First, a quick recap:
It started back in March, 2006 when Absolute Write, a website for writers, posted a list of what they called the 20 Worst Agents.
Complaints from the named agents caused the web server for Absolute Write to shut the site down. That was enough to cause all the prominent writer websites to begin publishing the list so that everywhere you looked online you could find it.
Absolute Write had to find another server. The Writer Beware website accepted the job of keeping the list of 20 Worst Agents updated. You can find it here.
Of course, the fabulous Miss Snark (MS) couldn't resist poking her stiletto heel into the controversy. She posted the list on 3/17/06.
Most of the people listed on the worst agent website had the good sense to keep their mouths shut or to change their agencies' names rather than prolong the publicity. However, there was one agent who decided to go after EVERYONE who called her "a worst agent." She threatened Absolute Write and, on 5/24/2006, Miss Snark went after her, saying:
"Barbara Bauer is not a literary agent. Barbara Bauer is a scam artist. And a very very stupid one. Here's the scoop:Of course, from that moment on, every chance she got, Miss Snark would make a snarky comment about "Babs." It became a running thread on MS's blog. And it was hugely responsible for making MS well known in the writer community.
"Barbara Bauer phoned the woman who runs the web hosting for Absolute Write wherein Barbara Bauer was listed as one of the 20 Worst Agents (a list I was happy to publish as well) and sounded scary enough that the site host panicked and pulled the plug.
"In the past Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Agents, tried to get Teresa Nielsen Hayden fired for 'libeling her on the Making Light website'.
"Like I said: stupid. It's not libel when you're telling the truth.
"Let me say this again in no uncertain terms: Barbara Bauer is not a reputable literary agent. She is a scam artist.
"Strong words? You bet. Wanna come get me Barb? Come on over. Let's compare sales."
And even in the face of growing negative publicity, Bauer still would not back down. She sent threatening letters to everyone who made snarky comments about her on their blogs or websites. A lot of people backed down. A lot of people didn't.
On 9/20/07, Bauer filed a civil lawsuit against 17 defendants (with several joint names) in U.S. District Court (federal court) in New Jersey. The defendants included some of the best known bloggers in the writing community and Wikimedia, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia. The complaint also included as a defendant: "Miss Snark, The Literary Agent, ('Snark') is a fictitious name used on a blog."
Bauer and her attorneys were trying very hard to find Miss Snark's real name. The writer community shut down, protecting her name.
Bauer filed a Second Amended Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Monmouth County on 1/31/08, moving the case from federal to state court. There were other differences in the second lawsuit. Bauer added three additional defendants and changed her complaint against Miss Snark to list Brian Hill and Dee Power, claiming that they were behind the Miss Snark blog.
In my blog, I said:
There has been a huge amount of speculation as to the identity of Miss Snark. Many writers believe they know her true identity and have continued to protect that name more than a year after the blog ceased operations. None of the writers I know believes that Hill and Power were behind Miss Snark.Everyone knew they weren't MS. In July, 2008, the judge dismissed the cases against Hill and Power.
According to Bauer's original filing, Miss Snark's blog had a server address in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hill and Power live in Fountain Hills, Arizona, a suburb northeast of Scottsdale.
According to Wikipedia, Fountain Hills has a population of 24,669 and was the eighth fastest-growing city in Arizona between the 1990 and 2000 census.
I'm curious as to why Bauer zeroed in on Hill and Power. Because they were writers living within twenty miles of Scottsdale? Surely not!
That same month, the judge also dismissed the case against Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia.
I did a pair of posts on my blog in July on the 8th here and on the 9th here, listing all defendants, who they are, and the lawsuit's status (17 original defendants, raised to 20--counting Hill and Power as one--reduced to 18).
Tonight, I spent some time trying to find the status of the remaining 18 defendants.
Let's start with one of the lesser known defendants: Shweta Narayan.
This is a direct quote from the transcript of the decision:
"Bauer’s complaint alleges that Ms. Narayan published statements in November 2006, that denigrated Bauer’s reputation as a literary agent . . .This is a quote from her attorney's brief:
"Ms. Narayan was a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley in November 2006. For health reasons, she has withdrawn from the university, and currently lives in San Diego . . . With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she located volunteer counsel in New Jersey, whom she retained in May 2008 . . . "
"Two years ago, in May of 2006, as a linguistics graduate student at UC Berkeley, Ms. Narayan noticed interesting linguistic behavior in an Internet chat room sponsored by a writers’ community, AbsoluteWrite.com. The chatters complained that AbsoluteWrite’s website had been shut down, apparently in response to legal threats from Bauer. Unlike the website, the chat room was not shut down, and it became a hub for the writers who had been displaced from the AbsoluteWrite website.The judge dismissed the case against Ms. Narayan on 10/27/08 based on "the lack of personal jurisdiction." Ms. Narayan lives in California, and Ms. Bauer filed in state court in New Jersey.
"Later in 2006, Ms. Narayan received a call for submissions to the CSDL conference, a small, highly specialized bi-annual academic conference on cognitive linguistics. Recalling the discourse of the chat room in May 2006, she prepared an abstract and submitted it . . . as an example of how a community under threat creates interesting and complex conceptual structures to cope with threats -- the sort of topic that CSDL attendees study . . .
"Ms. Narayan presented her talk at the conference on November 4, 2006, to an audience of about 30 to 40 people. The abstract and talk focused on what the chatters were doing, not on Bauer herself, though Bauer was mentioned briefly to contextualize the situation for linguists . . . Bauer is referenced in quoted speech by the chatters whose language is being analyzed. The abstract cited the Science Fiction Writers of America; it made no direct statements about Bauer."
Updated Status: 17 original defendants, raised to 20--now reduced to 17
Next up: defendant Gregory Ludwig, who has described himself as an editor and an occasional writer.
According to the decision:
"Mr. Ludwig is a writer who is trying to publish books, and the plaintiff is a literary agent who places authors for publication of books. According to Mr. Ludwig, he supplied Ms. Bauer with twelve book manuscripts, none of which actually were published, and he paid a fee for those actions.Ludwig argued that he was defending Bauer. Judge Perri agreed. In his decision on 10/27/08, he found that "There was clearly no actual malice and there was not a negligent defamation as the Court views the documents, and therefore summary judgment is granted in the defendant Ludwig's favor . . ."
"Movant began writing blog entries pertaining to Ms. Bauer beginning on September 5, 2006 which included discussions about their past business interactions. That's not alleged to be defamatory."
Updated Status: 17 original defendants, raised to 20--now reduced to 16
I'll check in on the case status again in another few months.