Let me set this up for you. Michelle Gorman apparently sent a review request to ChicklitGirls, a website that offers reviews of various genres. They claim good Christian values and promise to NOT give a negative review to any author. Further, they claim over 2.5 million views for their reviews from their site and via their contributions to the Books section of Before Its News. To Gorman and to other authors such as Grace Wen, a request for a review query generates a prompt for cash in return. Michele Gorman blogged about this and was threatened with a lawsuit. Likely afraid that a lawsuit would be forthcoming, Gorman redacted all the identifying information although Paula, from the ChicklitGirls’ website, commented to Gorman’s blog post and basically self identifies.
Let’s unpack this starting with the legal threat because as most Dear Author readers know by now nothing gets my engine revved like baseless threats of an internet lawyer (a creature that is never identified by name and more rarely spotted than a unicorn). I’ve identified a number of things that the Chicklitgirls may want to consult their lawyer about:
Possible trademark infringement. All over the Chicklitgirls’ site is a slogan called “Goodreads for Women”. Given that “goodreads” is a trademarked name relating to books and book recommendations, it’s fair to say that “Goodreads for Women” is a slogan that could lead to mark confusion.
FTC violations. The FTC requires blogs to disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers. The Chicklitgirls disclosure does state that their content may be influenced by their compensation, but they aren’t clear for what items they are being compensated. Further, they go on to state in the same disclosure and on other parts of their site that their reviews are honest. The multiple contradictions work to negate any disclosure.
Positioning for a SLAPP suit. Should the Chicklitgirls actually have a real lawyer (which I highly doubt) and would actually bring a suit against Michele Gorman (which would be on par with Charles Carreon’s ridiculous suits against the Oatmeal), they could face a SLAPP suit and their lawyer could face ethical complaints and Rule 11 Sanctions for bringing in a frivolous claim. Why? Because there is nothing defamatory about posting something that is true. Defamation is a FALSE statement that hurts someone’s reputation. TRUTH is always a defense. (You can read up on defamation in my four part series here). The only other possible claim I could think of was some breach of privacy but there cannot be any expectation of privacy when you are soliciting a business transaction unless there was some signed agreement beforehand which does not seem to exist and then it wouldn’t be a breach of privacy, but a breach of contract. Perhaps in conjunction with consulting their internet lawyer, they can also meet with a business consultant.
Can they back up their viewership claim? The Chicklitgirls claim 2.5 million views of their reviews to justify the $95 per review charge. Dear Author’s Alexa rating is 75,530 and the Chicklitgirls ranking is 479,815 on Alexa. We get over 450,000 page views a month so we know that the Chicklitgirls website views are much much lower. But what about their “partnership” with Before It’s News? BIN is a user generated site and anyone can upload content. In the “Books” section (which takes a while to locate), there are many book reviews posted. The most popular stories only get around 100 views. Where are the 2 million + views coming from?
The only people doing harm to the Chicklitgirls reputation is the Chicklitgirls.
Onto some real news: