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Craft-beer chain's legal bid to make Web site remove negative reviews falls flat

A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by the company behind Craft Beer Cellar outlets against an online site that lets people post reviews of their workplaces, because of a federal law that protects sites against suits over comments made on sites by third parties.

Craft Beer Stellar, LLC of Belmont had sued Glassdoor, Inc., in March over negative reviews, allegedly by former Craft Beer Cellar franchisees, and that the postings revealed proprietary company and franchise information in violation of both federal and state law.

In a ruling posted yesterday, US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor said Glassdoor is protected by a section of the federal Communications Act that protects online sites in actions related to content that they themselves did not create, for example, workplace reviews.

Craft Beer Stellar argued the fact that Glassdoor took down one of the reviews at its request, then allowed it to be re-posted it with a revision showed Glassdoor had something to do with its creation. But Saylor said that just "constituted the exercise of a traditional editorial function," which is allowed under the act. "Without more, Glassdoor cannot be deemed responsible for creating or developing the content," and so it remains protected under the act, both for the allegedly derogatory comments and any possible trade secrets they might have contained.

Saylor also rejected Craft Beer Stellar's argument that Glassdoor publishing what it considered trade secrets warranted punishment under a Massachusetts law barring "misappropriation of trade secrets."

Saylor said the law only applies to companies that have a "confidential relationship" with each other:

Although CBS alleges that it shared a confidential relationship with its employees who supposedly wrote the negative reviews on Glassdoor’s website, it has not - and seemingly cannot - contend that it ever shared a confidential relationship with Glassdoor. Accordingly, the complaint does not satisfy the third element of trade secret misappropriation under Massachusetts law, and that the claim will therefore be dismissed.

Free tagging: 
PDF icon Complete ruling335.56 KB


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Suppose someone stole your bike and posted it to Craigslist. Aside from the fact that I would want my bike back, I shouldn't be able to sue Craislist...they didn't steal my bike, they just posted an ad from the guy who did. However, if I asked Craigslist to take down the ad, they should, now that they know it's stolen goods.

Similarly, as a good citizen, Glassdoor should have removed any post with proprietary information, but they can't be sued for allowing it to be posted by someone else.

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Nothing proprietary was posted in any review if you read all of them.

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If Glassdoor is going to take down posts with such information, they're either going to have to evaluate the confidentiality of the information, or just take the corporation's word that it's confidential. Neither of those options is good. In the first instance, they are taking on a much bigger role in creation or modification of the post's content, which further exposes them to claims of liability. In the second instance, it effectively gives the corporation censorship power over the website, since they can say anything in a review is confidential. That appears to be what they tried here.

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Similar to your stolen bike analogy, a Boston cop is suing Armslist for facilitating the sale of a gun that eventually was used to shoot him. Even more ridiculous, the person who bought the gun using Armslist was not the shooter; the Armslist purchase appears to have been legal, but the buyer then re-sold the gun illegally to the eventual shooter:


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I'm glad for this ruling. I've worked for some hum dingers of a companies in my career. Its websites like Glassdoor that allow for prospecting employees to read up on the company and got READ feedback.

If Glassdoor existed 10 years ago I would have not gotten mixed up in this hot mess of a company. It was clear from day one this company had issues... and glass door would have revealed that.

I get it, like yelp, there's always bitter and jaded people who write reviews. I take them with a grain of salt but there's always an ounce of truth to them.

Many companies do not take Glassdoor seriously. Maybe this lawsuit will pique some interest in addressing review complaints on there.

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for reasons that some of you (definitely including Adam) will remember.

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That jerk still owes me money to ...

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Dang. I was going to post confidential information about myself on UHub and then sue UHub for having it there. There goes that idea. And after years of planning too.

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