On donating to Dear Author’s legal defense fund.

29 Mar

In the light of Jane Litte’s revelation that she is also Jen Frederick, apparently a successful NA author, one of the sentiments that popped up pretty much on the spot was, “how dare she ask for money when she’s filthy, filthy rich!”

First, a few things:

  • I am not a lawyer.
  • I don’t pretend to be a lawyer.
  • I don’t play a lawyer anywhere.
  • What follows is not legal advice.

All clear? Okay, then.

I believe The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave post is not defamatory in any way. The facts it presents are public, and the opinions of the author are, precisely because they are opinions, protected in the US by the First Amendment.

Let me repeat that last bit for you: even if the piece hadn’t been as well researched and backed up by information available to any person curious enough to hunt it up, as it was; even then, it would still be the author’s opinion, and therefore, protected speech.

Unfortunately, the US also has a culture of abusing the legal system to try to silence critics. Or, as someone else told me when the suit was filed, anyone can sue anyone for any damn thing.

*

The likelihood of the butthurt to sue someone for daring to express their negative opinion about the butthurt themselves, or the butthurt’s products, company, or own speech, rises exponentially every time one of these lawsuits succeeds.

Which they all too often do, either because the defendant simply doesn’t have the means to fight in court and settles, or because the process is incredibly onerous not just in money but in stress, and so the defendant settles.

Again, let me repeat: the person suing doesn’t have to be right in order to file a lawsuit for defamation.

The person being sued doesn’t have to have defamed anyone.

The specter of a lawsuit is enough to scare most people into apologizing, deleting commentary, back pedaling, and keeping silent forever more. Many individuals and companies routinely use the weight of the US court system to silence the public in the form of individuals. These lawsuits are so common they have their own acronym: SLAPP.

Because SLAPP are attacks on US citizens’ freedom of speech, some states have implemented laws that protect consumers leaving a review on a product (such as a book, in case anyone wonders), or bloggers writing an opinion on whatever they have feelings enough to form said opinion.

Ohio doesn’t have even the most cursory defense against a SLAPP.

*

When announcing to Dear Author’s readership that both herself and the blog had been sued by Ellora’s Cave, Jane Litte also announced that she would fight the suit, protect the identities of her sources (the authors and other creditors owed money by Ellora’s Cave) and commenters, using her own money for that purpose.

A quick aside here: I will not go into details because it’s none of the internet’s business, but I have been involved in legal proceedings on a much smaller scale than this, and I can tell you that $20K? Barely a retainer for a good lawyer for a case of this type.

Everyone who agreed that the lawsuit was an effort to silence Ellora’s Cave’s critics clamored to help in whichever way they could. I myself, in this tiny obscure corner of the internet, wrote this:

Dear Author as a whole, and Jane Litte in particular, have advocated for authors as much as for readers for years, and it has helped out bloggers whose right to speech has been threatened (by authors, by other blogs, etc) for about as long. And while there are asshats out there who are lacking in both vision and understanding to be gleeful about EC suing Dear Author, most of the online reading community is indignant and rallying around the blog and the blogger.

We will not be silenced, and we will not sit down and do nothing. Not only will many of us put our money with Jane and Dear Author to help her fight this frivolous, censorious suit, but we will act.

EC, meet the Streisand Effect

I stand by those words.

*

When Sarah Wendell set up the fundraiser for Dear Author’s and Jane Litte’s legal defense fund, she stated that Jane Litte had set aside $20,000 of her own money to fight the suit, explaining at some length why those twenty K would not last enough, and that the additional $50,000 sought would help enormously. She also said:

All funds will be used for Jane’s legal defense, minus the fees charged by GoFundMe, and because we don’t know what the end result will be, we have no way of knowing what the total amount required will be. If there are any funds left over when the suit is finished, they will be donated to the Society of Professional Journalists Legal Defense Fund ( http://www.spj.org/ldf.asp).

Most people thought that was a great plan, and donations came in, fast and furious, so that the target amount was hit within four days.

Considering the actual size of the romance community as it pertains to both Ellora’s Cave and Dear Author is tiny, raising that much money in such a short period of time is nothing short of amazing. Ours is a very fragmented community where petty concerns very often blind us to what’s most important, and often many of the small factions are pretty adamant about shunning others they disagree with, whatever the reason.

And so, it was neither surprising nor rare to see that many of the people who donated–and some of them pretty substantial amounts too–spelled out that they did so not because they like or support Dear Author or Jane Litte, but because of the wider implications of the suit.

Go, romance readers and authors.

Go, freedom of speech.

*

Then came last week’s bombshell.

After an initial period of untrammeled support and rejoicing, concerns were raised.

People like me re-examined their feelings about things (“it’s…complicated” about sums it up for now) while people who had been holding on to their grudges jumped at the chance to bring Dear Author and Jane Litte down.

And more power to them–their freedom of speech is also protected, so they can continue to show their ass in public all they want.

So can I, for that matter.

This brings me (finally) to the point of this post.

One of accusations that floated up from the cesspool was that Jane Litte was benefiting financially from the defense fund.

I honestly can’t even with that one. The idiocy defeats me.

The next one was that because she’s a lawyer (which she was when the suit was filed, by the way), she doesn’t need financial help to fight the lawsuit.

One hundred percent bullshit here. See what I wrote above about the cost of litigation?

Then came the because she’s a successful author and there’s a movie option, she doesn’t need financial help to fight the lawsuit.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen has spoken about her own experience with a movie deal/movie option here and here (for those who don’t like links, the range mentioned is $1,500 to $5,000).

As far as the successful author bit…please do define success for me here. E. L. James is successful. Nora Roberts and Suzanne Brockmann are successful. So are Ann Aguirre and Courtney Milan. So are a number of other authors, and guess what? That doesn’t mean they all can or should spit out tens of thousands of dollars because someone is butthurt and sues them.

*

The only accusation (and that’s what they are, however they want to pretty them up) about the fund and Jane Litte’s Jen Frederick identity that has merit for me is this:

Jane Litte should have revealed her Jen Frederick identity before she allowed Sarah Wendell to set up the fundraising efforts.

Not because her identity materially changes the facts or makes The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave defamation or any of that.

She should have disclosed her second pseudonym then to allow the people willing to support free speech to make a fully informed decision.

Unfortunately, now, every word said, every choice made, by everyone involved in helping Jane Litte keep her Jen Frederick identity a secret while interacting with both personae is suspect–starting with Jessica Clare and Sarah Wendell, and moving on down the line.

Me? I’m sure there are those who consider me profoundly stupid, because I have enough faith in romance readers and writers to believe that the fund would still have reached its goal within days, because it was never about Jane Litte and Dear Author.

It has always been about Ellora’s Cave shady and shitty dealings with its authors, editors and cover artists, and about freedom of speech.

But each person who donated should have been able to make the choice while in possession of all the facts.

*

To be honest? I don’t much care if she had a full $100.00 to fight the suit, I would still have wanted to contribute, because the fight for free speech is *my* fight as well.

You may have noticed that I blog on a free wordpress account. You know why? Because I don’t have enough income for a paid one, or a domain, or anything else. I live pretty much check to check. So it’s not like I can throw even $25 dollars out at once without thinking about it.

If someone gets a bug up their ass and decides to sue me because I wrote a profanity laced review skewering a book they wrote or published, I have nothing to fight that with. Every time a precedent is set when a blogger is sued over opinions, and the blogger loses, my right to say whatever the hell I feel or think is compromised.

That is why I donated my humble $10.00 to Dear Author’s legal defense fund and why I would do it again today¹ if it’s necessary to ensure that my right to speak up in the future is protected.

YMMV.

*

¹ though I would not go through GoFundMe, the assholes, to do so.

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27 Responses to “On donating to Dear Author’s legal defense fund.”

  1. Deirdre 29/03/2015 at 7:18 AM #

    Thank you for writing the post I’d wanted to write and had kicking around in my head last night. Also, she may not have been able to discuss the movie deal when the fundraiser was occurring, depending upon the embargo times. Since she said three things happened all at once, I’d like to cut her a bit of slack there. (At least for now.)

    But you’re absolutely right about disclosing the pseudonym.

    • azteclady 29/03/2015 at 9:08 PM #

      Thank you, Ms Deirdre. I didn’t know about the embargo thing, but it makes sense there would be a period of time during negotiations when parties are required not to talk about it.

  2. Montreux 29/03/2015 at 8:21 AM #

    Thank you for another great post, azteclady!

    I noticed this happening with various kickstarter and funding projects that were questioned after: people start mixing cause with a person.
    As I asked my friend who felt bad with this whole situation: did you donate to Jane Litte or did you donate to defense fund? I understand it’s hard to make clear distinction in head sometimes between the two and I understand people who are feeling fooled, but I always do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t donate to any organization. I don’t say my way is right way, but it makes me feel better.
    And maybe this isn’t place nor time to mention another situation, but forgive me (I am using your space, so you can shut me down) : I also didn’t find anything problematic in Stacey Jay kickstarter campaign. Honestly, the project was shut down before I got to know about it, but I would support it.

    • azteclady 29/03/2015 at 9:15 PM #

      I posted my feelings about the Stacey Jay kickstarter brouhaha here, though I think the best take I’ve seen on that comes from another author–see this from Jenny Trout.

      In fact, I’ll add a link to it in my own post, for those coming late to the party.

      Also, I’ll point out that Ms Jay had a choice to keep the fundraising up and face the backlash head on. Would it have been brutal? Probably not a hell of a lot more than it already was, but I agree it was brutal to begin with.

  3. willaful 29/03/2015 at 2:07 PM #

    These are excellent points, thank you.

  4. Lori 29/03/2015 at 3:12 PM #

    Excellent point and completely reasonable. I wish we could quote this in its entirety anyone someone shows their ass.

    • azteclady 29/03/2015 at 9:16 PM #

      Point them here, m’lady, with my blessings.

  5. andarae 29/03/2015 at 3:52 PM #

    Echoed my own thoughts on the matter. 🙂

  6. Jessica 29/03/2015 at 4:16 PM #

    I agree 100%. I was one of the first to donate and I would donate again today, even with all of the revelations this week. I see the EC suit as completely separate issue.

    Also, AL, I’m really impressed with the way you’ve been thinking out loud, and sharing your evolving perspective. Not many people are comfortable reassessing their position in public!

    • azteclady 29/03/2015 at 9:19 PM #

      Thank you, Jessica. I am not particularly comfortable, frankly–and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on my head.

  7. Amarinda Jones 29/03/2015 at 5:49 PM #

    “…because it was never about Jane Litte and Dear Author.” Exactly.

    • azteclady 29/03/2015 at 9:19 PM #

      No, it wasn’t and it still is not.

  8. darlenemarshall 29/03/2015 at 8:47 PM #

    Thank you for writing this excellent post on why donating to the DA Defense Fund was the right thing to do. I’d do it all again today–nothing’s changed, the issues remain the same.

  9. Elise 30/03/2015 at 7:30 PM #

    I have a lot of thoughts on recent events but I will confine them to the topic at hand. I have seen this argument everywhere, even from those who disapprove of Jane Litte’s behavior. That it wasn’t about her, it was about the cause, and therefore, if she revealed that her alter ego was also a publisher and successful author or if she did not, it is irrelevant.
    I feel that some people are missing an important point here. There are many causes that I , for one, ardently support. I will write about them, learn about them, vote for people who support them, volunteer etc. I endorse and support Green Peace, save the whales, save the gorrillas, child advocacy, homeless shelters, Elizabeth Howard and many other causes. But while I support them all morally, I don’t support them all financially. When it comes to that I am forced to pick and choose because I can’t afford not too. Soo…how do I do that? It may be shallow of me, but if I donate $50 to a cause, or even $20, something has to give. Maybe I don’t get a haircut. Maybe I don’t go to dinner and a movie with my friends, maybe I don’t buy that extra Christmas present for someone I love.
    It works well enough for me. An earthquake in Haiti? People homeless after Katrina? A co-operative of women from a third world country trying to start a chicken farm? All no brainer’s. They need that money more than I do (btw Kiva is a great place to donate and does a lot of good if you are looking for a worthy cause). I might also weigh the thought of an embattled, independent blogger fighting for the little guy as a worthy cause, and someone who needed that money more than I did.
    Except she wasn’t and she doesn’t. She was pretending to be. An act of omission at the very least. I am fairly certain of one thing. She won’t be deciding between donating money to a good cause or getting her hair done anytime soon.
    I am not by any means critcising others who donated. In and of itself it is a worthy cause and doubtless they could afford it. But I suspect that many of those who donated and are upset now, asked the same question I did, does this person need it more than I do. I suspect many of them feel they way I do now, that they were mislead. There seems to have been a lot of that going around lately.

    • azteclady 30/03/2015 at 8:36 PM #

      (Those of you, my gentle readers, who didn’t know me when I blogged at Karen Knows Best, may want to avert your eyes.)

      Brava, Elise, that’s a lovely rant.

      Two things, though.

      One. Did you actually donate to Dear Author’s defense fund, or are you just arguing for the sake of arguing?

      If the former, did you read the fundraiser page? Where it says clear as day that the independent blogger in question had set aside twenty grand of her own money to fight the suit?

      Oh, you read that? And you grasped the implications–i.e., that Jane Litte blogger, was not starving or anything remotely close to that?

      You did, yes?

      And, after reading that, you donated, of your own free will?

      Then you thought it was not about one blogger, but about free speech and the people Ellora’s Cave was and is treating like trash.

      You didn’t donate?

      Then you never thought it was a worthier cause than starving children or your haircut, darling.

      Two. The entire point of the post is that *I* would have contributed to the fund, regardless, but that I believe that everyone should have been given all the facts so they could make their own choice.

      And I acknowledge, with the very last line–those four pretty letters, “YMMV”–that other people might have decided against donating because Jane Litte was not only a lawyer who could set aside twenty grand of her own money, but because she was also a successful author.

      tl;dr Hate to break it to you, but you need to work on your reading comprehension.

      • Elise 30/03/2015 at 10:06 PM #

        Wow! What a nasty reply. And you seem proud of it. Perhaps you need to work on your reading skills. I wasn’t arguing, in fact I agreed with you, while trying to explain why some people might be feeling deceived while still supporting the thing on principle.

        I am at a loss to understand why you choose to respond to a polite observation with mockery. I don’t care if you post this or not. I won’t be back to to read your reply if you do. You were one of the bloggers I had respect for reading through all this mess, and whose reviews I have respected over the years but sadly it seems you are nothing more than a bully too.

        In parting, Yes i donated. Yes it was a small sum. Yes I was naive and stupid too. Does that appease you, oh powerful one? Really. Shame on you!

        And yes. I can read. Like I said, maybe you need to work on your reading skills too. Why did I donate? Because I’m a reader. Because I wanted to feel like part a club of readers who meant something and were doing something AND because I thought my help was needed. Mock away but part of why I donated was because of appeals like this from Dear Author and Smart Bitches

        “Why a fund?

        Because lawsuits are expensive (that’s why they’re so often used as a threat, if you’ve ever wondered).

        Because of that, and because the duration of the litigation is undetermined, Jane will need financial assistance. Jane’s attorney, Marc Randazza, is contributing by discounting his hourly rate. Even with a generous discount, it’s still expensive.

        Jane Litte has set aside $20,000.00 of her own funds to fight this defamation suit and has paid the large retainer out of that amount, but that money will be depleted quickly as the case progresses.

        I read that as someone in serious trouble, and pretty desperate if they were coming out like that. Because I read it different than you doesn’t mean I can’ read.”

        Somehow I expected better of you Azteclady, Silly me.And yes I know you don’t care. I leave you with the last word. Have a good life.

  10. azteclady 30/03/2015 at 10:28 PM #

    Yes, Elise, I can be pretty nasty. I have no idea why you expected better from me.

    If you think that just because now it has come out that Jane Litte is also Jen Frederick, “successful author,” she’s no longer in serious trouble, you really have no idea how costly and damaging litigation is.

  11. Bona 31/03/2015 at 1:31 PM #

    I think the lawsuit has nothing to do with the issue of her being a writer.
    As far as I see it, the lawsuit has more to do about the protection of freedom of speech. It’s not just her. It’s what can be said or not in a blog.
    It’s amazing how much money you have to invest just to defend yourself. In my country is also very easy to sue or to denounce someone not only in a civil court but also -specially- in a criminal court. But at least is easy and not so expensive for any of the parts. That’s why judges are overwhelmed by job, burnt out and you have to wait years for the case to be solved.
    I understand perfectly those donations. Jen/Jane’s outing makes me uncomfortable. The donations for the legal case, doesn’t.

    • azteclady 31/03/2015 at 2:30 PM #

      Thank you for you comment, Bona, and welcome to my humble abode.

  12. Suzanne 31/03/2015 at 9:18 PM #

    I am *that Suzanne, who posted on DA and who you linked to in your blog, and now flog, for a knee-jerk, emotional reaction. I do not have an “on-line” persona, or a lengthy history of posting my opinions on any blog site, so I can see/understand why my post on DA would be considered by some as nonsense, sock-puppetry, etc.

    But I felt I should post here, stand up for myself so to speak.

    When I posted on DA, that WAS my knee-jerk, emotional reaction to the “big reveal.” Should I have taken some time, day, a week, to think about all the implications? Seek out more info? Sort out my myriad thoughts? In hindsight, absolutely. And as you pointed out, no one was holding my kidney at knife-point, when I made the decision chose to donate.

    I echo Bona’s succinct statement, “Jen/Jane’s outing makes me uncomfortable.The donations for the legal case, doesn’t.”

    Suzanne

    • azteclady 31/03/2015 at 9:31 PM #

      I am indeed naive beyond belief–I never thought you were a sockpuppet.

      We have all–dog knows I have–made kneejerk statements that come back to haunt us. Yours was one of the first comments along that line that I saw, ergo my linking to it, but it is by no means the only one–see Elise’s comment upthread.

      • Suzanne 31/03/2015 at 10:48 PM #

        “I am indeed naïve beyond belief.”

        That makes two of us. And at my age (50) I should know better than to voice my opinion on controversial topics, especially over the WWW. For once out there, it is out there forever. C’ est la vie.

        As to all THIS….my 80 year old father has reminded me of the adage “Don’t talk about politics, religion or sex..” In other words, keep your mouth shut, Suzanne.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ellora’s Cave, Dear Author, the Streisand Effect and freedom of speech. | Her Hands, My Hands - 31/03/2015

    […] Jane Litte, blogger, is also Jen Frederick, author. Why this has nothing to do with the lawsuit. […]

  2. Update on the Dear Author/Jane Litte Defense fund | Her Hands, My Hands - 09/12/2015

    […] the time, I waxed on and on about why it shouldn’t fall on Jane’s shoulder’s alone to stand up to a vexatious […]

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