decided to handle future communications of this nature from you or your client by posting the communication in its entirety at the Piano World web site." Then they've been put on notice, which may cause them to back off all by itself.

Personally, I wouldn't bother with this, as it might just touch off another (costly) exchange about your right to publicize your dispute with them. I'd just post the whole e-mail letter, myself (making crystal clear that this is an e-mail you received *purporting* to be from dealer's lawyer). And I'd shoot them an e-mail reply containing nothing more than the link where their letter is now enshrined, so that they understand the consequences of harrassing you. Why, perhaps they'd be willing to drop the whole thing for all time if you agree to remove the letter from the site!

Oh, and regarding posting what your lawyers have said, I should have been a bit more clear in my remarks. I was referring to anything your lawyers tell you as part of your consultation, not what your lawyers have told the dealer. The former is privileged; the latter is not.

Jdsher:
Quote
In other words, the dealership's argument might be that by disparaging them you are restraining them from operating their business and are therefore liable for damages.
Yes, but the party liable would be those conspiring to restrain trade. Frank still shouldn't be liable if he isn't involved (although he still could be named in any suit filed, I suppose). Whether the claim is restraint of trade, defamation, interference with prospective economic advantage or anything else, the party with the most exposure is the party uttering the offending words, I'd guess.

Cindy

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968287
05/27/04 10:58 AM
05/27/04 10:58 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
K
kenny Offline
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kenny  Offline
7000 Post Club Member
K

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
I'm guessing usenet IS google, or that usenet is under google now.
Maybe the reason usenet won't be sued is because they are huge and can afford fancy lawers.
Help out the dumb guy here.

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968288
05/27/04 11:03 AM
05/27/04 11:03 AM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299
C
Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Christopher James Quinn  Offline
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C

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299
Quote
Originally posted by kenny:
I'm guessing usenet IS google.
And that the reason they won't be sued is because they are huge and can afford fancy lawers.
usenet is NOT google, google.groups has arhived all of usenet as far as I know (they bought the deja archives), but usenet is a separate planet.

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968289
05/27/04 11:04 AM
05/27/04 11:04 AM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299
C
Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Christopher James Quinn  Offline
2000 Post Club Member
C

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299

Re: Please Be Careful What You Post! #968290
05/27/04 11:07 AM
05/27/04 11:07 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
K
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member
kenny  Offline
7000 Post Club Member
K

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 7,051
Sorry to bother y'all, just looked it up.
I don't get out much. shocked

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