One of the Alpha-Bloggers in Germany, Johnny Haeusler from Spreeblick, wrote the other day about the mounting legal costs of operating a blog that reports on and comments the news (Geld ausgeben mit Blogs). He's apparently already spent 10,000 € on legal fees fighting take-down notices from lawyers, although at least he runs ads and has income. People and companies don't like it when you say anything negative about them. They try and root out all of the reports about problems with their products or the deeds that they did and try to silence people.
I am quite allergic to people who give themselves out to be scientists (for example because they wrote a doctorate or publish scientific papers that turn out to be plagiarisms or to have cooked their data or some such) and who react to criticism or statement of fact by sending out the lawyers. I much prefer to see arguments. Don't threaten me, convince me!
I myself just had a tussle about an article that I wrote on this blog in October 2011 about a conference on good scientific practice in medicine at the Charité. I noted that the journalist Hubert Rehm had spoken about a few cases, amongst them B.S. (for more information, see Laborjournal (link removed), they have reported in depth on the case). A few weeks ago I received a letter from a Swiss law firm with so many names on the masthead, it took almost half of the first page. Take down the reference to B.S. immediately or else.
I consulted a lawyer, who noted that I am in a very special circumstance: I do research on good scientific practice, and in Germany a researcher is permitted to publish as they please, as long as it's not illegal. And it is never illegal to state the truth. All the same, the lawyer suggested that I tone down my sentence. So I did, and had the lawyers write an (expensive) letter to that effect.
What I don't understand is what these lawyers and their customers think that they are going to achieve by trying to silence everyone. Have they not heard of Barbara Streisand?
Update: On 2013-04-18 I removed the link to the Laborjournal article. The lawyers insist that even linking to the publication that they
consider to be illegal is not okay. By linking I am not assuming the
position of the items I link to - I am reporting on what what was said
and giving my readers the opportunity to decide for themselves. This is
covered by the laws governing freedom of speech and the freedom of the
press. I am not removing information because I made an error - I am
making the changes clear while removing the identifying information
because I do not wish to fight a legal battle on this particular issue.