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What would you do if someone spray painted something defamatory on the side of y

our house? You might call the police or the council, but most likely you'd clean
it off yourself. It's an annoyance, but one that could be resolved relatively e
asily.
Now imagine the wall was visible by millions, including your friends, family, cu
stomers and potential employers. No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't clea
n it off. In fact a lot of the efforts you made to erase it only drew more atten
tion to it and helped make the wall more and more prominent.
Welcome to the Internet.
USMANOV CASE
Alsher Usmanov the Ukrainian billionaire and major shareholder of the Arsenal Fo
otball Club, hired Shillings to try to take down the blog belonging to Craig Mur
ray (the ex-ambassador from the United Kingdom to the Ukraine). Murray had writt
en about Usmanov's alleged criminal activities in his rise to power. In precipit
ating these actions Usmanov came up against the unwieldiness of the internet.
Far from managing to remove Murray's blog posts, press interest was increased wh
en Fasthost who were hosting Craig's website pulled the plug on all the websites
for which Craig's site administrator was responsible in the face of the adminis
trator's refusal to take down Murray's site. It was unfortunate that the adminis
trator's sites included the website of Boris Johnson and the London Bach Society
. The incident also became a cause clbre in the blogging world when many prominent
bloggers began commenting on the case, and others posted Murray's blog on US si
tes, out of the jurisdiction of the legal action.
Unless you actually own the site on which negative content appears, getting cont
ent removed on the web is difficult, if not impossible. You may succeed in getti
ng one site to take down content, only to see that content resurface elsewhere.
GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS
The fact that comments made on the internet can be instantly and indefinitely ac
cessible to millions of people around the world makes this a serious concern. Wh
at in the offline world, might have passed as a grumble and hearsay over a pint
in the pub becomes a different beast on the web. Even if the original site where
the comment was posted has disappeared the comments may remain cached in a sear
ch engine or appear on other websites or blogs.
When gossip website TMZ leaked audio of Christian Bale's tirade against the Dire
ctor of Photography on the new Terminator Film, the story quickly spread through
out the Internet. A Google search for 'Christian Bale' the following day reveale
d several stories about the star's angry rant and a link to the original TMZ aud
io, all in the first ten search rankings.
While Google accounts for 50% of all Internet searches, many Google searches rep
ortedly never go beyond the first ten links. For businesses and individuals worl
dwide, this means their most visible reputation is dictated by ten blue links an
d a few lines of text.
HATE SITES
So what do you do if you are Company X of London and a disgruntled former custom
er in Beijing has started companyXsucks.blogspot.com?
You could try ignoring it, but your potential customers probably won't when they
Google "company X" and the Company X Sucks link ranks at number 2, right behind
the official Company X website.
But at least you're aware there's a problem.
You can try to retrieve a hate site using a domain name similar to your company
name through a UDRP or DRS dispute resolution system. However, this can be risky
since it might be successfully argued that the site constitutes fair use under
the rules. The other problem is that even if you succeed you may inflame the sit
uation further, and find that your success is short lived if the negative commen
ts pop up on another website.
In some situations you might be able to take control and publish a response in t
he press or on your own website, and by sending out emails. This is what an Isra
eli company did recently when anonymous defamatory comments were posted about it
on a variety of websites and also sent around through emails.
Such attacks are often short lived. Surprisingly the best option sometimes can b

e to simply ignore the incident and let it gradually disappear. It takes a lot o
f energy to keep the site sufficiently prominent with new posts. On the other ha
nd, in some cases the negative site could feature among the first ten results ev
en several years after the last post.
DEFAMATORY CONTENT
And what if you find out about the private Facebook group 'Company X's product i
s dangerous' which has 500 members, and doesn't show up on Google? Or there is a
micro-blogger on Twitter using your CEO's name and making fake claims? What can
you do about the 4 page thread on a message-board talking about how company X a
buses its workers?
If defamatory comment is made, it will often be made anonymously. While tracing
individuals through ISPs is possible, what is not so widely appreciated is that
though computers may be traced it is not so easy to prove the identity of the us
ers. So if a defamer has used a public computer and an email with false registra
tion details it can be difficult to identify the culprit.
In the recent case of Applause Store Productions Ltd v Raphael
Despite Mr. Raphael's protestations that he had been impersonated and had not cr
eated the defamatory profile, he was held liable for the defamatory comments on
Facebook. The Judge refused to believe his story. To his chagrin the judge ruled
that the allegations of dishonesty in the comments were serious enough to harm
Mr Firsht's business making him liable in damages. So the award in Mr Firsht's f
avor gave 15,000 for Mr Firsht personally, 5,000 to his business and an extra 2,000
for breach of his privacy.
WHY MONITOR REPUTATION?
Whether there is even any validity to any online smears is immaterial. Once it's
on the internet it's in the public sphere, where it stays.
Watching everything can be complicated, confusing and time-consuming. And that's
before you even attempt to respond to the negative or incorrect content. As a r
esult an increasing number of companies and individuals are using reputation mon
itoring services to keep track of their online reputation.
These services have varying levels of success in filtering out the spam, duplica
tes and promotional copy and presenting you with a summarized breakdown of what'
s being said about you online. Some simply present you with the raw information
while others also offer statistical analysis to determine how much content is ne
gative or positive.
Reputation management tools should not be confused with the press cuttings servi
ces that inform the business about mentions of its name in the press. Often thes
e services include a license to reuse such content within promotional material.
Reputation monitoring is quite different in nature and aims purely to scour the
web, social networking sites, forums or message boards for any mentions of your
name or other chosen keywords which are being monitored.
[2008] EWHC 1781 (QBD) lawyers acting for Mr Firsht got around the anonymity pro
blem. They sent a takedown notice to Facebook and obtained a Norwich Pharmacal o
rder requiring Facebook to disclose not only the registration data but also deta
ils of the IP addresses and email addresses which created the profile.
Shireen Smith is an intellectual property solicitor and technology lawyer atAzrig
hts Solicitorsproviding advice on trademark registration, patents and domains and
domain disputes.
View the original article along with others on trademarks, domains and other leg
al matters athttp://www.ip-brands.com/content/news/articles.aspx