Ellora’s Cave Sues Dear Author: What This Could Mean For Criticism In The Book Industry

stock banner 1960s Vintage Comic Book Campy Romance Teen Comics J

The book industry has been interesting these past few days. On Sunday, September 26th, Dear Author tweeted that digital romance publisher, Ellora’s Cave, had filed a lawsuit against her:

Dear Author. Screencap. Twitter. Ellora's Cave. Lawsuit.  September 26, 2014. 5:17 PM EST.

You can read the complaint filed by Ellora’s Cave and the ongoing progress of the case here. Ellora’s Cave is filing the suit against both Dear Author and it’s founder, Jane Litte, for defamation-libel in regards to a post that Little wrote about the company called The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. The company is accusing Litte of writing false allegations in regards to the company’s financial state and alleging that it isn’t paying its authors. They’re claiming that Litte was “maliciously contriving and intending to injure Plaintiffs (Ellora’s Cave) and depriving them of the respect, confidence and esteem” in regards to their business. They’re also filing for an injunctive relief, asking the court to prevent Litte and Dear Author from publishing anymore “libelous statements” against them and, if they are allowed to continue publishing such content, Ellora’s Cave “will be irreparably damaged”. They even went as far as saying that “the threatened injury of the Plaintiffs (Ellora’s Cave) outweighs the whatever damage the proposed injunction will cause to Defendants (Jane Litte/Dear Author)”.

What are they asking for?

They want Litte/Dear Author to,

  1. Take down the blog post that sparked the lawsuit and never write “libelous statements” again in the future about Ellora’s Cave.
  2. Pay nothing less than $25,000.
  3. Give them the names of the anonymous commentators on the post in question “so that the spreading of the defamatory statement can be stopped.”

I don’t want to focus on whether or not Dear Author has written libel because I do think that the suit will prove one or another if that is true. Litte herself has written a post on the lawsuit, The Digital Reader has done a write up as well and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books does an excellent job at explaining and exploring the issue. I do want to discuss what Sarah Wendell asks and later examines in her post on Smart Bitches: What does this mean for bloggers?

This lawsuit may scare bloggers away from criticizing publishers and other industry professionals for fear of retaliation that can get expensive for them but not for the power player involved. In the past, legal action has been used against environmental activists by the corporations they criticize and this approach in silencing your critics via legal means is called Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (aka SLAPP). There are anti-SLAPP legislation in some of the US states that allows for a dismissal of the suit if it is proven to be a SLAPP but if a case like this is decided in favour of the complainant, EC, it will open the doors for publications, authors, and others to sue bloggers over their criticism. That’s not to say that people who make knowingly or poorly researched false claims shouldn’t be dealt with accordingly, but SLAPP can be used as a tactic to intimidate and silence; to strip freedom of speech from people who are stating facts.

I’ll definitely be watching this case as it goes on and offer updates. I do, however, want to remind people that this has implications not just for bloggers but for authors, activists, and regular people who want to express criticisms on the internet and elsewhere. To those of you cheering EC on, I hope you’re doing so with knowledge that EC is, indeed, having unjust and libelous claims made about them and not because of reasons such as likeability, popularity or anything along those lines. This is a libel charge that could easily be a charge against freedom of speech so please take this lawsuit seriously. Its implications can be great.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.