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Blogger sued for defamation

This is from Ad Age.

Lance Dutson is a freelance web designer from Maine who also does Internet advertising.

Lance became critical of the Maine Office of Tourism in October 2005 when he learned the office had bid for broad search terms that bumped into the interests of his clients. He also argued the Internet-advertising strategy was misguided because he said the office bid on general geographic terms such as the names of cities in Maine. Therefore, potential tourists must already be interested in the state to be led to the state’s tourism Web site, he said.

Makes sense so far.

The problem came when he learned that the advertising agency Warren Kremer Paino Advertising was involved. He said called the agency some big company in New York with no ties to the state, pissing away tax money.

Again, I don’t see any real problem. Now here comes the ludicrous:

Tom McCartin, president of WKPA, is most concerned about Mr. Dutson’s public posts because if potential clients search for the agency online, they will likely see Mr. Dutson’s critique-filled blog before the agency’s own Web site. As a result, Mr. McCartin says his business, which sees capitalized billings in the $40 million range, has been hurt. And he wants to protect his reputation.

So he sued Mr. Dutton for copyright infringement, defamation and trade libel and injurious falsehood. And he wants several million dollars.

Meanwhile, the Tourism office invited Mr. Dutson to a meeting to answer his questions about the advertising.

This is mildly amusing to me, for several reasons. The first is quite simple — anyone in the USA has the right to accuse the government of pissing away money. In this case a resident of Maine has the perfect right to make the accusation — it’s his money.

Secondly, Mr. Dutson posted one of the ads that the agency worked on on his website. While this is technically a copyright infringement, he was posting it to prove his assertion that they used the wrong phone number (it went to a phone sex line) in the ad. This is certainly not copyright infringement.

The negative publicity from this idiotic lawsuit far outweighs any negativity created from the original truthful blog entries. I read them all, and they seem reasonable and truthful to me.

So with Mr. McCartin’s marketing expertise people must be flocking to Maine, right?

Spending at Maine Tourism has gone from $1.8 million annual budget for the Office of Tourism 10 years ago to $7.5 million today. Maine’s visitor numbers for the past five years have been sluggish – going from a high of 44 million in 2000 to 43.6 million in 2004 – the most recent statistics available.

Mr. McCartin, you may have a $40 million business, and you may be a good ad agency (judging by the ad with the sex line phone number and the statistics above that’s certainly debatable), but you suck at PR.

You’ve attacked a single Maine taxpayer for basically pointing out your lack of talent in buying Google AdWords and one of your mistakes. The judge will laugh it out of court, and we bloggers can continue to take on the arrogant ad agencies of the world.

My mailing address for the lawsuit notification: PO Box 125, Stevenson, CT 06491. One of my best friends is great free speech attorney, and he works for free, so bring it on.

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