Nasty Amazon Review Has Author Suing

Every once in a while, I come across a story that makes me think “REALLY?!” This is one of those stories.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, a British author is suing someone over a negative book review they wrote on Amazon. Yes, really. Apparently, British libel laws are completely different from those of the United States, and this lawsuit is somewhat warranted there.

Author Chris McGrath is suing Vaughn Jones for writing a review — which has since been removed — of his book The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need to Know. He’s also suing Amazon, Richard Dawkins, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation — for whom Jones also wrote an article.

The article also mentions that Jones could not afford representation. That, and the fact that Britain’s dafamation laws generally work in the favor of the claimant make it seem like McGrath is the likely winner here.

To me, the fact that an author could sue over a bad review is ludicrous. Freedom of speech is an obvious right in the United States, and critical reviews are a daily occurrence. The fact that this could cause an uproar in modern times just blows my mind. What do you guys think?

 

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39 Comments

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39 responses to “Nasty Amazon Review Has Author Suing

  1. As a writer, I value freedom of speech a great deal. I just published for Nook a few weeks ago and have yet to receive any kind of review, Shucks, I wouldn’t care if someone trashed it. At least, I’ll know someone read it and it had an affect on them.
    But being sued over your personal opinion is outrages, unless we’re talking about hate or suppression.

  2. If your work has ever been trashed on amazon — where every sane writer knows they have to bite their tongue, no matter how nasty or rude the comments on their work — you’d get it. My new book is highly divisive and I’d had to refrain several times from responding to a few “reviews”, often little more than a witless attack.

    Whether he over-reacted is one thing. Being trashed by people to whom you have no equal right of reply? It’s absurd.

  3. Sandra Buto

    In any job, you are open for criticism, correction, and subjective opinions. You don’t always get the opportunity to respond in a rational, open way. Those of us who are merely readers know enough to look past a review if the materal and the writing samples are truly interesting to us. I have read many books that did not get good critical reviews but that I loved, and vice versa. Also, I recognize a number of reviewers that are always critical or are always positive and I pretty much disregard their input.

  4. Hello, my name is Scrooby a.k.a. Chris McGrath, and as the author of The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need To Know, I privately celebrated the first review that absolutely trashed the book. As a satire, the book was designed to highlight the maddening debate between science and religion where both sides use science to attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God. The self-confessed atheist critic who took the trouble to buy the book and read it was maddened by it and trashed it and he was my personal hero for that week; and he would never have been sued by me in a million years.

    So one might ask, what is it that we’re dealing with? Well, it wasn’t a book review, as has been reported. Libel in the U.K. tackles lies against an individual or company. Those lies can also be aggravated by malice. In the U.K., the person suing is assumed to be in the right from the outset and it is for the defendant to establish any truth, if there is any, or claim fair comment, if any can be claimed, which is made difficult if not impossible if there is malice in the libel.

    LibelReform.org want to change that, so the burden of proof is on the claimant. While that may seem fair at first glance, I think it would be a disaster. As a hypothetical, imagine being attacked and lied about to such a pernicious degree and then having to prove them wrong! It would be an unfair burden on an innocent victim of an attack.

    Free speech is not a licence to lie about companies and people to the detriment of their character and reputation, and certainly not to lie with malicious intent. If we go down that road, individual identity, character and reputation become impossible to protect and then become worthless, and only the state remains. The only society I know where that becomes true is in a Fascist state or a Communist state, and I don’t want to live in either.

    My case is ongoing, but if you really want to begin to know what’s behind this, see this link: http://www.mcgproductionsltd.com/Legal.html

    Regards,
    Scrooby (@scroobytweets)
    a.k.a. Chris McGrath (@mrchrismcgrath)
    Whose family will be been made homeless on 13 December by the cost burden of the case!

    • Wow, Chris. Thank you so much for reaching out and explaining some of what’s going on here. When I saw the initial report about the lawsuit, I had trouble finding out more about it. I appreciate you posting some of the background information here on my site.

      • Lara, Hi.

        Thank you too. It’s your site and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

        Because a small section of the U.K. media jumped the gun on the hearing, knowing I couldn’t say anything specific until it was over, they reported it as an Amazon reviewer trashing a book and the writer getting upset, which was picked up by other media outlets around the world; and if I read that, I would think that it was a ridiculous thing to sue on.

        Being sceptical of news reports is our everyday reality, but I’ve now learned it from first-hand experience, which is something being tackled right now in the U.K. by the brilliant Leveson inquiry with all its famous names giving evidence against the U.K. press: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/evidence/

        Regards,
        Scrooby (@scroobytweets)
        a.k.a. Chris McGrath (@mrchrismcgrath)

      • Apologies to you, Lara! You can see instantly that ‘complaint over a book review’ doesn’t quite cover it.

        The court decision on the defendants’ interim strike-out application is due any time now.

        http://www.mcgproductionsltd.com/Legal.html

        Take care,
        Scrooby,
        a.k.a Chris McGrath

      • I suggest waiting for the judiciary to pass judgement on this case… Because the whole truth of this as defined by “scrooby” (ridiculous name by the way) is in no way representative of the facts……

        The man is slightly delusional ( in my opinion)……. The British justice system will be shown to be fair and just as usual…

        “Scrooby” will lose……………………………………. LOSER………… Ha Ha Ha

    • Jacques Oeuf

      But you got a charging order a whole year before you published your book? So you were already in financial trouble? Eighteen months before these reviews? Yes or no?

    • Mr McGrath AKA Scrooby (or is that Scrooby AKA Mr McGrath???),

      Since the publication of the charging order on your house, which both you and your wife received in 2009, is it not now completely evident that you are conning the court, the other defendants and those interested in the story by claiming that Mr Jones is somehow responsible for you losing your house or that this case has created a huge cost burden for you? How much has it really cost you so fair? £500? Can’t be much more than that really because you are not paying any solicitors to help you with your case. Therefore your financial troubles are entirely your own and were existent long before you even published your book.

      As for the other nonsense on the “legal” area of your website, I would think Mr Jones would have every right to haul your backside in front of the Judge for making wild and baseless accusations about his character based on what are your own delusions and strange attempts to infer that malice was behind his review. On this you will be humbled, I’m sure, and you will probably claim that there is a conspiracy against you.

      Everyone can now read the reviews that were written about your alleged satire campaign which was undressed as a cynical marketing ploy to gain readership. You even gave people a refund according to your site because you must have known, deep down, that you were conning people into buying a book which you blatantly misrepresented. Satire needs to be funny or self evident Mr McGrath and neither were on display in the free chapters you have posted.

      The character assassination of Mr Jones is pointless, because it is irrelevant even if true, but all it does is to deflect the genuine criticism that you now find yourself the centre of for using the court process to shout down a critic of your business practice. Not the business itself, but the practice you were engaged in.

      I’ll feel sorry for what you are putting your wife and children through. If this case has cost you your house, which is unlikely because of the 2009 charging orders, then it is your own fault for not using an alternative method. What about the stress you are putting Mr Jones through? He has 3 children and a wife. What do you stand to win from someone who cannot even afford their own representation? Can one get blood from a stone? It’s all very Christian of you to take this route rather than meet the challenge head on. You have just cut your nose off to spite your face. Your character assassination of Mr Jones will simple prove to people who are reading about the case that you are playing the man and not the ball. Again, very Christian of you.

      How much damage did your reputation suffer? Any reputation damage, if any caused, is your own doing in taking a legal route to settle an argument. The sad story behind this is your ego.

    • wayne

      Hi Scrooby. I have some spare houses that will take housing benefit if you are interested as that’s all you are worth you massive fraud. I hope this case finishes you off for the pathetic attempt of a human being you really are. Sad sad individual.

  5. Wow, that’s absoluely ridiculous.

    • Andrew R

      I need to read what the reviewer wrote. If all he did was bash the writer and his abilities then nothing should be done. If the reviewer crossed the line and wrote lies and caused some harm then a law suit is in order. Bottom line is see what he is suing about before anyone can say a suit is unjustified.

  6. Janet M

    The person with the ‘problem’ here is Mr McGrath AKA ‘Scrooby’ who seems to be doing far more damage to himself and his family than is justified. He writes a rubbish book which attracts very little attention until one quite bright and intelligent, perhaps too intelligent, young man sees it and comments. McG picks on this and creates a court case which has resulted, according to him, in his families welfare being destroyed even though he was in financial difficulties long before this. He was a Litigant in Person in this also so had little in the way of costs. As I understand it, the defence against the ‘libel’ is that very few people were interested in it at all and that those who were saw nothing more than an honest review of a crap publication. McG’s defence is to dis the reviewer as a BNP sympathiser and Nazi, also ‘child stalker’ which even if true, is totally irrelevant to the case and makes Mr G look like an idiot. Yet he has continued to libel the defendant in this way despite the distress this must be causing the defendant and his family, who seem to be handling this with dignity. I am hoping that in rehousing Mr McG the local authority will treat his family with sympathy and help them and refer Mr McG to the Salvation Army Hostel. I have never met Mr McG or Mr Jones so am not taking sides but consider that we have two families in distress here and hope justice is done,
    .

  7. Sandra Buto

    Someone help me out here. I am not clear on Chris’s perspective. Is it that in the book review, personal attacks on his character were made in lieu of just criticism of the book and writing?

  8. Rugbymad

    Having followed the case quite closely I believe the only “crime ” Mr Jones is guilty of is giving a very crap book a bad review, ooooops almost forgot he outed scrooby as McG, what a pratt writing a book, publishing it yourself and then using scrooby to give it a good review ???? and then the only libel I can see that has been committed is actually against Mr Jones who appears to have taken all the name calling very well and handled himself wit great dignity unlike McG who even now is trying to say the book was a parody, was it **** maybe McG could take this story and sell it…….. mmmm maybe not he didn’t do that good a job on the first one did he? lets just hope he gets what he deserves out on the street.

  9. Please can you elaborate on why you are suing the four parties for supposedly libellous words written on both Amazon and Dawkins sites, but yet here on this blog you state this.
    “Because a small section of the U.K. media jumped the gun on the hearing, knowing I couldn’t say anything specific until it was over, they reported it as an Amazon reviewer trashing a book and the writer getting upset, which was picked up by other media outlets around the world; and if I read that, I would think that it was a ridiculous thing to sue on”
    AND HERE – on your own site
    “This libel case is not about a book review, nor strident commentary, nor insults; all of which have been suggested in the vacuum of balanced information in the run up to the recent High Court hearing — That’s trivia, and has no place in a High Court.”

    OK – I agree – it is a ridiculous thing to sue on, so why are you bringing a claim for precisely those things you claim it is not about?
    Are you confused? Did you file the wrong claim with the court?

    It seems odd that in your actions – you have caused more harm to your “reputation” than Mr Jones or any other party – because I know I look at you and wonder what exactly your thoughts are in dragging such a ridiculous case through the courts? You have attracted attention that seems pretty damaging to you and your company.

    I have found some other religious books on Amazon – and they have some pretty scathing, negative reviews, but I don’t see these authors embarking on Libel cases. Why are you so different?
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/0595341829/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt_sr_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/0061173940/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt_sr_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar

    I see on your site you blame Mr Jones for losing your house, but as also mentioned you are litigant in person, so where exactly is the costs incurred to you.
    Perhaps if you put the same focus into your job or business that you clearly have into this ludicrous legal action, you would find that you would be quite a successful individual. I also noticed you are embroiled in legal action with Nike – and it makes me think you are just focused on pursuing legal claims in the hope of a quick payout to solve your personal financial problems.

    I see some other very good comments on this blog – and I hope you are able to come back and address them because I have seen this case in the press and online, and it is very interesting indeed.

  10. Naturally, what follows is my opinion and is in no way intended to be a statement of fact (best cover myself on this one!)

    I’ve been following this case closely myself, and the only conclusion I could reasonably reach was that it was a massive case of butthurt. It just *seems* that Mr Scrooby was not only outraged that anyone could think his book was bad (based on the free chapters posted, I’d say that’s being generous), but that having being unmasked as Mr McG, something which would have suggested his publishing effort was more about vanity than anything else, he lashed out and tried to find anything he could in the review that he could get legal on Mr Jones for.

    I read the free chapters posted by Mr Scrooby and they gave me absolutely no hint whatsoever that the work was anything other than a serious attempt (albeit a misguided one) to demonstrate the idea that science has missed the marked when it comes to god’s existence. The defence that it was intended as a satire seems, to me, to be rather hollow and smacks of the age-old “I WAS JOKING!!!” retort when someone gets called out for having said something silly/offensive/hideously wrong.

    I have very little doubt that Mr Jones is the innocent party in all this, especially since Mr Scrooby seems to feel the need to sling mud in order to blacken Mr Jones’ character rather than concentrating on the facts at hand. If his accusation of libel is as solid as he claims then such comments are totally unwarranted and serve only to open Mr Scrooby up to a libel action of his own (especially since, having seen the comments which he claims mark Mr Jones out as a BNP sympathiser, it is quite clear that they are not meant seriously at all – perhaps Mr Jones could offer lessons to Mr Scrooby on how to make it obvious one is being satirical?)

  11. Paul

    If i were the legal representatives for the Defendants in this case, id be pondering an application for security as to costs as its quite clear the claimant is in financial difficulties and therefore i would have to question the Claimants ability to pay the costs when they fall due.

    Its often the case that people launch litigation without fully reflecting on the costs which they are likely to face if it goes wrong.

    I must admit, from my reviewing of this case, i do question whether it should have seen the inside of the Court at all.

    Also i note the claimant takes issue with the publication of his childrens names on the internet yet he himself promotes them in the Milton Keynes local paper?? Kettle – Pot? seems to me you cannot criticise conduct that you take part in yourself, double standards anyone?

  12. Janet M

    Some good responses on this site – suggest that Mr McG come back and give his opinion – or maybe too busy packing!

  13. I think we all now have the measure of “McScrooby” and his attempt to play lawyer. Why won’t he respond to the simple allegation that his financial problems existed long before his book was even published and, as a consequence, accusing Mr Jones of being somehow responsible for him having his familial home repossessed is not only a heinous lie but defamatory to Mr Jones. It somehow implies that Mr Jones set out to destroy McScrooby’s life on some level when the intention, as can be seen from all of the posts available online, was to bring an author to account who was writing fake reviews in support of his own book. Claiming that it was all a joke or a “send up” of the marketing deceits of the 21st century is pure fantasy. McScrooby was simply caught out being deceitful and then claimed it was all a joke when Mr Jones revealed that McGrath was Scrooby and therefore responsible for the whole charade. This is more than obvious to any person reading the nonsense he has posted.

    McScrooby has been extremely vocal on his own website against Mr Jones and the other parties. He has also been vocal here suggesting that the case is not all it seems when, in fact, the case is very simple indeed and smacks of opportunism. People can obtain a copy of the court documents for themselves (as McScrooby points out). Were others minded to read the junk claim that McScrooby has submitted they would know the EXACT case he has submitted to the court and would probably be even more outspoken against this oxygen thief.

    McScrooby cannot hide from the public forum this case now resides in. He will have to answer to people who know what he has done. Is he man enough I wonder to engage with the deceit he has committed and answer the people who criticise his conduct? I somehow doubt it. I feel really sorry for his family in being dragged through his egotistical claim. It seems they have suffered at the hands of his delusional mind for long enough.

    • Janet M

      Well said – think this is what a lot of people are feeling

    • Paul

      I quite agree, the comments suggesting Mr Jones has in some way been responsible for the loss of Mr Mcgraths home is clearly likely to lower peoples opinion of Mr Jones , especially those who are only reading the Claimants side of the story. I do think that the comments are damaging to Mr Jones reputation and maybe he would be best served seeking proper legal advice on this with a view to bringing a counterclaim in these proceedings?

  14. Rugbymad

    The problem with that Paul is scrooby dooby doo has nothing left that would cost Mr Jones so not much point really, just wait for them to kick the pratt out on to the street, then find the cardboard box he is living in and all go and point at him and laugh that would surely make us all feel better 🙂

  15. I have read that Mr McGrath will be staying in his property after all. This is extremely good news for his wife and kids who didn’t deserve to be placed under the pressure of being made homeless. It begs the question why Mr McGrath has previously claimed that he had already lost his house when clearly no such action had been taken. He then has the temerity to blame Mr Jones for losing a house which, er, hadn’t been lost at all.

    And Mr McGrath still refuses to engage with people who have legitimately asked him whether his financial problems existed before his book was even published? It should be obvious that the reason he refuses to do so is because his problems did exist and that his financial situation is entirely of his own making.

    Shame on him for libelling Mr Jones with his fantasies and sympathy woven stories. I hope others see through it as I have done.

  16. Janet M

    Yes – confirmed by his web site. BUT still blaming the case which HE brought and what exactly is his ‘cost burden’??

    http://www.mcgproductionsltd.com/Legal.html

    • I don’t think that Mr McGrath is overly burdened in this case over and above the work he has made for himself. He is suing Nike too apparently and brought this action against 4 defendants for goodness sakes. Was there a better way to settle this case without recourse to the courts? I suspect that there was but, let’s not forget, that wouldn’t create any publicity for Mr McGrath. Issuing proceedings against some big hitters looks good on paper but the reality is hitting Mr McGrath on the backside as it rightly should.

      He’s a gutless and spineless wimp when it comes down to it hence his absence from the reasonable discussion being held here. Many of us knew he was unable to fight his corner on this and his absence proves everyone right about him. I hope the mainstream media pick up on this discussion in some way because they will see that Mr McGrath is trying to cause trouble for Mr Jones by making it clear that Mr Jones is somehow responsible for Mr McGrath “losing” his home when the truth is completely different. Mr McGrath has struggled to pay his mortgage for some time hence the 2 charging orders. Nothing Mr Jones has done has affected Mr McGrath’s income/expenditure. That should be obvious to anyone reading into this case.

      Grow up Mr McGrath and do the decent thing if you can (whatever that may be in your deluded eyes).

  17. Paulo McGrath

    Nothing unusual over in the UK, The libel laws are changing under pressure but the law firms have adapted a new stance. instead of libel lets just call it harassment, the criteria is easier criteria for a Plaintiff to win.

    Plaintiff can simply obtain an injunction and claim

    See “The Law Society v Rick Kordowski” and
    Kordowski had been successfully sued for libel 16 times

    “Edwin Coe LLP a Law Firm v Stephen Jones” dated December 15th 2011. . In the case of Jones no successful Libel suits against him, but apparently only two factors then a firm can claim harassment just by the defendant writing negatively about them even if the statements are totally true.

    So any company in the UK can just say we don’t like post and then claim harassment.

    Top lawyers cost in Harassment Cases £20,000
    Top Lawyers cost in Libel Cases £150,000

    The Jones name is Welsh, they speak there minds. You can guess whats going to happen. Uproar.

  18. Kevin

    The ludicrous case brought by Chris McGrath should be thrown out. No judge could possibly let that proceed. His attempt to blame everyone else for his troubles and attack the defendant is shameful.

    As for all of the above comments I consider them the truth and honest comment as I am following the case. But beware – that makes no difference nowadays. In fact it may be worse. All Chris McGrath has to do is turn up to court with the comments here and a harrassment claim and the judge will rule in his favour. If you do not believe me read the judgement in Law Society V Kordowski and Edwin Coe LLP V Jones when it comes out. Websites closed down on a whim. You may say these people overstepped the mark but read some of the comments made by the judges which have serious and wider implications for all bloggers everywhere in England and Wales. You will be shocked.

    This article will give you an idea of what is happening………

    http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2011/12/they-think-its-all-over-solicitors-from.html
    Mr Kordowski continued : “My argument was (and still is) that the current libel laws are sufficient to protect the defamed. However, Justice Tugendhat states that even if I could prove that every single listing was true and justified or of honest opinion that harassment & data protection laws supersede the current libel laws. Which is quite simply outrageous.”

  19. Paul

    lol i dunno where your getting your figures from, but heres a better example

    Harrison v Link Financial Limited EWHC B3 Mercantile

    case involving “Harassment”

    Costs in that case were circa £80k for the Claimant and about the same if not more for the Defendant.

    So its not quite true what you say about costs of harassment cases. What bothers me more is that this claim has been launched by a person whom is it seems in financial difficulties and whom is likely to incur large costs for all the Defendants and if he loses it is unlikely he will be able to service those costs

  20. Let the guy sue and let the guy win. And then don’t pay him a single penny! After all, the USA is unlikely to help the UK enforce that lawsuit.

  21. Edwin Coe LLP Law Firm v Stephen Jones The Ludicrous Lawyers From La La Land win again/ think they won. There is no freedom to speak in the UK. The Judge well need we say anymore wants to write about my cousin, Interesting I can see this turning out to be a shooting match.

    Lets change the rules of engagement

    The USA Freedom of Speech Campaign v Edwin Coe LLP & Judge (Judy Eady)

  22. Looks like Mr McGrath ran away from this debate. It has not escaped our attention that he has also wrote more libellous material on his own website about Mr Jones. Does Mr McGrath not realise that people can read themselves? I read some of the quotes and I can’t quite work out why McGrath is saying that Mr Jones wrote one of them when any idiot can clearly see that it was written by the person Mr Jones was in a debate with.

    Quoting out of context too by the looks of it. It seems Mr McGrath can’t quite help himself can he? And this is a guy who is presenting himself as some sort of intellectual on the question of god? I think he needs to go back to school to be honest where the education system clearly failed him last time around.

    I can’t wait to hear what Mr Jones has to say about all of this to be honest. I hope he has handed Mr McGrath his backside in court where it matters. If Mr Jones loses it will be a sad day for free speech IMHO. It’s time people like McGrath were told that they should not be using the law in this unethical way to bring misery and disruption to people’s lives.

    Mr Jones is a hero for standing up to the clown.

  23. Loverat

    Indeed – Mcgrath is a total and utter fool . Just like Nigel Smith (another libel fool) who pulled a similar stunt. They both need reporting to the cops for the stuff they have have done. Bang out of order and the idiots deserve one another!

  24. David J Mudkips

    Good news from Mr Jones!

    RT @vaughanjones82: Case struck out #libelreform and claimant to pay £75k

    Unsurprisingly, ScroobyMcG is butthurt – http://www.mcgproductionsltd.com/JUDGEMENT_IN_LIBEL_CASE.html

    So there we go. Thanks to everyone in the comments, and to Lara, for being such a convenient precis of the situation

    • Janet M

      Great result for Vaughan! Maybe he and his family will get some peace now. Exactly one year since Vaughan got this rubbish – on 1st April and thought it was a joke!

  25. Paul

    Judgment was correct in my view.

    £75k costs
    3 months to pay
    Justice is done 🙂

    If he tries to appeal then i would say it will be like the dodo, dead and flightless.

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