I’m sure most of you have heard about this. For those who haven’t, a quick recap.
On September 14, Jane of Dear Author wrote a blog post titled The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. She outlined the history behind the company – praising them for being one of the first e-publishers to offer authors and readers erotica-type content – then related news of their slow decline in management and business practices. Per Jane’s article and the subsequent comments from EC authors, editors and cover artists: authors and sub-contractors haven’t been paid in a timely manner; royalty checks are at an all-time low and Tina Engler/Jaid Black, the founder and owner of the company has been taking shopping trips, buying new property and looking into starting new ventures (this, apparently, from her Facebook page, Twitter stream and personal blog).
EC is suing Jane and Dear Author for defamation, claiming what Jane wrote in her blog post was false. I am not a lawyer. I don’t claim to understand a whole lot about the law in general and defamation in particular, but my basic understanding is that in order for EC to win this suit they have to prove that what Jane said – their authors/cover artists/vendors/editors/tax liens/etc not being paid – isn’t true. In order to do that, I would assume they’d have to provide company records, financial statements, etc. I may be mistaken about that, so don’t take my word for it, but I do know part of a defamation suit is proving what was said was untrue and that the untrue statements hurt the reputation of the one filing. So how else would they prove what she said wasn’t true but opening up their records for public scrutiny? Even worse, however, is that EC is demanding the anonymous commenters’ true names be revealed.
Here’s the thing, though. This suit isn’t about EC’s reputation. Not really. It’s about is instilling fear in a community of authors and bloggers. Engler has been rumored to be notoriously vindictive when it comes to authors speaking out against her company. As bloggers, we’re often threatened by authors when we write bad reviews/report about the goings-on with the community, etc. That’s a scary thing for those of us who aren’t lawyers and don’t treat our sites as a business venture, but rather a hobby. I don’t know about you, but spending thousands on a legal battle isn’t my idea of a good time. Especially since this site doesn’t make any money on its own.
The Chilling Effect, defined by Wikipedia as:
In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction.
Basically, I think EC filed this lawsuit as a scare tactic. They want bloggers and their authors/staff to be scared of speaking out against them. Sunita wrote a post about it that goes into more detail, but essentially EC is saying “we’re watching you”. As Sunita says in her post:
EC picked the wrong person to sue, no question. But by filing at all, they’re also reminding their authors and editors that they have no compunction about publicizing the personal information of anyone they see as an adversary. It’s not necessary to sue an individual person in this case; suing Dear Author LLC would have taken care of their needs.* But it wouldn’t have sent the same “we know who you are” message. EC has already stipulated in internal communicationsthat authors “include both legal name and pen name when communicating with Ellora’s Cave.” This just ups the ante.
Author Courtney Milan wrote about not being cowed by EC and their tactics. In her post, On Limited Purpose Public Figures #notchilled, she discusses the effect this lawsuit has already had in terms of the Chilling Effect and says she is Not Chilled (#notchilled).
Jane has hired a lawyer and plans to fight this. I say good for her. Good for all of us. We shouldn’t be silenced. We shouldn’t be afraid that speaking out about a publisher or author will result in the worst possible outcome. We’re saying we won’t be silenced and we hope you won’t be either.
Today Jane asked for a bit of help. If anyone who worked for or with EC has any information they’re willing to share, please contact her.
Also, if you’re an EC author, be sure to take a look at the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread, hosted by author Deirdre Saorise Moen.
For those interested in following the story, here’s a compiled list of links detailing the troubles at EC and the coverage of the suit against DA.