First of all I will be seeking legal advice as soon as I can find someone but in the meantime I wanted to ask what other members thought of this.
I have a buyers guide on widgets monetised through adsense and advertising. The content has been the same for the past 5 years. I got a cease and dessist letter from the most prominent widget brand asking me to remove portions of the content making "commercial statements that are false or misleading under US advertising laws".
Their argument is that these claims may influence negatively buyers behaviour and favour competing brands advertising on my site. They also claim that these comparisons are unfair because they're incomplete. They mention the Lanham Act and the FTC has begun its own investigation into companies that post product reviews that appear to be from disinterested consumers and that they're finding these as false advertising.
Now, the content is meant to present the pros and cons of and these statements that they refer to are conclusions drawn based on reading hundreds of consumer comments on forums, discussion groups, reviews. They are not slander, they are phrased like:
many returns of BRANDNAME are put down to A, B C; people who use BRANDNAME will find it tougher, some people will never get used to BRANDNAME.
What they don't mention in their cease and dessist is all the pros of BRANDNAME that I have on my site. I shall be looking for legal advice but this seems to be a big trademark aggressively trying to bully small websites into removing any negative references to their brand. I am wondering whether including a legal disclaimer to explain where the claims come from (e.g. that they're aggregated conclusions of customer opinions) would be enough.
My other question is: my website is not in the US nor is it hosted in the US and neither is my company. How can I be held liable under US law?
IANAL. But yes it does sound like bullying to me. Your decision is whether you'll call or fold, based on the cards in your hand. And don't think of it as winning or losing - you have nothing to prove and the web owes you nothing - make the decision based on whether it's in your best interest to keep the content or chuck it.
BTW, you are allowed to take that C&D letter and post that on your site, to show the public how BRANDNAME is throwing lawyers around to manipulate public opinion.
If you're feeling cheeky, you can present it like this:
Cons: <p class='superbold'> <a href='letter_from_brandname.html'>THIS CONTENT HAS BEEN REMOVED BY COMMAND OF A CEASE AND DESIST LETTER FROM BRANDNAME. THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO READ ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT. CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER, THEN FORM YOUR OWN OPINION.</a> </p>