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LEGAL ISSUES

Legal Issues and Answers for Report Authors and Users

About Defamation
About Anonymity
About Privacy
About Spam

ABOUT DEFAMATION

Defamation is written or spoken injury to the reputation of a living person or organization. Injury to reputation generally is considered to be exposure to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or financial loss. Libel is the written act of defamation; slander is the spoken act. Whether libel or slander, the defamation must be published – communicated to someone other than the subject of the defamation. Truth is generally an absolute defense to defamation: if what you say is true, it cannot be defamatory. Another defense to defamation is proving that the statement was an opinion, not an assertion of a fact.

Is Word-of-Mouth.org a publisher for purposes of defamation law?

No. Word-of-Mouth.org does not actually post any information on its site other than name and address, etc. of an individual. All additional information about an individual – positive or negative -- is created and communicated directly by one individual to another through our anonymous emailing system. Further, § 230 of the Communications Decency Act states: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1).2 Accordingly, any information transmitted through Word-of-Mouth.org’s email system is the responsibility of the author of the email only.

ABOUT PRIVACY

Do you maintain a database of names and addresses of site users?

Yes, we keep that information in a database in order to identify people to each other, just as any phone directory or online information service, such as Infospace.com.

What laws regulate your database?

There are numerous federal and state laws that regulate databases of government agencies, financial and credit institutions, educational institutions, and health care providers. Word-of-Mouth.org, however, is not covered by any of these laws.

What information must you disclose to me?

Word-of-Mouth.org is not covered by consumer credit laws (we maintain no financial information) and has no legal obligation to inform the subject of a report whether anyone has inquired about them – no more than the phone company has an obligation to tell you when someone calling “411” has asked for your phone number.

What information do you disclose to third parties?

We do not sell or rent any personal information about you to any third party.

Word-of-Mouth.org does not allow third parties to send promotional email to its users without such user's consent. Word-of-Mouth.org may send administrative emails to confirm user registrations or to update users concerning new services or opportunities with Word-of-Mouth.org.

Word-of-Mouth.org cooperates with all law enforcement inquiries and with all third parties to enforce their intellectual property or other rights. Unfortunately, due to the existing regulatory environment, we cannot ensure that all of your private communications and other personally identifiable information will never be disclosed in ways not otherwise described in this Privacy Policy. For example, we may be forced to disclose information about you to law enforcement or other government officials as we, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate. Therefore, although we use industry standard practices to protect your privacy, we do not promise, and you should not expect, that your personally identifiable information or private communications will remain private.

ANONYMITY

Anonymity of Word-of-Mouth.Org users.

Word-of-Mouth.Org users are anonymous. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that anonymity of speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution (see McIntyre v. Ohio, 514 U.S. at 337; Talley v. State of California, 362 U.S. 60). United States courts also have consistently recognized that the right to speak anonymously extends to speech on the Internet. Where courts have ordered disclosure of the name of an anonymous user, they have required a litigant to show that its need for identifying information outweighs the user’s constitutional rights before a subpoena is issued. WoM respects this right to anonymity (see our Privacy Policy) and WoM does not reveal the identity of a Word-of-Mouth.Org user to anyone without the user’s permission or under a valid court order.

ABOUT SPAM

What is spam?

Unfortunately, the definition of unsolicited commercial messages (UCE), otherwise known as “spam,” varies from state to state and country to country. Almost all definitions, however, require that the email be a) of a commercial nature, and b) transmitted to a large number of recipients (“bulk”) to qualify as UCE.

What laws govern spam?

Currently there are no U.S. federal laws governing spam. It is, of course, a hotly debated topic. There are a patchwork of states that regulate UCE: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Most laws are opt-out, meaning companies can legally send UCE one time as long as certain procedures are followed.

What is “Commercial” Mail?

In general, commercial mail is a message that wants to sell you something.

How Many Messages is Bulk?

As a rough rule of thumb, if a human makes a conscious and informed decision, on a message by message and recipient by recipient basis, that the individual message should be sent to that individual recipient, it is not bulk. If a sender has an existing relationship or a genuine business or personal purpose for sending the individual email, it is not bulk.

Does Word-of-Mouth.org send spam?

No. Word-of-Mouth.org does send an initial unsolicited email to the subject of an "Word-of-Mouth Report". This email, however, is not spam because a) there is no commercial aspect (the recipient is not required to pay anything to learn whether there has been any information filed about that person); and b) it is not “bulk” mail because it is directed at ONE specific individual for a specific purpose.

© Word-of-Mouth.org 2003. No portion of this website may be used or reproduced without prior written consent. This site is in compliance with all United States laws.