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MetaFilter Founder Says Vacation Firm Forged Court Docs To Scotch Review 116

Posted by timothy
from the but-such-a-nice-film-festival dept.
IonOtter (629215) writes Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter, has challenged a Cease & Desist letter from Sundance Vacations, a seller of time-shares with a reputation for aggressive sales tactics and suppression of criticism. Only this time, it seems that the plaintiff may have forged court documents ordering Mr. Haughey, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to remove any and all mentions of the links and posts in question. Legal blog Popehat has picked this up as well, prompting Ken White to wryly note, "...Sundance Vacations is about to learn about the Streisand Effect." The story is gaining traction, and being picked up by Boing-Boing, as well as hitting the first page of search results on Google.
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MetaFilter Founder Says Vacation Firm Forged Court Docs To Scotch Review

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  • wrong problem... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The real problem is that, for some reason, a court DID order that entity A
    "who was no longer allowed to speak negatively about the company online".

    How exactly we've created a judicial system with arbitrary power like that is the problem.

    Now the uberpower judicial system will (rightfully) attack Sundance Vacations, and we can all rejoice. Rejoice in the power we've given dudes in robes to declare "i am the law!".

    • by CaptSlaq (1491233)

      The real problem is that, for some reason, a court DID order that entity A "who was no longer allowed to speak negatively about the company online".

      How exactly we've created a judicial system with arbitrary power like that is the problem.

      Now the uberpower judicial system will (rightfully) attack Sundance Vacations, and we can all rejoice. Rejoice in the power we've given dudes in robes to declare "i am the law!".

      Paging Judge Dredd...

      • In cases like these regular old judges can dish out the hurt just fine.

        If theres anyone you really really do not want to get on the bad side of, its a judge (or the courts).

      • by Megol (3135005)

        He is already resident.

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          He is already resident.

          But only for one week a year and he doesn't get to pick the week.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Well, there are anti-libel and slander laws which could legitimately be brought to bare on one company speaking negatively about another.
      • Well, there are anti-libel and slander laws which could legitimately be brought to bare on one company speaking untruthfully about another.

        FTFY

    • by bugnuts (94678)

      Libelous statements are made every day, designed to harm. Harming someone by lying is blatantly illegal. Sure it happens on teen TV shows and IRL often enough, but consider a systematic system of making false bad reviews about a company. It will harm them financially, and the perp should be held liable, and the courts should have the power to stop them.

      And once found out and served an injunction, if the court order is violated they will rightfully be jailed since they clearly can't be trusted to not break t

    • by CauseBy (3029989)

      "How exactly we've created a judicial system with arbitrary power like that is the problem."

      It's not arbitrary, and we did it with democracy.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @01:53PM (#47818461) Homepage
    SV is not going to care about the Streisand Effect if they are in prison for the next 40 years, which is something that happens when you forge court documents.
    • SV is not going to care about the Streisand Effect if they are in prison for the next 40 years, which is something that happens when you forge court documents.

      Not to corporate entities it doesn't. If they can pin the forged document to a single person, then maybe, but the way these things usually shake out they never do, the company pays a tiny fine and on they go.

      • by barc0001 (173002)

        No, I don't think you understand how this goes. A corporation normally breaks the law and shows up in court will pin it on procedure or some scapegoat and mainly get off with a fine and that's that. This on the other hand is not breaking a law and ending up in court, it's pretending to issue documents on behalf of said court. That is a challenge to their authority that the courts will not let stand. Even the scummiest of RIAA lawyer is not stupid enough to do something like this because they know that t

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Is this really a forgery of a court document? It's only a forgery of a facsimile of a court document, with no possibility whatsoever of it being confused by anyone of being a real piece of paper from a court. Likewise, you're not forging money if you have a GIF of a dollar bill.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Imagine a world where it was legal to run up to people on the street, punch them in the face and take their money, and it was illegal to fight back.

    Most "normal" people wouldn't do that because they know inflicting pain on random people for personal gain is wrong. But a subset of society would become muggers because it would be an easy way to make money.

    Now punching wouldn't work on everyone because some people are big, some people are tough, some people are immune to pain, and some wannabe punchers aren't

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Deleted in 2008 [wikipedia.org]:

    Current article is a POV rant that lacks notability and the article has historically swung from a POV rant to a POV brochure, mainly edited by single purpose accounts. Despite repeated requests, sourcing is from poor or primary sources. The lack of good, reliable secondary sources means there is no way to produce an article with appropriate balance and suggests the company is not notable enough for an article in the first place. Recommend deletion.SiobhanHansa 14:41, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

    Not re-created since???

    • by julesh (229690)

      Deleted in 2008 [wikipedia.org]:

      Current article is a POV rant that lacks notability and the article has historically swung from a POV rant to a POV brochure, mainly edited by single purpose accounts. Despite repeated requests, sourcing is from poor or primary sources. The lack of good, reliable secondary sources means there is no way to produce an article with appropriate balance and suggests the company is not notable enough for an article in the first place. Recommend deletion.SiobhanHansa 14:41, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

      Not re-created since???

      Nope, and still not likely to be accepted as [a]n organization is not notable merely because a notable person or event was associated with it. [wikipedia.org] As all coverage of this organization I can see is either (1) not in a reliable source or (2) relates to this specific incident, there are still no "good reliable secondary sources" as the deletion reason you quoted above put it, so a new article would likely be immediately deleted. There may be enough coverage for an article about the incident, though.

  • Do not ever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:10PM (#47818601)
    talk or deal with a time share seller. I'm surprised they don't hold guns to people's heads.

    A few years back, my better half and I got snookered into one of these meetings with a time share outfit - Do not remember who. They managed to disguise themselves as a "Vacation club" with "special deals".

    When we got there ,it was apparent in a New York city minute that it was a time share. But we decided it might be fun to sit in on. Big Mistake.

    So we listened to the spiel from the salesman about the place, looked at the sample apartment setup, and then asked about the price.

    He must have figured he had us on the hook at that point. But my wife and I then whipped out the calculators. Given that the time-share was essentially a mortgage grade loan, It was pretty easy to see that it would cost us about 7Kilobucks a year for one week we couldn't control, just for the roof over our heads. Not travel, not food, notthing but a condo type apartment. And that their mortgage setup would take us into our 80's. And that we'd end up billed for repairs as in a condo association.

    After we pointed that out, things got weird pretty quickly. Dude would not stop, despite us telling him we just weren't interested. We even told him that we didn't care about the "free weekends" at their other resorts, and didn't even want them, because we would probably have to listen to another sales pitch.

    Dude even blocked the doorway after we got up and tried to leave. I eventually threatened to call the police, and he finally gave up.

    • Re:Do not ever (Score:5, Informative)

      by radtea (464814) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:16PM (#47818651)

      Dude even blocked the doorway after we got up and tried to leave. I eventually threatened to call the police, and he finally gave up.

      I was at a home show a while back and talked to a guy whose entire business was "getting people out of timeshare agreements".

      That's how awful time-shares are, and how effective they are at bullying people into bad decisions: breaking time-share agreements is a viable business model!

      • Re:Do not ever (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:25PM (#47818735) Homepage Journal

        The sad part is, they don't. There is no method to break a time share agreement. So I'm trying something new: I got out of the mortgage by defaulting on the loan, and then with that paper in my possession, which destroyed my credit rating anyway, I stopped paying maintenance fees entirely on the grounds that I did not own the condo and the damn condo association could take me to court over it.

        They never did. My credit recovered after 10 years. New maintenance fees come on every year, I don't pay a penny of them, the ones that are 7 years old get dropped. They can sue my estate after I die, but I have the full amount in savings to pay them off at that point. The company itself has changed hands so often that I could probably make a good case in court for bad recordkeeping. I get 4 letters a year from them- one inviting me to vote in the condo association, three trying to get me to make good on the debt.

        • by thaylin (555395)
          debt over 4 years like that in most places cannot be collected, and over 7 years cannot be put on your credit report. If they are sending you notices after all this time you should contact a consumer lawyer, they can be forced to stop, and to pay you several thousand per violation.
          • by gurps_npc (621217)
            They are sending him a notice on the yearly fees, which is not old. It is new debt, created each year.

            He would need a court order declaring who the new owner and force them to correct their records.

          • by ewieling (90662)
            At far as I can tell the clock starts ticking on the 7 year statute of limitations when the debt is written off, NOT when it was incurred.
            • You are mostly correct. While the 2 or 4 year limit to collect on a debt is based on a statute of limitations from the last account activity by the consumer (not when it was incurred), the 7 year credit report limit is based on the last time the credit status was reported to the agency, and the creditors are not allowed to report after the debt is written off. Each report on the same account is independent, so as the 7 year timeframe approaches, the 7+ year old reports disappear leaving only those less th
            • by Lehk228 (705449)
              statute of limitations starts running when the default occurs (some number of days after the nominal due date, often 30)
        • The sad part is, they don't. There is no method to break a time share agreement.

          Amazing, so they're both a scam. Probably working with each other. Time-share salesman sells a timeshare to someone, then gives that someone's name to his "time-share breaker upper" friend, while they both laugh to the bank.

      • by barc0001 (173002)

        > breaking time-share agreements is a viable business model!

        There's also a secondary market for purchasing other peoples' bad timeshare investments at a loss. So if you are for some crazy reason interested in the idea of a timeshare, DO NOT buy from the company outright. Shop the reseller market to see what kind of a deal you can get.

    • Re:Do not ever (Score:5, Interesting)

      by taustin (171655) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:18PM (#47818679) Homepage Journal

      Dude even blocked the doorway after we got up and tried to leave. I eventually threatened to call the police, and he finally gave up.

      Do not threaten to call the police. Just pull out your phone and call 911. Unlawful imprisonment is a crime everywhere in the civilized world. Look him right in the eye as you dial 911, then tell him (before you talk to the dispatcher) "The police are already on their way, and there's nothing you can do to stop that. If I don't talk to the dispatcher before they get here, they'll be that much more likely to tase somebody. Who do you think that will be? The guy who called them, or the sleazy sales douche they'll probably recognize from previous complaints?"

      Or just make a citizen's arrest, then call 911.

      (And if he touches you, especially in attempt to stop you from talking to the police, it's a felony.)

      If someone is with you, with their own smart phone, have them video the entire confrontation. Prosecutors love videos of crimes being committed.

      • by mmell (832646)
        Gee, you've missed the opportunity to consider it assault (which doesn't require physical contact, incidentally). I wonder how that dude would take to a mouth full of bloody Chicklets?
        • Re:Do not ever (Score:5, Informative)

          by taustin (171655) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @03:57PM (#47819707) Homepage Journal

          As described, it wasn't assault, as no explicit threats were made. (Generally speaking, most states, assault is the threat, battery is the attack.) But if the guy blocked the exit, you tell him once that you're leaving, and either he gets out of the way, or it's unlawful imprisonment. Which is what I said. Unlikely any arrest will be made, or charges brought if it is, but it gets a police report filed on the guy, and that's a step towards convincing him that other crimes are less hazardous to his well being.

          • I still like the thought of thrashing dufus severely about the head and shoulders.
            • by taustin (171655)

              Then provoke them in to committing a felony against you. Most states, that gives you a wide range of responses, especially if you're making a citizen's arrest at the time.

              • by Yakasha (42321)

                Then provoke them in to committing a felony against you. Most states, that gives you a wide range of responses, especially if you're making a citizen's arrest at the time.

                In most states, provocation gives you a wide range of sentences, not responses.

                George Zimmerman was acquitted because he did not provoke Martin.
                Trevor Dooley was convicted because he did provoke David James.

            • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

              I still like the thought of thrashing dufus severely about the head and shoulders.

              Oh yeah! In any event, the situation was defused without violence. But yeah, the thought of latin him one upside the head. was tempting. But as I say, we were on vacation, and that would have really complicated things.

          • by Yakasha (42321)

            Generally speaking, most states, assault is the threat, battery is the attack.

            Assault is an attempt to, or threat to, strike somebody.
            Battery is successfully striking somebody.

            To put it another way, assault is defined as attempted battery.

      • Ya, Totally waste the rest of your day talking to the police so you can have the police give the sales person a talking to.
      • Too many words. Start recording, announce that he's holding you against your will, then barge out. If you make it out the door, you're done. If you don't, then whatever he did to stop you just got you a free timeshare for life and a nice side settlement to cover the travel.

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        If someone is with you, with their own smart phone, have them video the entire confrontation. Prosecutors love videos of crimes being committed.

        I understand th esentiment, but that would have made fo a heck of a vacation, plus travel for a court case. Guy just needed to let us get on with our life.

        Now on the other hand, if he had laid a hand on me? I'm an ex Ice Hockey player, and well shucks - that would have been a mistake on his part.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      Have you seen the South Park episode Asspen? [wikipedia.org]
      • by BigT (70780)

        If you french fry when you're supposed to pizza, you're gonna have a bad time.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      In the SF bay area, back when trendy upscale (expensive) gyms were happening, salescreatures would use such tactics. Usually an overmuscled "coach" blocking the door. It could get tense if the rube wanted out.

      • In the SF bay area, back when trendy upscale (expensive) gyms were happening, salescreatures would use such tactics. Usually an overmuscled "coach" blocking the door. It could get tense if the rube wanted out.

        I presume that tends to occur only in states with strict laws on who can carry a concealed weapon.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          In the SF bay area, back when trendy upscale (expensive) gyms were happening, salescreatures would use such tactics. Usually an overmuscled "coach" blocking the door. It could get tense if the rube wanted out.

          I presume that tends to occur only in states with strict laws on who can carry a concealed weapon.

          Yes. California, specifically.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          In the SF bay area, back when trendy upscale (expensive) gyms were happening, salescreatures would use such tactics. Usually an overmuscled "coach" blocking the door. It could get tense if the rube wanted out.

          I presume that tends to occur only in states with strict laws on who can carry a concealed weapon.

          Despite the presumend good manners in states witout any particular gun laws, I was taught do not show the weapon unless I was going to use it.

          • by Nonesuch (90847)

            Despite the presumend good manners in states witout any particular gun laws, I was taught do not show the weapon unless I was going to use it.

            Good manners agree with you, but the "brandishing" law varies by state. If they're not directly threatening violence, easiest to just pick up the phone in the room, dial 9-911, and let the situation resolve itself without violence.

    • Dude even blocked the doorway after we got up and tried to leave. I eventually threatened to call the police, and he finally gave up.

      Happened to me to, I literally walked into a timeshare sales pitch like that... I walked in, thinking it was a gift shop and got trapped as the sale guy blocked the exit and put both hands in the door way so we couldn't leave and had to listen to his sale pitch. Within about 10 seconds I realized what was going on and tried to leave but the guy wouldn't let me through the doorway. I threw a punch, he moved so as not to get a broken nose. You try to prevent me from leaving a room, you're getting hit, I'm mor

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I did one of these talks once, in my twenties. Just put a business card in a bowl at a restaurant that advertised "win a free vacation" or such. But it was a time share talk, I just had to listen to a spiel, then spin the wheel and see what prize I got. The sales guy was doing the hard sell, telling me how much money I'd save if I did this now. But it was a for a one or two week a year time share for a cabin in the hills near Gilroy (not well know for being a vacation area). I said it didn't seem like

    • by DrXym (126579)
      I can't see why anyone would agree to timeshare or possibly contemplate it representing good value. It's easy to book a hotel or rent apartments virtually anywhere in the world, usually from private owners for reasonable fees according to time of year and location.

      All these timeshare deals involve a very large lump sum down up front and then resort management fees and other hidden charges. And I'm sure they'd be pushing to loan this lump sum for usurious rates. By the time it's all added up it's probably

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        I can't see why anyone would agree to timeshare or possibly contemplate it representing good value. It's easy to book a hotel or rent apartments virtually anywhere in the world, usually from private owners for reasonable fees according to time of year and location.

        And how! If I want to spend 7K for the place ot stay for a week, I can get some really nice digs.

        No loan, on my schedule, and much superior experience.

        All these timeshare deals involve a very large lump sum down up front and then resort management fees and other hidden charges. And I'm sure they'd be pushing to loan this lump sum for usurious rates. By the time it's all added up it's probably far more expensive than booking somewhere and that's before considering the lump sum is in the bank or there i

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:58PM (#47819031) Homepage

    Sundance Vacations is a company/corporation, as such it cannot do things. It is individuals who do things on behalf of company. This is important. The court is going to be very pissed off with forged court orders being used. They should prosecute the individuals who did this forgery and fine them personally and massively or even better put then in jail.

    If Sundance Vacations is made to pay a fine, then this will be seen as part of the cost of doing business. The criminals who did this will not really suffer much and just be more careful the next time that they want to threaten someone. If the individuals have to pay the penalty then hopefully this will stop this ever hppening again - not only at Sundance Vacations but at other corporations that might think of doing this.

    There is not enough personal liability within corporations for criminal actions with the result that crooks try all sorts of things knowing that at the very worst they could lose their job and have to find another. If individuals have to pay the penalty (money and/or jail) this sort of thing would be less likely and we would all be better off.

    • It is awfully entertaining to picture the entire company, from the CEO down to the poor bewildered intern frantically protesting that she's not even a real employee, being dragged off in handcuffs to jail, though...
    • by AdamThor (995520)

      And yet, a corporation is a person.

      • And yet, a corporation is a person.

        True, that is so that laws of property & similar can be made to apply to corporations, ie so that they can own things, pay taxes, .... However: a coproation does not have arms & legs so it cannot write documents, send emails, etc. These things have to be done by people on behalf of the company, typically these are employees. It is these people who should be made to be held responsible for what they have done with their arms & legs.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          However: a coproation does not have arms & legs so it cannot write documents, send emails, etc. These things have to be done by people on behalf of the company, typically these are employees. It is these people who should be made to be held responsible for what they have done with their arms & legs.

          Does this also mean that any product made by, say, General Motors, actually belongs to the people who used their arms & legs to build them? Or does it only apply when it happens to benefit the corpor

      • by lgw (121541)

        Only in the sense that we're not going to write two entire legal codes, one that says "person" and one that says "corporation" in every law. And a good thing too, or our current zoo of congresscritters would "forget" to mirror laws saying that "a person or persons" can't do X with laws restricting corporations.

        For criminal law individuals are usually still guilty of whatever act they did, regardless of employment. However, in cases where there's no individual equivalent (e.g., knowingly endangering people

      • If a corporation is a person, then it should be possible to put it in jail for its crimes.
  • As badly as the 'originators' try to kill the secondary market by creating false problems, it still makes far more sense to buy timeshares on the secondary market.

    All of the 'freebies' they offer never make up for the basic fact that sellers are desperate. The complex stuff they offer is only there to hide the fact that the primary market is a rip off in comparison.

    Of course, you do need to accept the fact that you get less 'choice' on the secondary market. Still, it always makes more sense, if you can

  • I want to see them subjected to the Hood effect [state.ms.us], named for the Attorney General of Mississippi.

    As a coincidence, the headline of the current most recent "Latest News" item on the Attorney General's website is "Pontotoc Woman Going to Prison for Forgery."

    • It's odd how you were inspired to make a link for your Hood effect, but it's not to a website or article explaining what the Hood effect is. Neither does Google seem to find any good quick explanation of it. That was very helpful, thank you.

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @03:23PM (#47819289)
    This whole thing was just a big prank, and there was no crime involved.

    Sincerely,
    Sundance Vacations
  • I suspect it will be enough for them to rebrand themselves. They probably run several brands already. The sad part is the way they are allowed to operate that way at all.
  • I never MetaFilter I didn't like.

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