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Dentist charges patient for negative Yelp reviews, suit says

A New York dentist is accused of making patients sign away their copyright to negative reviews and then billing a patient $100 a day for posting unhappy reviews on Yelp. The dentist is now being taken to court.

Online reviews are sticky little things.

I recently stayed at a hotel that someone on TripAdvisor had described as having filthy--in fact, sticky--conditions and I found it perfectly nice.

So one wonders about all the ramifications surrounding the case of New York dentist, Stacy Makhnevich. She is alleged to have gotten her teeth so deeply into a patient that she began charging him $100 a day for negative Yelp reviews.

The way TechDirt examines it, Makhnevich requires patients to sign a form handing her copyright to any online reviews.

Should the reviews not glow in the dark, she allegedly has them removed for breach of copyright. This seems entrepreneurially nifty, if legally shifty. (See court filing embedded at end of this post via TechDirt.)

Something for the legal profession to sink its teeth into. CC Conor Lawless/Flickr

Makhnevich was reportedly inspired by an organization called Medical Justice, which spends quite some energy in helping medical practitioners protect themselves against the unkind and unfair. It creates these forms, which patients are asked to sign.

Organizations, though, can be formed on both sides of an argument. Indeed, a body called Public Citizen has taken out a class action suit against Makhnevich.

The suit claims that not only did the dentist make use of the legally questionable Medical Justice forms, but that she charged an unhappy patient $100 a day because he wrote negative reviews (about her billing practices, not her dentistry) and refused to take them down.

It seems that the two sites where negative reviews were posted--Yelp and DoctorBase--also refused to have the reviews removed.

Ars Technica reports that Medical Justice appears to be making something of a backtrack on its interesting forms.

The court will make its own determination. To the lay and lazy eye, Medical Justice's forms do seem to lean toward the unjust side.

However, the longer we live in the online world, the more we know that it is full of hogwash. People do bathe in all kinds of negativities out of their own frustrations, as much as any bad service.

The trick for any reader of online reviews lies in attempting to discern not only which ones contain facts, but also which ones are written by people with even a vaguely similar world view to one's own.

One person sees dirty where another sees old-world charm. One person sees smelly where another sees fragrant. One person likes their new white teeth, where another considers them too white.

People. They really can lead you astray.