Company Fires Law Firm Because of Firm’s Unfounded Legal Threat on Company’s Behalf

Monday, Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing) reported:

Back in July, I posted about the research on the academic advantage some people with autism exhibit. In the comments, someone else used the word “scam” in a message board post. Here’s the quote: “Went to college expecting it to be the place of knowledge, an all encompassing and way to get information instantly. I quickly found its a scam…” …

Then, Doctorow wrote, a law firm representing a company named Academic Advantage sent a cease-and-desist letter to Boing Boing. Why? Because, the letter essentially claimed, Boing Boing was committing trade libel by simply having a Web page that contained within it the phrase “academic advantage” and the word “scam.” The letter’s authors seemed unfazed by the fact neither of those phrases actually referred to the company called Academic Advantage. (By the way, how many pages are there now, after the demand letter, containing that phrase together with that word?) Here’s what the letter said, in relevant part:

We represent The Academic Advantage, Inc. (“The Academic Advantage”). It has come to our client’s attention that there is a link on your website which defames The Academic Advantage. This unlawful and impermissible link address is causing my client significant and possibly irrevocable damage. The Academic Advantage is a well regarded company and community leader, which has received recognition from numerous public officials, including from governors and senators throughout the country, as well as high accolades from scores of parents and children. Unfortunately, however, the BoingBoing website has created an association of “scam” with the Academic Advantage. The following hyperlink is where the libelous web address can be found:

http://boingboing.net/2009/07/16/autism-as-an-academi.html

… It is clear there is no purpose to this web address but to falsely accuse the Academic Advantage of being a scam or at least associating the Academic Advantage with a scam. There is absolutely no helpful reason for the website to have the words “Academic,” “Advantage” and “Scam” which leads me to believe it was created for malicious purposes. Claiming that our client’s tutoring services program is a “SCAM” is prima facie defamation and designed to do nothing more than damage our client’s reputation.

We are respectfully requesting that BoingBoing immediately take down any and all such links from the website in order to avoid any further damage to our client’s reputation and business as well as an unnecessary escalation of these matters as between my client and BoingBoing. The Academic Advantage provides tutoring services to thousands of children, from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. Given the nature of our client’s services, involving the tutoring of young children, false accusations of lying, cheating, and stealing is particularly damaging to our client’s business. BoingBoing cannot in good conscience allow this hyperlink to remain.

Please kindly remove or rename the above listed link from your site immediately. If you have any questions or would like to discuss things in more detail, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, I thank you in advance for your cooperation in resolving these matters.

That’s right, the letter alleges — about this page — that “It is clear there is no purpose to this web address but to falsely accuse the Academic Advantage of being a scam or at least associating the Academic Advantage with a scam.” “There is absolutely no helpful reason for the website to have the words ‘Academic,’ ‘Advantage’ and ‘Scam’ which leads me to believe it was created for malicious purposes.” You can’t make stuff like this up, folks.

Now the good news: California Watch reports that Academic Advantage has fired the law firm. “Academic Advantage has severed it relationship with the law firm of Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh. The letter that the law firm sent to BoingBoing claiming that libel was committed on BoingBoing’s website was a mistake.” Indeed it was.