Press Sues Blogger Over Negative Opinion
Do bloggers need to stifle their negative reviews? Well it looks like we may need to give it some serious thought as a blogger is facing a lawsuit over his unfavorable opinion of non-subsidy academic publisher Edwin Mullen Press!
In 2010, Dale Askey was a tenured associate professor at Kansas State University (K-State) when he made a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press. The post called Mellen a “dubious publisher,” saying that the press occasionally publishes a worthy title and is not technically a vanity publisher, but that “much of what they publish is simply second-class scholarship.”
Askey removed the post in March 2012, something he said “was a personal choice.” Three months later, Edwin Mellen Press filed two libel lawsuits in Ontario’s Superior Court.
The first, asking some $3.5 million in damages, is against not only Askey, but McMaster University, where Askey is now employed as associate university librarian, even though it is Askey’s personal blog and he was not employed by McMaster at the time of the posting. The rationale is that because McMaster employs Askey and did not require him to remove the blog post or comments, then the university “adopted the defamatory statements as their own.”
The second suit, aimed only at Askey, names press founder Herbert Richardson as plaintiff and alleged additional defamatory remarks about him personally. The press is holding Askey and McMaster responsible for comments made by others to the post; interestingly, neither those commenters nor Kansas State University are named party to the suit.
This isn’t the first time Edwin Mellen has sued over negative commentary: the press took legal action against Lingua Franca magazine in 1993, but lost the case.
McMaster issued a statement which read in part, “McMaster University has for more than eighteen months rejected all demands and considerable pressure from the Edwin Mellen Press to repudiate the professional opinions of university librarian Dale Askey, notwithstanding the fact that those opinions were published on his personal blog several months before he joined McMaster. Because of our respect for individual freedom of speech, the University finds itself today a co-defendant with Mr. Askey in a legal action brought by the Edwin Mellen Press. The University will continue to rigorously defend its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech as the case proceeds before the courts.”
Askey stated that he received “a lot of support internally” from McMaster. “I’ll say that I’ve been very gratified,” he said. “In particular, I’ll say Patrick Deane [president and vice-chancellor of McMaster University] is a man of integrity and high ethics and I’m really pleased that he’s been supportive.” Askey also said that he’s been told the suit will in no way affect his status at the university.
The suit has “been a painful distraction, both in my personal and professional life,” Askey stated. “It most certainly has impacted how I participate online, and not in a positive way.”