Doctors Now Using Breach of Copyright to Quash Bad Online Reviews

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No business likes to get bad reviews on websites like Yelp, but one profession may have worked out a way to make sure those bad reviews don’t stick around for long: Copyright infringement.

Around 3,000 doctors in the US use the services of a company called Medical Justice which, for just $1,200 a year, will protect its customers from medical malpractice suits. Oh, and make sure that patients sign away their review copyright to their doctors in the middle of all the other paperwork they have to fill in, allowing doctors to then go to review sites and demand the bad reviews be taken down because they’re in breach of copyright.

According to Medical Justice, what they’re doing is not only protecting the doctors from unfair bad press – “Some sites say, we don’t know if you’re telling truth, and we don’t know if they’re telling the truth — it’s the Internet, so deal with it,” Medical Justice spokesman Shane Stadler is quoted as saying. It’s actually less onerous than what the company previously did, which was to issue contracts to patients forbidding them to post any reviews online.

The company calls this fighting “physician Internet libel and web defamation,” but not everyone agrees that’s a good thing: Law professors Eric Goldman and Jason Schultz have launched a new site called DoctoredReviews.com to help patients, doctors and review sites deal with Medical Justice:

Medical Justice’s efforts may be a sign of things to come. Imagine if other companies used similar contracts. Before you get a haircut, before you buy a six-pack of soda at the local grocery store or before you order a meal at a restaurant, imagine you were required to keep quiet and never post your opinion online about the product or service you purchased. Sound ridiculous? It does to us, and we think it’s no less ridiculous when doctors demand this of their patients.

The new site plans to shame doctors using Medical Justice into withdrawing from those contracts, and allow free speech and the Internet to triumph. Meanwhile, other businesses are undoubtedly wondering whether they can sneak copyright contracts into their everyday transactions without customers noticing.

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