The Forecast For Tomorrow is Lawsuit

On the front page of today’s Star Ledger, above the fold, even, is an article about Jersey’s own Barbara Bauer, an alleged literary agent who is allegedly suing several alleged websites, including, allegedly, Wikipedia for libel. Wikipedia, joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have filed a motion to have Bauer’s suit dismissed, and they begin arguments tomorrow.

Wikipedia’s lawyers argued in court papers that the site is protected by a section of the federal Communications Decency Act that says the owners of interactive websites cannot be held liable for comments posted by their users.

Wikimedia Foundation general counsel Mike Godwin said if lawsuits like Bauer’s are successful, they could significantly harm the popular encyclopedia site.

I’m very curious about how this suit will turn out, because it certainly could have an effect on how blogs do what they do, particularly those that are somewhat critical. Barbara Bauer is no stranger to internet criticism, as several sites have hosted warnings about her alleged professionalism for a long ass time: SFWA Writers Beware has listed her as one of the 20 worst agents, based in part on her reputation for charging clients for reading and representation. An Absolute Write forum also contains alleged experiences from aspiring writers who have contacted Bauer’s agency.

If the motion to dismiss is rejected, presumably both parties move into the discovery portion, which could be very revealing.


The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    Travis Erwin says:

    I have seen Barbara Bauer’s name mnay times out and about on then internet and never in a positive light. It is doubtful; that many people could be wrong.

  2. 2
    robinb says:

    I did my law school paper on s.230 of the Communications Decency Act.  It certainly doesn’t look good if it is users posing on websites.  Case law has interpreted the act as saying, basically, you lose.

  3. 3
    rebyj says:

    I followed links and googled this persons name and wow !
    Every post I read was a personal negative experience.
    After 45 minutes of googling I didn’t run across ONE positive experience.
    Free speech goes both ways, if some of her clients had positive experiences they sure aren’t speaking out online anywhere that I saw.

  4. 4
    rebyj says:

    I can’t edit that post but I wanted to amend my comment to say that every post I read of people who claimed to have done business with her was negative.
    I feel like I should add a few ” alledgedly’s” in my post LOL

  5. 5
    Suze says:

    It certainly doesn’t look good if it is users posing on websites.  Case law has interpreted the act as saying, basically, you lose.

    I don’t understand.  Who is losing?  The website? The posters? The person suing?

    Also, is Bauer suing people for damaging her ability to earn by telling the truth?  The article didn’t say she was suing for slander or libel, for which the truth is a defense, but that she was suing because these statements, true or not, were damaging her reputation.  I think.  Is that even sue-able?

    Honestly, she sounds like a nut-job.  An unethical one, at that.

  6. 6
    Kalen Hughes says:

    I don’t understand.  Who is losing?  The website? The posters? The person suing?

    Also, is Bauer suing people for damaging her ability to earn by telling the truth?  The article didn’t say she was suing for slander or libel, for which the truth is a defense

    Bauer is the one who is losing. She is suing for libel, for which (as you stated) truth is the defense. I’ll be surprised if the Judge doesn’t take one look at the websites in question and throw the case out (sites are highly reputable, Bauer isn’t).

  7. 7
    ev says:

    On the other hand, if the suit does go forward, it could also call into question about the postings on such sites as Facebook and MySpace.

    This may go hand in hand with the current suit from the woman whose teen daughter committed suicide after another girl’s mother pretened to be someone else and then slammed her publicly. (Although in that case I think the idiot mother (not the one who lost her daughter) should be publicly bitch slapped from one end of the country to the other. Not that I have much of an opinion on that one.)

    The internet has opened up a whole new frontier of legal issues I find fascinating. I will keep watching this one with interest.

    As for BB, I have yet to hear a good thing about her. From anyone. I hope she gets what she deserves and then some.

  8. 8
    Devyn Quinn says:

    In the early 90’s I was a newbie writer who queried Barbara Bauer’s agency seeking representation. This only thing this agency did was bombard me with reading and representation fees, as well as hawked their “editing” services. The material was turned over to what would eventually become Writer Beware.  I’m sad to say that many newbie writers fall for the bull these wanna-be agents toss their way, and I thank heaven for organizations like Writer Beware.

  9. 9
    amy lane says:

    Interesting—on the one hand, it would be nice to be protected from the randomly generated libelwave that can be the result of too many hysterical people with too much time on their hands and a laptop at their fingertips…

    On the other, there should be some way to warn the world when someone really is a total danger to the community they should serve.

  10. 10
    robinb says:

    I don’t understand.  Who is losing?  The website? The posters? The person suing?

    I’m sorry.  It was early morning and I hadn’t had coffee!  Yes, the person suing the websites for defamation would be losing.  I’m sure there is a nice, succinct wiki on the issue.    s.230   I hope I posted that right.  A lot is undecided, as always, but it has been pretty well established that if you’re going to try and sue a website (or internet service provider) for what random people post on the site, you’re fighting an uphill battle.  That isn’t to say one or two rogue circuits haven’t gone against the grain, but not very often.

  11. 11
    sallahdog says:

    I think what BB is trying to do, is to chill the flow of free info… Think of it this way, you may win when you are sued, but you still had to hire a lawyer to defend yourself and spend untold amounts of time, energy and money on defending yourself.

    A lot of people would just delete so they don’t have the hassle.
    I have seen several authors state that they can’t afford the 5-1000 dollar fee for looking over a writing contract. How many people can afford to spend thousands of dollars defending themselves?

  12. 12
    Robin says:

    I used to be a lot more worried about this issue than I am now, but it’s been litigated over and over, and in CA it reached the state Supreme Court with Barrett V. Rosenthal, where section 230 was, again, held to be a safe harbor for web service providers as well as websites and internet users.  Because the initial legislation identified the safe harbor for ISPs, there was the issue of whether web services beyond actual internet servers could be held liable as distributors of defamatory information.  In fact, in the CA case, Grace v. eBay, the appeals court held the question of distributor liability open.  That case was withdrawn from the CA Supreme Court when Barrett went up at the same time.  And the prevailing majority interpretation of 230 of the CDA (as reflected in the CA Supreme Court decision) is that web providers and internet users are also protected.

  13. 13
    anon says:

    BB’s unscrupulous activities are well-known to the writing community on the internet. She responds to warnings about her by filing frivolous lawsuits. It’s more annoying than anything else, since if it actually gets to the discovery stage, the piles of criminal activity will be readily apparent and prosecutable.

    Furthermore, the joy of the USA (as opposed to, say, the UK) is that truth is an absolute defense against suits for libel or slander. She’s got nothing. She’s just endlessly annoying. One might reasonably question her mental condition.

  14. 14
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I’m inclined to agree to with the comment on the original article that says regardless of which way the suit goes, Ms Bauer’s career as an agent is esentially over.  She realizes this and has decided to sue everyone she can think of on the off-chance that she might get enough out of it to retire comfortably, at least.

  15. 15
    katiebabs says:

    I was so suprised this was on the front page of a major paper. Again, I am learning so much today between nasty agents and the world of book publishing

  16. 16
    JaneyD says:

    Ms. Bauer sent me two of her drive by threat e-mails when I dared to post a link to the 20 Worst Agents list—Now the “20 Thumbs Down List.”

    She is a fee-charging agent and since 1984 seems to have sold only two books to non-vanity publishers. She has an unknown number of clients who pay 650-1000.00 for her to represent them.  Her phone consultations will cost clients 75.00 a pop. 

    MY agent gets paid AFTER she sells something and we chat on the phone for only the cost of the cell phone rates.

    B.B. demanded my home address and that of several folk in publishing that I do not personally know, and threatened to sue me.  I was accused of being a blackmailer and extortionist.  How she arrived at that I do not know as I only suggested her actually try SELLING a book and thus turn legit.

    The case against Wiki has been dismissed!

    Yay! I can only hope the court does the same in her suit against the 19 other publishing pros—including the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.  She is even trying to sue the anonymous Miss Snark!

    Of course, writer P.N. Elrod had her take on how that might go: Trial of Agent B.htm

  17. 17
    JaneyD says:

    Huh—I hope this url works:  if not put this % in the spaces. Trial of Agent B.htm”

  18. 18
    ev says:

    Oh. My. God. That is just too funny. Hubby saw Denny Crane and told me to send it to him. I had to explain the whole thing to him first.

    I am glad to hear the case was dismissed. Sometimes the justice system does get it right.

    I assume she will sue her lawyer for malpractice next??

    I am Miss Snark

  19. 19
    Chrissy says:

    She was suing Absolute Write at one point, too, wasn’t she?  I wonder how she is managing to pay a lawyer… or the electric bill, for that matter.

    I can’t imagine anyone is still employing her at this point.

    What is it about the internet that brings out the letigious in everyone??

  20. 20

    For the non-lawyers in the crowd…what does the “discovery portion” involve exactly?

  21. 21
    anon says:

    NB: I’m not a lawyer. I was just raised by lawyers.

    “Discovery” is when you get to subpoena records for evidence. In the case of BB, it would mean asking to see her business records. She’s claiming to be an agent, and suing people who state that she is a scam-artist, not an agent. The defendants would get to look through her business records in order to show evidence that their statements are truth.

    No fee-charging “agent” wants that looked at closely by the courts. Enough scamsters have gone to jail now that there’s starting to be a lot of precedent law.

  22. 22
    JaneyD says:

    Well, that’s why “Making Light” called her the dumbest one on the Thumb’s Down list.

    I’ve been watching this brew for three years now, and she shows no sign of rational thought or behavior.  Where a smart person would back off, she just makes more noise.  I can only conclude that she has some glitch in the brain that makes her truly think she IS right and everyone else in publishing is wrong and out to get her.

    We’ve all met this sort of person.  Even when the evidence shows them to be overwhelmingly in the wrong, they dig in their heels and pitch a conniption fit. While it is age appropriate for a 2-year-old, it’s downright scary in a middle-aged person.

    I was taking bets that the other 19 “agents” were going to hire a hitman to shut her up.  She made such a stink on that list that it got posted EVERYWHERE—with their names on it!  Their businesses (one hopes) must have been adversely effected by the word getting out, but you don’t see them in court. Some are shut down, others do what any scammer does when the jig is up—apply for a different business name and open up a new shop.  The Writer’s Literary Agency and Marketing Company has more mutations than an X-Men film.

    “Making Light” expressed the opinion she was the dumbest.

    I am of the opinion she’s simply bat-shit insane!

    If you’re in doubt of any company, just put its name and the words “scam” or “rip off” into the search engine.  You can have hours of fun!

  23. 23
    Dawno says:

    If anyone here is interested in helping the defendants in this case (and yes, the owner and former owner of Absolute Write are defendants, as well as the Nielson Haden’s of Making Light among others) there is a website you can visit for donations to their legal fund:

    Thank you,

    Dawn O’Bryan-Lamb
    fund administrator

  24. 24
    Dawno says:

    oops – I made a typo up there – it’s Nielson Hayden. Sorry!

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