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Business reputation on the Internet

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Business reputation is a very vulnerable non-material asset, and it is particularly easy to damage it on the internet – a virtual space, whose regulation mechanisms in Russia are only in their infancy stage. It is possible to increase production and sales for years, spend millions on your own image, but one material on a popular site or a negative review of a more or less famous blogger, and sometimes an infamous anonymous person on some forum can lead to a disaster.
The main property of the Internet – copypaste – allows an endless replication of any information message that gets there. As soon as you sell a product to a “thousand people” whose quality does not satisfy them, a couple of hours later this event can become the focus of an Internet media outlet with an audience of millions of people. But what if the claims about the product or service are far-fetched, and the information about its poor quality is not true, or at least the producer thinks so?
In that case, this manufacturer will go to court. There are more and more lawsuits to protect reputations. According to the legal reference system Pravo.ru %20law”, in 2009 the arbitration courts received 98 such applications, and in 2010 107 in eight months alone (Internet-related cases were counted). Pravo.ru presents a ranking of the largest business reputation lawsuits related to the Russian segment of the Internet, and takes a detailed look at the top ten.
10th place
Claimant : OOO Vyatka-SUEK
Respondent : Arina Radova, LLC Editorial Board of “Nash variant” newspaper, Editorial Board of “Reporter” newspaper
Amount of claim : RUB 2, 000, 000
At the bottom of the ten most “expensive” lawsuits for defamation of business reputation on the Internet is the lawsuit of LLC “Vyatka-SUEK” against the editorial board of the newspaper “Nash variant” for 2 million rubles.
In March 2010. “Vyatka-SUEK, a subsidiary of Russia’s largest coal holding, appealed to the Arbitration Court of the Kirov Region to invalidate information distributed on the newspaper’s website Reporter published by the “Editorial Board of the Nash Variant” newspaper. The plaintiff did not like the following passages of the published material : “Whether it is an accident or not, the contract with Vyatka-SUEK, according to sources familiar with the situation, was allegedly signed in February for deliveries for March. And the price, according to the informed sources, was 1, 970 rubles per ton (which is 470 rubles more than if the public auction had been held). At the same time, as if Vyatka-SUEK was contractually obligated to supply 3, 000 tons of “black gold. By simple calculations, we get a contract for almost 6 million rubles. It is interesting that many people who knew about this situation, after the information about the criminal case against the Governor’s advisor has appeared, are now all in a friendly nod in favor of Andrei Votinov. They say it was his initiative to “help” the coal company conclude the state contract” and “By the way. If there is a tender in favor of a specific company, their ‘corruption’ component is equal to $2 or $3 per ton of raw materials.
The court found that the first of these fragments was an expression of the defendant’s subjective opinion and views, the information set forth in it could not be verified for its consistency with reality, because it was referential and presumptive in nature. As for the second excerpt, the court did not find that the information it contained was about the plaintiff, but rather about an unlimited number of unscrupulous companies alleged by the author of the article. On this basis, the court dismissed Vyatka-SUEK’s lawsuit. In July 2010 the company filed an appeal, which is currently being considered by the second appellate arbitration court.
It is interesting that in the process of the hearing it turned out that Arina Radova, to whom the suit was addressed together with the editorial board of Nash variant, did not exist, that it was just a pseudonym. The plaintiff had to make corresponding amendments to the claim.
9th place
Claimant : Nikolay Drembach
Respondent : OOO “Lock and Hardware Company” Citadel ”
Amount of claim : RUB 3, 000, 000
In February 2010. Nikolai Drembach filed a lawsuit in the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region against LLC “Citadel” Lock and Fittings Company, accusing it of spreading false information discrediting business reputation and demanding compensation in the amount of 3 million rubles.
The plaintiff stated that the defendant posted information on neplatim.su that Drembach was a director of two companies, Murmansk Trust Company LLC and Atoll-Nord Trading House LLC" which are unscrupulous partners and have debt obligations.
As evidence, plaintiff provided the court with a printout of a page on the neplatim.su website that did contain such information. In April 2010. Nikolai Drembach was denied the claim on the grounds that the court had found no confirmation of the dissemination of defamatory information by the defendant. Drembach did not use his right to appeal to a higher court.
8th place
Plaintiff : ZAO “Firma Informburo” – publisher of the newspaper “Persona”.
Respondent : ANO “Editorial and Publishing House “Novaya Gazeta” (Editorial and Publisher of “Novaya Gazeta”), Nikitinsky L.V.
Amount of claim : RUB 3, 398, 400
CJSC “Firm Informbureau” filed a claim against ANO “Editorial and Publishing House “Novaya Gazeta” to the Arbitration Court of Moscow in November 2009. According to the statement of claim, the plaintiff demanded to refute the information contained in the material “Court to the point of mockery, ” published on “Novaya Gazeta” ” as untrue and discrediting business reputation, as well as to claim 3.05 million rubles from Novaya Gazeta and 339, 840 rubles from the author of the article, Leonid Nikitinsky.
The plaintiff’s complaint was caused by several phrases referring to the activity of the newspaper Persona, which had the same founders – T.A. Krivtsova and E.A. Isakova. In particular, the article said: “Judging by the site, the Persona has not published even 20 issues in 10 years of its existence, and none in 2008. According to the information available to us, the Isakova and Krivtsova who also founded the “Informburo” company practically do not conduct economic activity; at least nobody pays them in non-cash form”, “The project is not original, but in the spirit of the times: such projects are created by PR-agencies with financing of the “persons” and their sponsors”, “From the position of professional journalism, her [the Persona] newspaper never existed”.
The court ruled that the disputed information was a judgment, the opinion of a journalist, so it was impossible to verify it. In April 2010, the suit was dismissed in its entirety. In June 2010. “Informburo filed an appeal, and the case is currently under review.
7th place
Claimant : CJSC Mikhailovsky Broiler
Respondent : Vostok-Media Russian News Agency LLC
Amount of claim : 5 000 000 rub.
The lawsuit brought by CJSC Mikhailovsky Broiler against Vostok-Media LLC (which runs the news agency of the same name) was filed in April 2009 with the Arbitration Court of Primorsky Territory. (manages the news agency of the same name) was filed with the Arbitration Court of Primorsky Krai in April 2009. The plaintiff demanded that a number of articles discrediting its business reputation be removed from vostokmedia.ru and that the defendant be awarded 5 million rubles.
The Vostok-Media materials, which came out under the eloquent headlines “Will Mikhailovsky Broiler Drive Primorians to Cancer?” and “Mikhailovsky Broiler Proves Its Quality in Court”, contained quotations from visitors to the Internet forum vlcrime.net, as well as fragments of material from the Latvian publication 7 Secrets. The plaintiff considered that the following phrases from the sources used had damaged his reputation: “In itself everything is bought and grabbed, so the SES “lets” this product on the shelves of Primorye, and fans of chicken meat regularly receive doses of the strongest chemistry, which over time accumulates in the body and causes various diseases – up to cancer”, “Consumption of chicken from Mikhailovsky broiler provokes cancer and other diseases, in the hospitals are already lying with cancer as former employees of this company” and others.
The court decided that the media had the opportunity to edit the remarks of visitors to the Internet forum before publication, but did not do so, and the quotes from “7 Secrets” were distorted, so the Mikhailovsky Broiler claim was partially satisfied: the Vostok-Media agency materials were removed from the site, and the amount of compensation was eventually reduced to 650, 000 rubles.
Vostok-Media LLC filed an appeal in July 2010, but a month later the proceedings were terminated on its own motion.
6th place
Plaintiff : Entrepreneur Khramtsov Oleg Vladimirovich
Respondent : Department of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Tomsk Region
Theamount of the claim : 5, 500, 000 rubles.
On the sixth line in the rating is the appeal of individual entrepreneur Oleg Khramtsov to the Arbitration Court of the Tomsk Region in August 2008. At that time Khramtsov demanded from a number of business entities to compensate him for the reputational damage in the amount of 5, 5 million rubles (later the applicant revised his claims, reducing the amount to 500 000 rubles).
The businessman’s dissatisfaction was caused by a press release posted on the Internet by the Tomsk division of Rospotrebnadzor, which stated that the carbonated drink “Nasha Tom” he produced was not based on “Vodichka-Yodichka” water, but on ordinary tap water. And then it can be dangerous to health.
The defendants in this case were the Russian Federation represented by the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, the Office of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Tomsk Region, as well as the media, in which materials based on the published press release appeared: the newspapers Tomsk News, MIR and Vecherniy Tomsk.
The court was presented with the results of an expert examination showing that Khramtsov had indeed produced the drink in violation of sanitary norms. However, the court found the phrase about the use of tap water to be untrue, while the fragment of the press release warning that the drink could be dangerous to health was considered legitimate, since the word “may” indicates that this phrase is a judgment.
As a result, the court decision of February 10, 2010 partially satisfied the claim of businessman Khramtsov, obliging the Department of Rospotrebnadzor in the Tomsk region to refute on the Internet previously published information. The court reduced the amount of compensation for the reputational damage to 20 000 rub. The entrepreneur’s appeal was dismissed. The case is currently being considered by the cassation court.
5th place
Claimant : Novoe Vremya Ltd.
Respondent : ZAO VZGLYAD.ru
Amount of claim : 10 000 000 rubles
On the fifth position in the ranking is the biggest lawsuit of one media outlet against another. In November 2009 Novoe Vremya LLC (publishes The New Times magazine) filed a lawsuit to the Arbitration Court of Moscow against LLC “Vzglyad.ru.” The court demanded to disprove the information disseminated by the online edition and also to pay 10 million rubles as compensation for the damage to the business reputation.
Novoye Vremya was outraged by two excerpts from the article “Mishchenko: Western foundations are behind the attack on the Young Russia office. They stated the following : “It (the provocation) was carried out by the hands of Albats (Yevgenia Albats – editor-in-chief of The New Times magazine) and The New Times magazine, “This fact was very competently used by Albats and the editors of The New Times magazine in order to accuse us after (Khutorsky) was killed that we did it.”
In February 2010 the claim was dismissed in its entirety. Although the court confirmed that the defendant had disseminated this information, it acknowledged that the information was “a statement of a purely subjective opinion on a number of events that took place and is also aimed at the so-called political-publicistic discussion launched in the mass media, therefore it cannot be verified for its correspondence to reality and be subject to proof”.
Not agreeing with the court decision, Novoe Vremya filed an appeal in March 2010, in which it requested that the court decision be overturned and a new judicial act on the case be passed to satisfy the claims. The editorial board’s request was also denied.
4th place
Claimant : St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions
Defendants : Cross-Media Publishing House LLC, MEDIA.S-Pb LLC, Media.SPb LLC, Diachenko A.P.
Amount of claim : 10, 000, 000 rub.
The fourth place in the ranking of the largest lawsuits filed due to the appearance on the Internet of information that, in the opinion of the plaintiff, damages its business reputation was an appeal to the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region of the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions (in Soviet times it was called the Higher Trade Union School of Culture). The lawsuit was related to the article Border on the Nose, published on the website of the St. Petersburg-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper in October 2007.
Its author, Alexei Diachenko, wrote that the company Nevskie Tekhnologii, whose representatives “do not particularly hide before local residents that they act in the interests of [the rector of the trade union university] Alexander Zapesotsky, ” is making “dubious fuss” around the house at 4 Morskie Dubki Street in Lisy Nos, where Zapesotsky “according to witnesses, regularly appears – to rest, reduce stress, improve health.” The purpose of this “fuss, ” according to the journalist, is to expand the site on which the house is located, and examples of “dubiousness” are an attempt to remove the rescue station from the surrounding area, land reclamation, and a number of other actions.
The article was published in October 2007, and on April 1, 2008 the SPMU filed a suit on protection of business reputation, in which it demanded to recognize several fragments of the article as not corresponding to reality, including the expression “another conflict with the rector of the Humanitarian University of Trade Unions Alexander Zapesotsky is currently unfolding in Lisie Nos”, the phrase that “Alexander Sergeevich and persons connected with him, in their public version, conduct “work on defense of the coastal borders of the Russian Federation” and the statement that “at two stations of the Russian Federation they are working at”. The plaintiff also asked the court to recover 30, 000 rubles from Diachenko as compensation for damage to business reputation and 9.97 million rubles from OOO MEDIA.S-Pb, which owns the site.
The trial court issued its decision on September 28, 2009. The claim was denied. The SPGUP disagreed with this verdict and filed an appeal. Its consideration ended on January 20, 2010. Thirteenth Arbitration Court of Appeal pointed out that under paragraph 7 of the Resolution of the RF Supreme Court Plenum of 24.02.2005 № 3, the claim for the protection of business reputation can not be satisfied by the court, if there is at least one of the three circumstances – the fact of dissemination by the defendant information about the plaintiff, the defamatory nature of these statements and the discrepancy with their reality, agreed with the court of first instance assessment that the disputed plaintiff fragments of information defamatory nature not and left the complaint
The dispute is not over at this time. The plaintiff did not agree with the decision of the appellate court and filed a cassation appeal. It is currently under consideration by the Federal Arbitration Court of the Northwest District.
3rd place
Claimant : Orbita Ltd.
Defendants : Rostov Regional Public Organization “Don Association for Protection of Consumers and Entrepreneurs”, Seyran Ivanovich Unanyan
Amount of claim : RUB 17, 000, 000
17 million rubles. – This is the third largest amount of damage to business reputation, caused by information disseminated on the Internet. On January 23, 2009 the auto salon “Orbita” (OOO Orbita) filed a lawsuit against the Rostov Regional Public Organization “Don Association for Protection of Consumers and Entrepreneurs” and Seyran Unanian. According to the plaintiff, the organization had published a negative review by Unanian about the auto salon on its website http://dzpp.aanet.ru/ (currently unavailable), which subsequently became the basis for a series of articles with high-profile titles such as “Kashka with a Mouse” (“Rostov Official” newspaper), “Auto with a Dark Past” (“Moskovsky Komsomolets” newspaper on Don), “Premiere Unanian” (“Rossiyskaya Gazeta” newspaper) and others.
On the site of the “Don Association for the Protection of Consumers and Entrepreneurs” the following review was published: “… Dear Consumers!!! Do you want someone to dig into your “dirty laundry” to find out where you got the money for an expensive purchase (a car) or who your common-law husband (wife) is? To be treated with rudeness during the warranty service of the car? […]To be called a fraud? […] If yes, then buy Peugeot and Nissan cars in auto showrooms of Orbita Ltd an official dealer in Rostov-on-Don (one of the record holders in legal disputes with consumers, over 15 in 2007). If you are not lucky and the car sold to you turned out not being of appropriate quality, all the above mentioned delights of communication with a dealer you will experience on your own “skins”.
“Orbita” demanded to refute this information as untrue and discrediting its business reputation, as well as to claim 15 million rubles from the NGO and 2 million rubles from Seyran Unanian. Later on in the course of the hearing the plaintiff withdrew the suit against the client.
The defendant failed to provide evidence that the published information was true, and so in September 2009 the Arbitration Court of the Rostov Region upheld the claim of Orbita. The compensation was considerably decreased to 10, 000 rubles. The appeal and the cassation appeal of the NGO were left without satisfaction.
2nd place
Claimant : Closed Joint-Stock Company Construction Department No. 155
Defendants : BFM.ru LLC, United Media LLC
Amount of claim : RUB 300, 000, 000
In second place among the most “expensive” lawsuits for reputational damage on the Internet is the case of the confrontation between the construction company SU-155 and the United Media holding company. In May 2009. CJSC “Construction management company № 155” applied to the Arbitration Court of Moscow demanding to oblige bfm.ru and the radio station “Business FM” to refute the information spread about the construction company ceasing to exist (broadcasted on radio), as well as about the misuse of 17 billion rubles, allocated by the state for housing projects for the military (published on bfm.ru).
As compensation for damages to the business reputation of SU-155 (controlled by Mikhail Balakin, a former official of the Moscow Mayor’s Office) demanded to recover 150 million rubles from each media outlet. The basis of the claim was the phrase voiced on the air by correspondent Rushan Yanov “under unconfirmed information so far, now there is a question of the existence of the developer SU-155, or rather, I was informed by a source that such a company no longer exists. In addition the construction company demanded from the defendant to pay damages in the amount of 19.6 million rubles. – In addition, the construction company demanded that the defendant compensate it for the 19.6 million rubles it had paid for the apartment whose sale to Emelin had broken down after the potential buyer had become acquainted with information about SU-155’s problems.
The court partially upheld the claim, obliging both mass media to refute the previously disseminated information, while reducing the amount of compensation for the damage to the business reputation of the developer to 10 mln rubles. In February 2010 both parties appealed the decision of the arbitration court. In April, the court rendered a ruling in which it upheld the decision.
1st place
Claimant : Planet Ltd.
Defendants : Arkady Viktorovich Mamontov, Federal State Unitary Enterprise All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company
Amount of claim : RUB 300, 304, 000
The first place in the ranking of the largest lawsuits for the protection of business reputation on the Internet is occupied by the attempt of “Planeta” travel agency to sue VGTRK and journalist Arkady Mamontov for 300.3 million rubles. Planeta LLC applied to the Moscow Arbitration Court demanding to refute the information distributed by the defendants on the websites related to VGTRK and earlier in the TV show “Special correspondent”, which, according to the plaintiff, discredited the company’s business reputation.
In particular, Planeta was outraged by information that it and its general director Vitaly Anserov were allegedly involved in organizing child sex tourism. The firm estimated the damage to its business reputation on the part of VGTRK at 290.3 million rubles, and on the part of Mamontov at 10 million rubles.
The court of the first instance dismissed the claim. The plaintiff failed to prove that untrue information discrediting the business reputation had been disseminated, and the justifications provided as evidence were considered by the court to be the subjective opinion of the plaintiff and his representatives, based on their own perception of the content of the TV program.
In addition, the corporate name “Planeta” LLC was not contained in the text of the journalistic material provided by the plaintiff, so the court decided that it was impossible to identify the travel agency in it. The decision of the Arbitration Court also stated that the stories of the program “are of an authorial nature, are an expression of the subjective position of special correspondent A. Mamontov. V., contain evaluation categories, the author’s own opinion, judgement, his subjective conclusions.
“Planeta” tried to appeal the decision of the court of first instance to the Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeal, but there the company’s complaint was also rejected.

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