Thursday, May 25, 2006

Barbara Bauer vs. Absolute Write: An American Transparency International vs. Moni?

Once again, the corporate world, this time under the name Barbara Bauer is striking out at bloggers, trying to stifle their voice, and prevent negative publicity, just as Transparency International did with Moni two months ago.  And just like in that situation, only bloggers, protecting the community that each of us has helped create, can help insure that free speech is protected and Absolute Write is not stifled.

Absolute Write (notice no link) was a blog with information for writers about writers and publishers.  I found the site a few months ago when I started getting serious about my book, and have referred back to the site on more than a few occasions. It was well written and valuable, providing some of the information not told to aspiring writers, including quite a bit of information on how to avoid being scammed out of your first book.

Absolute Write included a section called Twenty Worst Agents List (this is a reprint of the list, not the original on Absolute Write) which is just what it says it is: a list of 20 literary agents who are out to take your money and/or your work, and who are not looking to help you get published. The list begins with these introductory paragraphs:

Below is a list of the 20 agents about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints during the past several years.

None of these agents has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for “editing services.”

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.

All this is pretty basic stuff, background if you will. But the story got interesting because one of the publishers, Barbara Bauer, took exception to being on the list.  She began with cease and desist letters, then moved to threats of legal suits for libel if her name was not removed from the list. Absolute Writers was undaunted, and kept the list as is.

Bauer, pictured here, would not just fade away into the night, and went back on the offensive. She attacked anyone who republished the list, and the writer of Making Light, where I read about this whole incident, was nearly fired because of Bauer’s attack. But she never stopped going after the source, Absolute Write, and trying to make them remove the list.

Evidently Bauer contacted the ISP that hosts the site, JC-Hosting in Tennessee, and convinced them that, because her email address was posted in the list, it violated the Digital Millennium Copywrite Act. Now I just wasted an hour of my life reading the document, and no where does it prohibit reprinting of an email address. The act is about privacy, code cracking, and copyrighted materials, but does not touch privacy issues, such as reprinting a person’s physical or virtual address.

Evidently, the ISP did no such research, and notified Absolute Write that, within an hour, the site would be pulled down.  The author immediately removed any email addresses to avoid these ramifications, but JC-Hosting evidently didn’t even notice, and yesterday the site was removed.

Sound familiar?  A few months ago I wrote about Moni, a single mother in German who wrote a simple blog about matters that effected her life, including a post about Transparency International’s decision to not to hire her friend full time. While I believe that TI had the right to decide to hire or not hire the woman, there attacks on a simple blogger, simply for expressing her views, including threats of legal action, were wrong!

Back then, bloggers around the world (though less in the United States) were writing on the indiscretions of Transparency in attacking this woman, which was particularly difficult for a company who sells itself on being a fair and impartial arbiter. In the end, the negative publicity was a large part of forcing TI to withdraw their law suit against Moni, though they never informed Moni or her lawyer of this.  

The blogosphere is meant to be a place where individuals like you and I are able to comment openly and hopefully honestly on the world around us. This is right in line with the core principles of democracy, where the power of the media serves as a check and balance for the corporate and political world. And as such I’m a proud member of the blogosphere.

But the people with the power are not used to being questioned so openly and so honestly, and appear willing to do whatever is necessary to stifle the blogger’s voice when it speaks unfavorably about them. And to me, this is just wrong Wrong WRONG!

When one voice is muted, it diminishes all are voices, and we cannot sit still for it.  So I urge everyone here to take a moment, click on Barbara Bauer’s site, use the email address so prominently displayed on the front page, and tell her she should be ashamed of her actions. If nothing else, it will let you know that you have a voice that must be heard.  And at the most, it may help restore this valuable resource for writers.  

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Posted by Scottage at 2:09 PM / | |