12 November 2014
This post discusses phrasing of the initial lawsuit filed by Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises against Dear Author and DA columnist Jane Litte. In Courtney Milan’s thread system, this is Thread A.
My most frequently overlooked problem when critiquing other people’s work is tense wobbles. So, while I noticed the change of scope in this section I’m going to quote, I’d missed some potential implications of the tense shift.
I was talking about the case with a friend of mine, and he said:
I notice they’re playing silly buggers with the tenses.
“have not” and “are”
and they don’t dispute that in fact they hadn’t been paid in six months.
Here are two of Jane’s allegations in the Curious article:
There is a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months. EC has blamed this repeatedly on a new accounting system installed in December of 2013.
The total sum of unpaid royalties, editor fees, cover artist fees is in the several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures.
In EC/JJ’s lawsuit, here’s what they allege:
[…] Such false statements include:
That the Authors have not received royalty payments in over six months when in fact they are being paid.
That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.
In my Proving Substantial Truth post, I’d talked about the size of the data set in proving that “a set of” is untrue.
But I hadn’t talked about the fact that what EC claimed was defamatory in the lawsuit paperwork wasn’t actually what Jane Litte wrote. Courtney Milan talked about this some in the interview she did on the SBTB podcast.
Let’s say the following are true:
So, hypothetically speaking, it’s entirely possible that there was a set of authors who hadn’t received royalty payments in over six months, and for whom between the time of that post and the lawsuit being filed, checks had been cut for at least some payment, making the present-continuous-tense statement also true. (It’s probably also not necessary for every single author to be paid to make the present-continuous-tense statement true, either.)
Yes, well, that’s all well and good, but there was a second part to the article’s claim, and how could that work? Here’s a hypothetical.
EC claimed: “That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.”
This really hinges, I think, on nitpicking two phrases: “several thousands” and “perhaps approaching six figures.”
I’ll just throw this out there: if the amount owing is known to be in excess of $100,000….
No, I can’t finish that sentence. I can’t rationalize the verbiage.
Remember, “unpaid royalties” as of mid-September includes not only May’s royalties that were reportedly received at the end of September or early October, but also monies received—for hundreds of authors—for June, July, August, and so far in September. Not just amounts that may be past due.
When one looks at, say, the amount Lolita Lopez didn’t receive in December 2013 that was on her 1099 (tl;dr: $13,354.79), and realize that there are (or were) several big-name EC authors who were making that kind of money monthly, royalty amounts owing in excess of $100,000 doesn’t seem that big a stretch for 4-1/2 months, even if the dramatic drop in Amazon sales were true.
Even without including editors and cover artists.
However, claiming that someone owes less than they actually do isn’t defamatory.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case, so I have no information about the veracity of my hypotheticals.
The point of the above: if what Jane Litte wrote weren’t true, why not file a lawsuit claiming that specific language was untrue?
Why bother using different language in the filing when Jane’s post is right there to copy/paste from?
I’ll leave you to ponder that and end with a throwback moment.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve read a great deal of the documents involved in the Brashear case where EC/JJ were defendants.
As a fascinating aside, one of the items EC submitted in their answer and counterclaims was a snippy email by Brashear to complaints that payments were, once again, late. That was in October 2003.
It was in response to an email that said this (and then some):
Look, I KNOW you guys work hard at keeping everything together at EC and this new accounting system has been trouble — BUT, don’t promise that checks are going to be mailed on a certain date and then fail to deliver. OK? (This is not the first time this has happened.)
Two. Thousand. Three.
In addition to the above, I note that we should seasonally switch from popcorn to chestnuts—especially given the subject matter.