Lawyers Bully Web Site With Threats of Litigation

March 11, 2009 11:15 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The D.C. Bar Association demands that the Web site stop posting public information about D.C. lawyers.

D.C. Bar Accuses Site of Copyright, Privacy Law Violations

The D.C. Bar Association is considering suing, an online directory site that profiles and rates lawyers, because the bar association says the site is violating copyright and privacy laws, explains The Washington Post.

Cynthia Kuhn, the bar's spokeswoman, told The Post that the lawsuit is not about obstructing access to information, but rather “It has to do with a commercial company taking this information without authorization and in some cases perpetuating misinformation" by not frequently updating the information.

Yet Joshua King, the general counsel for, told The Post he believes the issue is about control. "There's no reason why lawyer-licensing records should be treated any differently than records for any other profession. The bar doesn't like the fact that the information is out of its control," King said.
On Avvo’s corporate blog, the company noted the irony that the D.C. Bar offers free tools to lawyers to promote their practice, while seeking to stop Avvo from doing the same. Avvo also reported that comments on The Post story are running 10-to-1 against the D.C. Bar, and clearly hopes that a win in the court of public opinion will forestall any litigation.

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Related Topics: Jones Day law firm; lawyers sue bloggers

The Avvo dispute recalls a lawsuit filed by the Jones Day law firm, which sought to block a small real estate site from linking to its attorney profiles. According to Citizen Media Law Project, the firm sued BlockShopper LLC for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition. Given that the practice of linking to other content on the Web, without permission, has long been widely accepted, the blog Prairie State 2.0 called the case “The Lawsuit that Could Kill the Internet.”

Slate writer Wendy Davis explains, “Jones Day's legal theory was that BlockShopper's link would trick readers into thinking that Jones Day was affiliated with the real estate site … Faced with the prospect of big legal bills and an unfriendly judge, BlockShopper co-founder Brian Timpone decided to settle.” As part of the settlement, BlockShopper agreed to change the way it links out to the Jones Day Web site. references two other cases in which bloggers have been sued by lawyers, one a descendant of Paul Revere, for alleged defamation.

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