The War with Sparta

War has broken out between some Texas criminal defense lawyers and Sparta.  Not the Greek City/State, but an SEO marketer who goes by unpretentious name Internet Guru Girl, no doubt because SEO Spammer Girl wouldn’t have a distinctive brand.  The initial skirmish began with Austin criminal defense lawyer Jamie Spencer, whose comments were bombarded by Sparta Townson on behalf of lawyers who wanted to make a dent on Google via Jamie’s blawgs popularity.

Jamie, who is a far nicer fellow than most, called Sparta to suggest she not cause her clients harm by making them the target of ridicule.  Sparta hung up on him, after telling him that his open comments are her playground.  Whatcha gonna do about it, boy?  Mark Bennett answers the question at Social Media Tyro.

It’s not like Guru Girl Sparta shouldn’t be a little more circumspect in her dealings.  She’s already being sued for defaming the ex-boyfriend of her girlfriend, and subject to an injunction for behaving like a nasty, spoiled, unbalanced three year old.  This should be sufficient for Sparta to realize that the internet isn’t completely lawless, and that whatever fine idea pops into the head of Guru Girl Sparta isn’t likely to reflect the state of the law that applies to less Guru-type people. 

Do Guru Girls spend their off hours playing cyber-stalker to attack and libel ex-boyfriends for practice? Is this how they put that SEO expertise to good use?  Is this how they want to be known online, as another internet nutjob who falsely flames her enemies?  Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t strike me as conduct becoming a self-proclaimed Guru Girl.  And yet Sparta battles on.

It turns out that Sparta is trying to scare up business in a variety of quarters, including the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, with a proposal that will blow the socks off anybody who has a clue at what a website should cost.  Of course, one could wonder whether Sparta, at the prices she hopes to charge, might put some effort into correct spelling, given her apparent challenge as shown on her own blog.

That Bennett posted Sparta’s proposal to the HCCLA appears to have outraged Sparta.  Here’s why :

I sent a proposal to a particular counties criminal lawyers association and it was sent with the following message in the email:
This electronic message contains information from Internet Guru Girl. The contents may be privileged and confidential and are intended for the use of the intended addressee(s) only. If you are not an intended addressee, note that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of the contents of this message is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please contact reply to this email.

Then one of the particular attorneys posted it on his blog.
Another one thinks it’s unsolicited and is obviously another UNINFORMED one.
AND IT WAS “Solicited” by a board member.
This seems to be unethical and questionable legally???
AND IT WAS “Solicited” by a board member.
Sparta Townson

It never ceases to amaze me that people persist in the irrational belief that by including the words “privileged and confidential” in the footer of an email, with the ominous “prohibited” to follow, that somehow makes it so. 

I’ve come to realize that internet marketers go to sleep at night hoping that they will wake up to be “professionals” so they won’t be cast into the sea of snake oil salesgirls, but they aren’t.  They are just people pretending to have expertise that doesn’t really exist to fool people who have even less clue how this whole internet thingy works.  And if anyone is foolish enough to pay the numbers Sparta is asking, then they get what they deserve (with or without spellcheck).

But Sparta Townson suffers from the bizarre delusion that she dictates what becomes of her electronic communications.  The only confidential communication in her world is the one between her lawyer and defendant Sparta.  Sparta has no privilege other than that, and doesn’t create a privilege because she can copy and paste someone else’s prohibition. 

As a courtesy to this Internet Guru Girl, I offer some thoughts.  When you send out an email, the recipients can do whatever they please with it unless they have agreed, in advance, to keep it confidential.  You cannot dictate the confidentiality of your email.  Even if your quote was solicited by someone, that doesn’t create an agreement to maintain confidentiality unless it was a condition agreed upon in advance.  You, Guru Girl Sparta, lack the capacity to prohibit anyone from doing anything.

There are, of course, limits that the law imposes, such as libeling the doctor ex-boyfriend of your girlfriend.  But there is no law that requires others to conceal the contents of your email.  Sorry that it makes you unhappy, and doesn’t comport with your Guru Girl understanding of how the world should treat someone as important as you who commands others to do as she says, but that’s just not how it works.

On a more upbeat note, thank you, Sparta, for not spamming my blawg with your efforts at promoting those foolish enough to pay you.  I’ve wasted enough time dealing with other spammers, and certainly don’t need more marketing trash to deal with.  Plus, I’m not nearly as nice as Jamie when it comes to such matters, and might be inclined to point out the foolishness of your clients and cause them some embarrassment. 

One final piece of advice, Sparta.  Try spellcheck.  You really come off poorly, given that you call yourself Internet Guru Girl. 

15 comments on “The War with Sparta

  1. Bob Ambrogi

    A bit of devil’s advocacy here: Not sure I agree that the recipient of an e-mail can do whatever with it. You are right that the sender can say goodbye to any confidentiality claim. But what about copyright? If an e-mail is “an original work of authorship” under copyright law, the recipient does not have free license to republish it without the author’s permission. My policy with regard to e-mails I receive is never to republish them on my blog without the sender’s permission (unless it is an announcement intended for publication).

  2. SHG

    Let’s take your second point first: You are free to have any policy you want.  That’s your choice.  In many instances, I honor requests for confidentiality as a courtesy or simply discretion, but that’s my choice.  What it is not is the law.

    Now, as to copyright, which I note in passing is not noticed in this instance in any event, it would have no bearing on disclosing contents under fair use, such as criticism of the contents.  It would, if copyrighted, preclude one’s usurpation of the content to one’s own use, but that’s neither the situation here nor any reasonable permutation of it.  In other words, kinda way out in left field to the issue and serves only to confuse the relevant issue.

  3. Bob Ambrogi

    I agree my comment is out in left field as to the focus of your post. I was just picking up on your one line that the recipients of an e-mail can do whatever they please with it. They can’t. No “notice” is required to protect a work as copyrighted. Publication of excerpts may be appropriate as fair use. That may well be the case here, if the fee schedule was even copyrightable in the first place.

  4. Turk

    It never ceases to amaze me that some folks think they can piss all over someone’s front lawn just because there isn’t a fence there.

    But then, the human mind has ben capable of rationalizing all kinds of bizzare thought through the ages, so maybe I should stop being surprised when I see such conduct that is so far outside the norm for civilized society.

  5. SHG

    I stand corrected on your nitpicking a tangential aspect of a sentence, out of context, in such a way as to provide ammunition to the lay marketer in their attack on legitimate blawgers, Bob.  Was it your purpose to do mischief to the blawgosphere and bolster the ignorant in the quest to protect their ability to sell snake oil to lawyers?

  6. Windypundit

    I was curious about copyright too. I figured that in this case it fell under the fair use rules for criticism and journalism, but it’s always nice to hear from a lawyer about that kind of thing.

    And for whatever it’s worth, mentioning copyright isn’t providing ammunition to sleazy marketers: You know they were going to go there anyway. We’ve seen that before.

  7. SHG

    Given that Ambrogi’s comment was utterly irrelevant to the post, what would possibly make you think that it was a good idea to go further down this irrelevant path?  This isn’t a democracy.

  8. Mark Bennett

    Is it better to have comments hijacked by people who think they’re not hijacking the comments, or by people who realize that’s what they’re doing and don’t care?

    I’ll have to ask an internet guru what the rule is.

  9. SHG

    I struggle with whether to allow off-topic comments, whether the author should know better or is just too clueless to realize.  Either way, they are counterproductive and send the conversation down the wrong path.  I’m beginning to think that people who either can’t grasp the topic, or can’t control themselves from trying to hijack it, shouldn’t be allowed to comment.  I may like them otherwise, but this isn’t acceptable behavior or helpful to the discussion of the point of the post.

  10. Bob Ambrogi

    I don’t see copyright as off topic. You said, “Sparta Townson suffers from the bizarre delusion that she dictates what becomes of her electronic communications.” Under copyright law, that’s not a bizarre delusion. You said, “As a courtesy to this Internet Guru Girl, I offer some thoughts. When you send out an email, the recipients can do whatever they please with it unless they have agreed, in advance, to keep it confidential.” That is not true under copyright law. Those were your words and made up the gist of several paragraphs of your post. It is very much on topic to point out that there are laws besides libel to consider here. Aren’t lawyers supposed to consider all the legal angles?

  11. SHG

    Well, Bob, the post was about her confidentialty provision (did you even read the post, Bob?) and her post about how Bennett ignored her “prohibition” in the confidentiality agreement  (Or the quote, Bob?) .  You are right, in another time and place, there could be a copyright issue.  Not here.  Not now.  Not under these circumstances. 

    And yet you persist, despite your previous statement, “I agree my comment is out in left field as to the focus of your post.” 

    Bob, hole digging doesn’t become you.  You were out in left field when you started.  You’re now out of the ball park.

  12. Jamie

    The original point of this post was clearly about what an awesomely bad-ass lawyer I am. Can we get back on topic, pleeeeease?

  13. Allison Jones

    Does Sparta have Muslim or Jewish clients or go after Muslim or Jewish clients. b/c I wanted to share that this “internet guru girl” also supports a page on facebook that promotes hate of religions such as that of Muslim and Jewish religions. It is called “Islam sucks” on FB and has comments against Muslims and Jews. This makes me dislike this internet guru person even more. Sparta is a hateful human being. and not even good at what she does. Spammer yes that is what she is and a person who spreads hate not love in a world that has enough hate.

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