Patient v. Doctor Online Defamation: Copyright Contracts?

online defamation copyright contractsAre copyright contracts, which confer online review rights to doctors, legal? Many have tried, but it looks like those contracts aren’t holding up well in court, and doing even worse in the court of public opinion.

Take, for example, a recent story featured on Ars Technica. (Medical professionals, pay heed: in the end, the patient prevailed. Take it as a warning to be wary of boiler plate online confidentiality agreements; they can get you into more trouble than they’re worth. And if you want to sue a patient for online defamation, be sure to find an attorney that understands both cyber libel and medical practice statutes.)

The Dentist & The Patient: A Tale of Trying to Prevent Negative Online Doctor Reviews

In 2010, a man was experiencing escalating levels of dental discomfort. So, like any good HMO recipient, off to his insurance provider’s list he went.

“Here: Sign This Copyr….I mean Confidentiality Agreement.”

But before Dentist and Patient got down to the business of teeth debugging, Doctor asked Patient to sign the “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy.” Brass tax, the copyright contract was an attempt to control post-visit online commentary of his experience.

The agreement — brain child of a company called Medical Justice — covered both online and print publications. An arguably ingenious idea, the contract supposedly rendered all comments about her services the copyright of the dentist.

Apparently This Don’t Go Perfectly

Now, if patient and dentist (in this instance) saw eye to eye, you wouldn’t be reading this. So, what happened? Long story short, Patient ended up giving Dentist a 1-star rating on Yelp. A barrage of unflattering remarks followed suit.

And sure enough, believing the Medical Justice contract was legally sound, Dentist Office contacted Yelp, explained that it “owned” the copyright to Patient’s commentary and asked that it be pulled from the website. Also per the contract, Dentist began billing Patient $100 a day for copyright infringement.

Copyright Contracts Class Action?

Unwilling to comply with Dentist’s demands, Patient hired a lawyer. A class action request quickly followed. The goal? Nullify doctor copyright contracts. The argument? Such agreements violate business laws and professional dental ethics.

A Patient Victory

Before long, the dominoes started to fall. Medical Justice washed their hands of the situation and discontinued the issuance of the copyright contract. Dentist boarded her office windows and allegedly couldn’t be reached for comment.

Patient is seeking financial reimbursement for medical and legal fees. But ultimately, Patient hopes that the public, as well as private companies, take notice of these doctor copyrighting contracts and debate their validity.

Contact An Attorney Who Has Successfully Handled Online Review Cases

Are you involved in a medical defamation situation? Do you have questions about copyright contracts? Kelly Warner is an experienced legal team that has successfully dealt with a multitude of online review cases. Contact us today to begin the conversation.

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