Lawsuit Boing Boings Right out of Court

Magic Jack is all about free communication. Communication you don’t pay for, that is. But apparently, someone forgot to tell the top brass at the Internet-based phone company that.

In April of 2008, Rob Beschizza, a contributor to the website Boing Boing, wrote a fairly scathing review of Magic Jack’s website.

Daily Tech summarizes:
In the article, Boing Boing revealed that many aspects of MagicJack’s site were fake — namely its user counter was rigged to be a self-incrementing variable (regardless of actual user numbers) and the help service produced inaccurate results, stating that it was “scanning” your system and reporting “Your MagicJack is functioning properly” even if you didn’t have one installed.

More importantly, Boing Boing pointed out that the EULA — not available at the point of service or on the company’s website — signed away users’ rights. The EULA allowed MagicJack to snoop on your calls and use them to target their ads at you. It also contained legal languages that attempted to sign away your rights to sue them (such provisions usually don’t hold up in court).

Of course, in a story that has grown disappointingly familiar, Magic Jack decided the best course of action lie clearly in Marin County Court in California. It brought suit against Happy Mutants, LLC, the publisher of Boing Boing, alleging defamation and unfair competition, and asking the court to order the removal of the post.

Happily, Marin County, being in California, has an anti-SLAPP law, of which Happy Mutants quickly availed itself. The court threw the case out and awarded fees to Happy Mutant. (Strangely, Daily Tech also reports that, while the fee decision was pending, Magic Jack’s CEO offered to pay Happy Mutant’s costs personally, in exchange for keeping the lawsuit quiet. Happy Mutant offered to do so if Magic Jack would also give money to charity. Magic Jack refused — and the court awarded fees and the lawsuit is clearly not being kept quiet. Hard to know what was going through the CEO’s mind on that one).

We’re helping to spread the word. Lawsuits like this must not be kept quiet. While we work to secure federal anti-SLAPP legislation (so that, if Boing Boing is sued in Boise next time, it will still be protected) it is also important to shame those that use the courts to stifle discourse on public issues.

For a hilarious recount of the suit, with links to documents and suggested listening, see Boing Boing’s own summary.

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