One of the biggest news items in Australian IT in the past 24 hours is that a software company, 2Clix, is suing the founder of Whirlpool.net.au for alleged "injurious falsehood" because of statements made by forum members in threads about their software. Whirlpool announcement here.
For the unaware, Whirlpool is a site concentrating on 'Australian Broadband News', but more famously has a fantastic public discussion forum in which people can discuss internet service providers and also basically anything else in separate sections. It's a mainly IT focused forum, and many IT professionals (including myself) hold the site and the forums in very high regard: it's free, has no advertising, is maintained by a team of volunteers, and the custom forum system is (in my opinion) the best in the world.
Firstly, I am absolutely shocked that a software company could even consider that this legal action could be successful. Whirlpool is a public site, and the discussion forum is there for people to voice their opinions on a wide variety of topics. Just because a company or its product is bagged out a bit in a couple of threads doesn't give them grounds to sue. Goodness, imagine if Telstra or Microsoft would take the same attitude to Whirlpool or any online forum.
In my opinion they can't sue Whirlpool for the people inside voicing their opinions any more than they could sue a pub or a restaurant for the people inside voicing their opinions, even if those opinions and experiences are completely incorrect.
Secondly, i am absolutely amazed that a software company is taking this action. The general consensus is that they're committing business suicide: no Australian IT company in their right mind would go after Whirlpool, which as mentioned earlier is largely a darling online hub for IT professionals.
In an instant one of the biggest online communities of Australian IT professionals (including myself) is now aware of the previously unknown 2Clix software company for all the wrong reasons, and as a result have immediately dismissed any possibility of considering or recommending any of their products to their employers or clients.
Although I have no legal background or knowledge whatsoever (beyond what I learn off Law & Order), I genuinely hope this case gets thrown out at its first hearing. Already people have donated many thousands of dollars to Whirlpool and its founder, Simon Wright, to aid in his legal defence.
And to 2Clix or any of its products or affiliated companies: I hope your suicide attempt is short and sweet.
Update 2007-09-19: it seems that 2clix has (wisely?) dropped the case against Whirlpool. Quite a pity really, i would've liked to see them lose the case 😉