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The Ripoff Report Legal Department is for legal matters that pertain directly to Ripoff Report and not for giving legal advice to consumers or addressing similar concerns. Further, the Legal Department is not for disputing the accuracy of Reports or for arguing merits of Ripoff Report's company policies. The Legal Department is not in a position to change the company policies…all they can do is explain to you what they are.
The Ripoff Report Legal Department is staffed by attorneys, however, they are not your attorney. Ripoff Report is not providing you with an attorney. Consequently the Legal Department is unable to give you any legal advice. This does not mean, however, that your questions are invalid or otherwise unimportant. We highly encourage you to seek local counsel in your area so they may better assist you with your questions and discuss any options that you may have available. If you do not have cousel, you may consider seeking out help from your local State Bar Association and/or consider a consulting the Ripoff Report Legal Directory* to see if any attorneys/firms who are local to you have advertised their services.
*Ripoff Report, nor its operating entity, does not necessarily endorse or sponsor any of the attorneys and/or law firms who advertise in the Ripoff Report Legal Directory. Further, Ripoff Report nor its operating entity, assumes no responsibility or liability for any statements, claims or endorsements made within the ad placed within the Ripoff Report Legal Directory or on any webpage that may be linked from the advertising attorney's / firm's ad placed within the Ripoff Report Legal Directory.
The following are a list of topics that will provide you with commonly requested information. Questions regarding the issues below that are not already covered or other topics not listed below, that are legal in nature, should be directed to the Legal Department by e-mailing [email protected] Any other general questions should be directed to the appropriate Department. If you are not sure who you need to contact, you can always e-mail the Customer Service and Support Department by directing a communication to [email protected] Due to the volume of communications we receive, many communications may not receive a response. This is especially true if your communication has copied multiple departments at Ripoff Report, is asking questions that is already answered on this or other pages on our website, e.g., the Frequently Asked Questions page.
If you need to mail something (though e-mail to [email protected] is preferred) the mailing address for the Legal Department is as follows:
Note: This mailing address is NOT for service of process. If you need to serve Xcentric with legal documents, you must do so by service upon our registered statutory agent. You can find information about the registered statutory agent HERE.
Ripoff Report has a long standing policy for, and takes pride in, being able to assist Government Agencies in their legitimate investigations into crimes and other bad acts. Ripoff Report has helped countless different agencies, local and federal, all over the country. As such, and as provided for in our Terms of Service, Ripoff Report, within its sole discretion may agree to assist Government Agencies who requests for information without a subpoena. Any requests need to be come from an e-mail of the government agency (not a gmail or other free account); the request should be on the formal letterhead of the agency/department; provide a general explanation as to why you are requesting the information; and specifically identify the subject Report and identify the author in which you are seeking information on. More specifically, your communication should include the following: 1) the subject Report number; 2) the corresponding URL link to the subject Report; 3) the title of the subject Report/posting; 4) the display name of the subject Author; and 5) the date of the subject posting.
Any legitimate requests should be directed to [email protected] with an e-mail subject box titled "Government Information Request – Department Name, City, State – Case Name/Number if applicable."
While we agree that the First Amendment does not protect defamatory speech, this does not mean that you can contact Ripoff Report and obtain an author's name just by claiming that something in a Report is false or inaccurate. We are not in a position to determine which party is telling the truth, so we cannot and will not dissolve the First Amendment rights of our users based on a unilateral allegation that something in a Report is false. These issues must be presented to the courts so that a judge can review the matter and decide what to do.
So, what does this mean? What do you have to do in order to get the real name of an author?
The Arizona Court of Appeals has answered that question as follows:
We hold that to obtain a court order compelling discovery of an anonymous internet speaker's identity, the requesting party (i.e., the Plaintiff in an action) must show that: (1) the speaker has been given adequate notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond to the discovery request, (2) the requesting party's cause of action could survive a motion for summary judgment on the elements of the claim not dependent on the identity of the anonymous speaker, and (3) a balance of the parties' competing interests favors disclosure.
Mobilisa v. Doe, 217 Ariz. 103, 114-15, 170 P.3d 712, 723-24 (App. 2007) (If you are interested, you can read the full Mobilisa case at the following URL: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76263546/Mobilisa-v-Doe-217-Ariz-103-170-P-3d-712-App-2007
All subpoenas that we receive are subject to the same criteria. As a general reference the following information is part of out standard civil subpoena checklist:
Please take notice that ***Plaintiff's name*** ("Plaintiff") has initiated an action in the *** Court of *** County (**state**), cause number *** ("the Action"), due to allegedly false statements made by "***author of original Report***" and "***author of additional comments if applicable***." In the Action, Plaintiff seeks to subpoena the records of Xcentric Ventures, LLC for your identifying contact information to be sent to ***Name of Law Firm*** at: ***mailing address of Law Firm***. Plaintiff has served a subpoena on Xcentric Ventures, LLC, the company that owns and operates this website, to reveal your identity. You may have a right to file and serve a response to the subpoena anonymously. If you intend to file and serve a response, please do so, or notify us of your intent to do so, on or before ***date approximately one week prior to deadline for Ripoff Report to provide production of information***, ***name of attorney handling matter***, Esq. via email (***attorney's e-mail address***) or facsimile (***-***-****).
Generally speaking, ensuring compliance with each of the criteria prior to submission of the subpoena will help prevent any delays in processing. Failure to comply with the checklist outlined above will result in an objection to your subpoena and may result in an increase of fees as outlined in Paragraph 9 above.
If the author of the report(s) being subpoenaed does not object to the subpoena or otherwise file a Motion to Quash in the appropriate forum within the requisite time period allowed under Arizona law, and Xcentric determines in its sole discretion that you have met your burden under Mobilisa and properly complied with the subpoena criteria identified in this section, the requested author information will be produced.
If Ripoff Report or the author does object to your subpoena, and you are not willing to or are unable to cure the deficiency and still feel you are entitled to the information, you must bring a motion in the issuing court asking the court to determine that you have complied with the standards set forth in Mobilisa. Depending on the nature of the statements, the position of the author (if any) and the arguments in your motion, Ripoff Report may or may not oppose your motion. If the court reviews your motion and finds that you have satisfied Mobilisa's requirements, then we will provide you with the requested information.
NOTE: If you are seeking information that is outside of the standard identifying author information you are encouraged to contact the Legal Department to see if the type of information you anticipate requesting is even maintained by Ripoff Report. A simple e-mail could save you and/or your client time and money.
Any questions about the Subpoena Process should be directed to [email protected] with an e-mail subject box titled "Subpoena Process – name of your case if applicable."
The law protects and encourages Ripoff Report to make appropriate edits to Reports posted by third parties. Ripoff Report may use that editorial power to post findings from a court of law about the subject matter of Reports. In some cases, a Court may find that specific statements (as opposed to a blanket statement that the entire post found at ____ URL is false) made by the author of a Ripoff Report are false and defamatory. When both sides of a dispute appear and contest the facts of a situation in court it is believed that the findings of the court are generally reliable and fair. Out of respect for the courts and the judicial process, Ripoff Report, upon request, may post that kind of finding with special prominence. In some cases, Ripoff Report may even redact the information specifically identified by the court as false from the original Report. Of course, in order to do that, Ripoff Report needs to see the specific finding of the Court and those findings (meaning the Judgment itself) needs to be self-explanatory, i.e., containing specific identification of the Report(s) at issue and specific identification of the statement(s) that were found to be false in the Report(s). We often get people who provide us with default judgments or stipulated orders that does not consider evidence, and ask us to consider Report redaction content based on that. Those types of judgments don't meet our criteria. In that case, we advise people to post their default judgment or stipulated order, and whatever other sort of supporting documentation they have, as a Rebuttal to the Report, and to tell their side of the story.
NOTE: Do not send the Legal Department a copy of a Default Order or Stipulated Order and ask for application of the Court Order Policy. The answer is "NO" and such requests will be ignored. If you obtain this kind of an order, you are welcome to post a copy of it to the subject Report with an explanation. This is free and, like a court docket, it provides the general public more information about a situation.
In order to provide additional guidance regarding Ripoff Report's editorial policy, Ripoff Report offers the following specific statement.
Policy Regarding Court Orders
The following policy will be applied within Ripoff Report's discretion and is not intended to be a promise, contract or agreement. Ripoff Report reserves the right to change or deviate from this policy as circumstances dictate.
Subject to the statement above, when a Court of competent jurisdiction within the United States has issued a judgment that specifically identified statements of fact contained in a post are false and defamatory, Ripoff Report will generally apply the following guidelines:
The person requesting the relief from Ripoff Report submits to Ripoff Report a court order;
The order is from a state or federal court in the United States;
The order is not against the operators of Ripoff Report;
The order is against the author of the report on Ripoff Report;
The order is supported by admissible evidence, including reasonably corroborated affidavits under oath, that specifically identified statements of fact in the report on Ripoff Report are false and defamatory; and
Ripoff Report has no reason to believe that the order violates the First Amendment.
Ripoff Report will update the title of the report that is the subject of the court order as follows: "Specific information contained in this report was found to be false and defamatory by a court. Out of respect for the judicial process, the specific information that was found false and defamatory by the court has been redacted"; and
Ripoff Report will redact the specific statements of fact and replace them with this statement (((REDACTED BASED ON FINDINGS VIA COURT ORDER))). Ripoff Report will also post the Court's order or judgment as an attachment to the original report. In rare cases Ripoff Report will post the Court's order or judgment ahead of the original Report, in the editorial discretion of Ripoff Report.
As a matter of policy, Ripoff Report does not redact statements of opinion, nor redact or remove entire postings. Ripoff Report's objective in redacting a Report is NOT to erase the posting, but to preserve a record of how a business deals with complaints and with unhappy consumers, including exposing false postings through reliable and fair process such as Ripoff Report's VIP Arbitration or hearings in court.
Any questions about the Court Order Policy or legitimate conforming submissions should be directed to [email protected] with an e-mail subject box titled "Court Order Policy – name of your case".
Sometimes Ripoff Report receives letters from overseas threatening to bring a lawsuit against us in Europe, Canada, the Middle East or other places with laws that don't protect freedom of speech as strongly as the United States does. These letters usually say the same thing: "U.S. law might protect websites such as Ripoff Report, but those laws do not apply in my home country. So, we are going to bring a lawsuit in our country and Ripoff Report won't be able to claim immunity under the CDA."
These types of threats are not effective. Why? Because Ripoff Report is based in the United States and we have no assets outside the U.S., so any foreign judgment against us would be worthless until the plaintiff brings the judgment here and asks a U.S. court to honor and enforce it. In the past, U.S. judges had some discretion to decide whether to honor or reject foreign judgments, but this is no longer true.
In 2010, the U.S. adopted a "anti-libel tourism" law, 28 U.S.C. § 4102, which generally prohibits ALL U.S. courts from honoring foreign libel/defamation judgments if they conflict with the free speech rights guaranteed by our First Amendment. In addition, the law specifically prohibits U.S. courts from honoring foreign libel/defamation judgments against website operators if the claims at issue would have been barred under U.S. law. See 28 U.S.C. § 4102(c). Bear in mind that any state law to the contrary is trumped by the federal law so please do not try to raise that argument. It's pointless.
Further, as may be applicable, Mexico and Canada entered into a free trade agreement with the United States. This agreement is called the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement, or "USMCA" for short. The USMCA was ratified by all three countries as of March 13, 2020. This is significant because Chapter 19 of the USMCA deals with Digital Trade. More specifically, Article 19.17 relates to Interactive Computer Services which borrows, and incorporates language from existing U.S. federal law, namely Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47. U.S.C. § 230, which explains, with a few narrow exceptions, that platforms are not liable for the conduct (or content) created by third-parties. As discussed in more detail below, and as applied in this context, Ripoff Report cannot be held liable for content that it did not create. This also means that, under current law, Ripoff Report cannot be held liable for failing to comply with orders to remove content, foreign jurisdiction or otherwise.
Any questions about the Foreign Jurisdiction Lawsuits and Foreign Court Orders should be directed to [email protected] with an e-mail subject box titled "Foreign Jurisdiction – City and Country - name of your case if applicable".
Any questions Ripoff Report is happy to comply with valid notices that relate to Trademark Infringement. However, it is important for you to understand that just because someone "uses your trademark" in connection with a posting on Ripoff Report does not make it Trademark infringement. In fact, in order to protect commentary and criticism of products and services the law of the United States encourages and protects such nominative "fair use." As such, given the fact that the website allows commentary and criticism relating to goods and services, most use of Trademarks on Ripoff Report are considered "fair use" and therefore actions from infringement would likely fail.
If you have a genuine and merit based concern regarding Trademark infringement, you may email the Legal Department at [email protected] with an e-mail subject box titled "Trademark Infringement – Trademark Name Being Used – Ripoff Report #number of Report."
Ripoff Report is happy to comply with valid DMCA removal requests. However, just because someone used a photograph of you or that is related to your business doesn't mean that there has been Copyright infringement. Unfortunately, most people don't understand intellectual property laws and submit to requests that are not valid. Let's take a photograph for example: generally speaking, the person who actually took the picture is the person that has the intellectual property rights to it, not the subject of the picture. Additionally, many people are not aware that many uses of pictures or other works in connection with commentary or criticism are considered "fair use" and are thereby protected as such. There is an incredible amount of case law out on this issue and most types of use of images on Ripoff Report are "fair use". If you are not sure if you are the true copyright owner of a particular picture or other work and/or whether or not the particular image or work at issue is protected by "fair use", then you are encouraged to seek legal counsel from an attorney that deals with intellectual property to advise you on the matter.
NOTE: If you submit a removal request and you are NOT the copyright owner, or if you make any false statement in your demand (including a statement that our use of images is infringing when the use is clearly fair), you should be aware that the law imposes substantial liability for any damages and any attorney's fees incurred as a result; 17 U.S.C. §512(f).
If you are, in fact, the true owner of the copyright to a particular picture or work, you are encouraged to use the little check list below, working through all the elements, to ensure that you have everything that is required prior to submission. Failure to submit a valid DMCA request will only delay the process and/or result in the alleged infringing material remaining on the website.
Further, the DMCA agent listed below is NOT the same as the Ripoff Report Legal Department.If you are trying to reach the Legal Department, you need to send an email to [email protected] Sending anything other than an appropriate DMCA notice to the DMCA Agent may be ignored. This includes any rants or arguments about the merit of a posting on Ripoff Report. The DMCA Agent cannot help you with those things.
If you believe that your copyright has been infringed through the use of Ripoff Report, please submit a notice that complies with 17 U.S. C. § 512(c)(3) to our registered DMCA agent as follows:
You may also courtesy copy our Legal Department by e-mailing the Legal Department at [email protected] with an e-mail subject box as "DMCA - Ripoff Report Copyright Policy", however, the registered DMCA agent above must receive the notification in order for the notice to be valid.
Further, at a minimum, any DMCA removal request is required to include at least the following things:
Because Ripoff Report has a long standing general policy against removing Reports in their entirety, Ripoff Report has been sued on many occasions based on the content which our users have created and posted. If you are considering suing Ripoff Report because of a report which you claim is defamatory, you should be aware that, Ripoff Report has had a long history of winning these types of cases. This is because of a federal law called the Communications Decency Act or "CDA", 47 U.S.C. § 230. Because this important law is not well known, we want to take a moment to explain the law, and to also explain that the filing of frivolous lawsuits can have serious consequences for those who file them, both parties and their attorneys.
The CDA is part of our federal laws. An excellent Wikipedia article discussing the history of the law can be found at the following URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act
In short, the CDA provides that when a user writes and posts material on an "interactive website" such as Ripoff Report, the site itself cannot, in most cases, be held legally responsible for the posted material. Specifically, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) 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."
Because the Reports on Ripoff Report are authored by users of the site, we cannot be legally regarded as the "publisher or speaker" of the reports contained here, and hence we are not liable for reports even if they contain false or inaccurate information (NOTE: we occasionally create editorial comments and other material, but when we do, this is clearly marked as such). The same law applies to sites like Facebook, Yelp and CraigsList - users who post information on these sites are responsible for what they write, but the operators of the sites are not.
The reasons for this law are simple. Websites cannot possibly monitor the accuracy of the huge volume of information which their users may choose to post. If an angry plaintiff were permitted to hold a website liable for information that the site did not create, this would stifle free speech as fewer and fewer sites would be willing to permit users to post anything at all. See generally Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018, 1027-28 (9th Cir. 2003) (recognizing, "Making interactive computer services and their users liable for the speech of third parties would severely restrict the information available on the Internet. Section 230 [of the CDA] therefore sought to prevent lawsuits from shutting down websites and other services on the Internet."). See also Delfino v. Agilent Techs., Inc., 145 Cal.App.4th 790, 52 Cal.Rptr.3d 376, 387 (2006) recognizing, "avoid the chilling effect upon Internet free speech that would be occasioned by the imposition of tort liability upon companies that do not create potentially harmful messages but are simply intermediaries for their delivery."
Based on the protection extended by the CDA, Ripoff Report has successfully defended dozens of lawsuits in both state and federal courts. The courts have consistently found that the CDA shields Ripoff Report, and other UGC platforms, from any claims (no matter how creatively pled in attempt to circumvent the CDA) seeking to treat it as the speaker or publisher of information posted by a third party.
Here are just a few examples, many of which include Xcentric Ventures:
This is also true in instances where people try to claim that the fact that Ripoff Report, and other review sites, have paid services is extortion. Courts have disagreed and found CDA protection for the websites.
So, why should you care about the CDA? Well, it's simple - if someone posts false information about you on the Ripoff Report, the CDA prohibits you from holding us liable for the statements which others have written. You can always sue the author if you want, but you can't sue Ripoff Report just because we provide a forum for speech.
Now, to be 100% accurate - some people have said that Ripoff Report DID lose one case in the past, and that's technically almost true. Here's the deal - there was ONE case in 2003 where a predecessor website to the Ripoff Report was sued in a foreign country and a default judgment was entered in the plaintiff's favor for more than $27 million "Eastern Caribbean Dollars" (we're not sure how much this would be in U.S. dollars). However, when the plaintiff tried to domesticate that judgment in the United States, we fought it. The case was resolved and the judgment was satisfied without any money being paid. If you think this still counts as a "loss" you're entitled to that opinion but we don't see it that way. NOTE: a law was enacted in August 2010 which generally prohibits U.S. courts from honoring foreign judgments like this.