I get legal threats: Cinematic Appraisals UPDATED


So I got this e-mail accusing me of slander and informing me that attorneys will be in touch regarding damages from an old post about a service called “Cinematic Appraisals.”  The writer does seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the fact that every time they e-mail me, there’s something new for the front page of Google.  In different places, this particular message seems to be trying to legally threaten me, trying to shame me, and trying to make me feel sorry for her.

The e-mail mentions a Facebook *page* with which I am unfamiliar, but I have written about their website twice — once before FtB (on SheThought, WordPress, and now hosted here) and once last spring.  The second does a very thorough job highlighting all of the things claimed without evidence on the scientific part of their website:
http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2010/11/04/cinematic-appraisals-scam-or-science/
http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2013/04/22/i-get-e-mail-cinematic-appraisals-mind-science-or-pseudoscience/

Now the letter — it is pasted as is, typos hers.  I’ve offered some notes.

Dear Ms. Miller,
I am shocked that you have maintained your campaign against my company even after I communicated the facts you misstated.¹ From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact because we feel it is important that people who seek to have a public voice are also accountable for their actions. I appreciate the rights our great country affords its citizens and, like most people, work hard to keep my rights from infringing on the rights of others. Thankfully, our courts have defined where your rights end and mine begin. I cannot imagine why anyone who wishes to have a public voice would so recklessly damage the business of another, especially without provocation.

In your November 4th, 2010 post, you identify yourself as a writer who spends, “a lot of time looking out for scams trying to take advantage of me” and identifies my company as fraudulently “bilking people out of their money”, even though the Home page of our website clearly defines that we do not work with writers and that we do not offer screenplay coverage.²  We have not solicited your work and you have never been a customer. However, you have gone as far as to misleadingly solicit ScriptSavvy and Carson Reeves as alternative legitimate businesses for your readers to use as though they performed the same service as our company.

You are certainly aware of your errors and the damages of your slanderous comments.³ I contacted you personally as soon as your initial post surfaced in the Google search results requesting that you re-visit our website for the facts, however you continued your campaign of slanderous advertising by creating a Facebook page labeling our company a “scam”.  Facebeook removed the page over liability concerns, yet your posting continued.  I contacted you again on April 21, 2013 indicating that we had been financially harmed by your posts and clarifying again that we are an emotional response testing company, not screenplay coverage.

Your misleading comments have financially harmed our business, slandered our business name and disparaged our products, and we will seek to recover the damage you have caused. I hope you can put yourself in my shoes and understand how you would react to someone that slandered your name or a business you worked hard to create.

Sincerely,
Christine Reynolds
christine@cinematicappraisals.com

1. By maintaining a campaign, she seems to mean not having deleted the initial post.  On her part, no facts have been offered, no questions answered, no sources or science presented.

2. “After the initial page-by-page study is complete and individual score determined, the screenplay is then studied and examined by separate evaluators for its story structure and connection strength, yielding the second analysis based on content.” I’m sure there’s some other word for this than screenplay coverage, but for some reason it’s just not coming to me.

3. I’ve yet to be offered any information suggesting my analysis was in error, despite having asked for it.

4. She technically contacted my editor with this message: “11/17/10 8:23pm  We strongly suggest you review the complete information on our website prior to making slanderous comments, as our evaluations are completely separate from script coverage and script doctoring services. Our evaluations measure the bioneurological activity of the tester. We are available to answer any questions you may have.”  My editor responded by saying she was free to say what was wrong with the post and to offer any fact corrections.  We also both asked her for any scientific evidence for the claims on her site.  There was no response.  Also, “bioneurological” is a silly, meaningless word.

5. Facts were not and are not available on the website, which is the entirety of the complaint.  Seriously, nearly every sentence makes a claim that should have a citation.

6. I legitimately have no idea what she’s talking about here.  The only thing on Facebook I can find is me sharing my post about it last spring, which is obviously still up: https://www.facebook.com/mgafm/posts/10100289115192657  Possibly there was some actual page created?  I am unsure.

UPDATE:

I got a second e-mail from the same address, this one far more aggressive.

You obviously have not consulted an attorney, you will need to do so. When you do, they will tell you that you have no defense.

Your opinion is not based on experience or knowledge, the only opinion you have shared has been a fabrication because we have never conducted ourselves fraudulently with you or anyone else and do not even offer the services you purport are a “scam”.

Professional legal counsel will advise you on the difference between expressing yourself and infringing on the rights of others through slander, product disparagement, and tortious interference. Your postings are such an obvious example of a violation of the statutes that an attorney actually contacted us.

We have the ability to change our name or simply bury your online fabrications, while recovering our lost income and marketing expenses from you for the period beginning when your slanderous campaign originated in November 2010 through the end of 2013. Thankfully, you cannot change who you are and when I worked at an educational institution, part of my job was performing background checks on any potential speakers to ensure a solid reputation and to avoid people such as yourself that recklessly slander others which could damage the institution’s reputation.

Regardless of the outcome of this slander complaint, I will keep it renewed to forewarn others. Additionally if this lawsuit, whose judgement I will personally keep renewed until every cent I am awarded has been repaid, protects the world from another aggressive blogger with nothing relevant to say, the stress of the court filings will have been worth it because I will have made the world a better place.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    I’m not sure that I’d take a legal threat from someone who doesn’t know the difference between slander and libel all that seriously…

  2. says

    Ok so I’d never heard of this outfit before and now I have, and I’ve read the claims on the website and found them hilarious.

    Will Christine Reynolds sue me for saying I find the claims on the website hilarious?

  3. says

    Oh hey it’s also cool that in the first email she says “From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact” and then she promptly sends another email.

  4. Ken At Popehat says

    Also: Apparently the Mind Science Method does not extend to figuring out the difference between libel and slander.

  5. says

    Even in the UK, where the law is strongly on the side of the litigant, this wouldn’t work. Laughable that they try this, and also amply demonstrates the is no evidence that they deal with anything other than snake oil. I await a suitably trenchant and entertaining post at Popehat on the matter!

  6. artymorty says

    And now your blog entries are the #1, #2 and #4 Google search results, with the company’s own website hemmed in at #3.

  7. Ashley F. Miller says

    This might be my favorite part of the e-mails — the idea that there’s some lawyer trawling blogs for unwinnable defamation suits.

  8. Paul C says

    I just did a google search for “electromyrograms”, “zygomaticaus”, and “corrogator”. According to Google, all 3 words are incorrectly spelled, but the first 2 incorrect versions do link back to the companies web site.

    Following links to Wikipedia I get:

    “Electromyography (EMG) is a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. EMG is performed using an instrument called an electromyograph, to produce a record called an electromyogram.” (NOTE: only has 1 ‘r’ in it.)

    “The zygomaticus major is a muscle of the human body. It is a muscle of facial expression which draws the angle of the mouth superiorly and posteriorly (smile).” (NOTE: Ends in ‘cus’ not ‘caus’)

    “Corrugator may refer to: 1) Corrugator supercilii muscle; 2) Corrugator cutis ani muscle; 3) Machinery used to manufacture corrugated fiberboard used in boxes; 4) A Corrugator is also a machine which is used to produce corrugated plastic pipe.” (‘Corrogator’ is a latin verb, second-person singular future passive imperative of corrogō, which has somthing to do with issueing invitations or collecting donations)

  9. Aaroninmelbourne says

    I love how she calls your posts “opinion” without realizing that it appears to show how it doesn’t seem to be Tortious Interference (I’m not a lawyer but the Wiki page seems to suggest it’s more than “You wrote an opinion about how you weren’t enamored with my business offering”… it also seems to be Common Law not Statute Law but I nitpick) while also giving you legal advice about your ‘case’ despite the fact that lawyers approach their jobs as “giving the side of their clients” (she needs to sack the lawyer who wrote this email for her… *guffaw*); and then she proceeds to issue a veiled threat about your future earning ability and a further threat to file harassing lawsuits to “renew it” regardless of the outcome of any court case.

    I forget, who’s conducting a “campaign” again?

    It seems to me, however, that lawsuits have something in common with murders: people either do it, or they threaten to do it. It doesn’t seem to happen often that people do both.

  10. Trebuchet says

    I came here from Ophelia’s blog, where I immediately thought “Contact Ken at Popehat”. I see he’s beaten me to it!

  11. freemage says

    Wow, that’s some industrial-grade scrambling in her emails. She’s focusing on one particular point that is only slightly relevant (namely, that her ‘service’ is being marketed to producers rather than writers, as your initial column on them suggested). This is only relevant if one assumes that the service is actually significantly useful beyond, as you note, script coverage, and thus possibly of value to a producer (who might have the wherewithal to pay for it as part of the film’s budget).

    At no time, though, has she managed to address the actual defamatory comments–ie, that the service is overpriced for what is being offered, and that the company has failed comically to establish the science behind their claims.

  12. jimsnider67 says

    I would be tempted to write back something to the effect of, “Please, please, PLEASE sue me. I’m BEGGING you. Please go and file the paperwork with the court and sue me. PLEASE DO IT RIGHT NOW. Nothing would be more fun for me than watching you write me a huge check for my legal bills when the judge orders your defamation suit against me dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP laws. And imagine the publicity, a shady pseudoscience peddler trying to silence an online critic with a lawsuit. I’m sure that would do WONDERS for your business.”

  13. says

    Something tells me that Christine hasn’t actually spoken with a lawyer about this, even the attorney that she claims to have reached out to her.

    Maybe it was one of those Nigerian lawyers.

  14. Fern says

    Your postings are such an obvious example of a violation of the statutes that an attorney actually contacted us.

    Yes. Yes, I definitely believe this happened.

    Regardless of the outcome of this slander complaint, I will keep it renewed to forewarn others. Additionally if this lawsuit, whose judgement I will personally keep renewed until every cent I am awarded has been repaid, protects the world from another aggressive blogger with nothing relevant to say, the stress of the court filings will have been worth it because I will have made the world a better place.

    Maybe I don’t know what this means because I’m just an actual real-life lawyer, and not a fancy Internet Lawyer, but… how does one renew a lawsuit?

  15. ekwhite says

    Following up on Gregg’s post, the contact phone number is apparently a cell phone in Gardena, CA.

    Paul C. – the first thing I thought of when I saw “corrogator” was the machine for making corrugated fiberboard.

  16. andyo says

    Ha! I live in Gardena. Trust me, it’s not a city where a company that charges $50 per page of anything, and be moderately successful, would have its HQ.

  17. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Following up on Gregg’s post, the contact phone number is apparently a cell phone in Gardena, CA.

    Like Ma Bell, she’s got the ill communication? She’s the illest mother(bleep)er from here to Gardena?

    /beastie’d

  18. Donnie says

    Personally, I would write a lawyerly sounding letter asking specific questions regarding thr science behind the statements made and umtil such evidence is produced you will update your posts accurately. Continue contact without responding to specific questions will constitute harasment. Then, have a lawyer review it and rewrite under lawyerly terms and letterhead and mail it out to all of her addresses.

    Note: not telling you what you should do, but my opinion as someone not involved and with the financial ability to consult and follow through with a lawyer. Also, “all hail Popehat”. She should be more worried about the tingle in the Popehat than my pontificating (ha!)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Ashley Miller is getting legal threats, from someone who says “From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact” and then promptly sends another email. The threats look very empty, but to be polite I will be careful not to cast aspersions on the enterprise in question. I won’t make any effort not to laugh, though. […]

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