Thursday, January 24, 2013

Now, Lance Armstrong's books will test whether authors (and publishers) can be liable for "fraud"


Can authors be sued, in a class action, because a non-fiction account they write isn’t true?
This isn’t about defamation or libel, where truth is an absolute defense (in the US).  It is about the idea that the book-purchasing consumer has been defrauded or deceived.

Carolyn Kellogg has a story in the Los Angeles Times about a class action suit against cyclist Lance Armstrong for fraud in his 2000 book “It’s Not About the Bike”, published by Putnam in 2000, as well as “Every Second Counts”, published by Broadway in 2003.
Amazon shows both books as available at bargain price from Amazon’s Prime service. 

A Toronto Star story by Curtis Rush indicates that publishers are defendants as well, for "conspiracy",  The suit was filed in California and the plaintiffs are Rob Stutzman and Jonathan Wheeler.

Practically all publishers require authors to indemnify them, so it sounds very unlikely the publishers could be on the hook (it’s rather like a Section 230 for print).  
There was a similar suit against Greg Mortensen for “Three Cups of Tea:  One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time” in Montana, which was dismissed.  That lawsuit had alleged that the publisher (Penguin) was part of a “conspiracy”.  

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