By Crikey reporter Sophie Black
Next time you feel
like venting to the half dozen or so people who actually read your
blog, spare a thought for Mr English and domain name registrar Go Daddy.
Mr English is a disgruntled customer of Hunter Holden, a car dealership
on Sydney’s lower north shore. This follows a run-in last February
after his car, which he’d left for servicing, was stolen from the
Hunter premises. Adam Kaplan, director of Hunter Holden, placed the
matter in the hands of his insurers and arranged a replacement vehicle
for English. The insurer sought to settle the claim without an
admission of liability and offered to pay Mr English the indemnity
value of the car at the time of loss.
But Mr English wasn’t happy with that offer, so he decided to take his
customer complaint one step further and established a website called www.hunterholdensucks.com which included an invitation to “share your comments about Hunter Holden Automotive.”
Kaplan wasn’t impressed, so he successfully sought a court injunction
in June to close down the website. That was later upheld in the NSW
Supreme Court in Adam Kaplan & Anor v The Go Daddy Group Inc & 2 Ors,
where Justice White said that English had established the site for “the
purpose of disparaging the second plaintiff, its business and
products,” referring specifically to the word “SUCKS” that was
displayed in large letters across the top of the website.
But what about free speech? Well, that argument didn’t wash with the
judge because “the name of the website and the comments posted on it do
not relate to matters of public interest or concern.” In other words,
English’s website must remain shut down.
The moral of the story? Be careful what you blog. As for Hunter Holden’s website
(same address without the word “sucks”), it boasts of their customer
service but does make one unusual admission: “We know we are not
perfect, but we will always take action when things go wrong.”