These things always happen when I can least afford to spend time working on them. When I leave town, for example, and can't get my mail...PedTalk usually explodes. This time, it's school break and we received the following at PCC:
Re: Offensive blog postings regarding HIMSS and CCHIT
Dear Mr. Hart & Mr. Canning:
Our law firm represents Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (“HIMMS”) [sic]. It has recently come to our attention an individual using a pseudonym has been posting offensive and potentially defamatory material about HIMSS on Chip Hart’s website “Confessions of a Pediatric Practice Consultant.” The post was made in response to the December 7, 2008 article “CCHIT and OSS.” The offensive and potentially defamatory material was posted was by “Rocky Ostrand” at 1:59 a.m. on January 30, 2009 and can be found at this web address: http://chipsblog.pcc.com/?p=279
We are requesting your assistance with the following:
(1) Please remove the offensive post from your website.
(2) Please provide us with “Rocky Ostrand’s” e-mail address, IP address, and any other information you may have that would help us identify his or her true identity.
(3) Because we may take legal appropriate legal action against “Rocky Ostrand,” please preserve all records related to the identity of this individual as well as all postings placed by him or her on your website.
Because of the sensitive nature of the posting, we would greatly appreciate it if you could provide us with “Rocky Ostrand’s” e-mail address, IP address, and any other identifying information by February 23rd. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Very truly yours,
Ernst H. Ostrand
Attorney at Law
Jackson Lewis LLP
320 West Ohio Street, Suite 500
Chicago, Illinois 60654
I admit, I'm scratching my head. Why is a lawyer writing to me? There is no legal issue. No subpeona. No assertion of libel or slander. They're asking me to remove someone's point-of-view because they find it "offensive" and, worse, asking me to identify the poster (which, technically, I can't). They would appreciate me doing all this by today, as though PCC has free resources to toss around answering to their requests. And then I have to save it all so they can persue some legal action. At least it's polite!
There's only one reason for a lawyer to send us a letter like this. To intimidate. It's a "cyber SLAPP" and more than 1/2 the states have laws against this behavior, though Vermont is not among them. I suppose having a lawyer ask me to remove the material is easier than responding to it most of the time. We're not going to remove it, though. We're going to do the opposite.
Don't get me wrong - PCC is a very small company. We're in business to help our clients improve the health care of children. I'd rather spend our limited resources on something important, like keeping kids from dying from the flu, rather than help our largest competitors lick their wounded egos.
The thing is...it's 2009! Don't these folks realize that asking us to remove the content is ridiculous? Google has already cached it. It's already in the wild. HIMSS has two choices: ignore it or respond to it. Frankly. I'd suggest the latter.
Don't mistake my position. I don't support the comments that were left on my blog. They are somewhat ridiculous - the two Leavitts are secretly related and conspiring and we're not supposed to realize that? C'mon! But if HIMSS and CCHIT have nothing to hide, why are attorneys sending letters? The right thing to do is kill 'em with facts.
I'll even run a response verbatim, give HIMSS full exposure. I know that CCHIT has done this elsewhere (they've got smarter lawyers and/or PR, apparently). I invite HIMSS to respond here...the mic is open.