Today there’s big news in this year-plus long defamation case: plaintiffs Ellora’s Cave and Defendants Dear Author and Jane Litte have settled.
In an email to EC’s biz loop, Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks said:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [ec_biz]
Date: Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 9:50 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] Settlement with Dear Author
We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement with Dear Author. The terms are confidential, so we will not be discussing that. We are very happy though to now put all of our time and efforts into Ellora’s Cave, the authors and staff without further distraction.
Thank you for your patience and support.
Defense’s Parting Gift to the Case
Those of you following #notchilled recently will recall discussion of a footnote in case document 71-main (p. 11):
Further,Ellora’s may be planning for bankruptcy even at this time–but have refrained from doing so in the hopes that this SLAPP suit will bear fruit. In fact, Ellora’s counsel has reported to the undersigned on numerous occasions that Ellora’s has failed to pay his bills.
This was a footnote that Randazza had apparently intended to delete, and it led to plaintiffs filing a motion yesterday to strike the footnote, pointing out that this case had received a fair amount of discussion on Twitter’s #notchilled hashtag.
Which led to defense’s response document.:
The real value of the evidence Plaintiffs offer in support of their Motion is that it shows that there is widespread public interest in Ellora’s Cave and thus this controversy, belying any claim that the Plaintiffs are not a public figure as they disingenuously claim.
The Identity of @pubnt
In doc 73, plaintiffs also accused defense of waging a social media war:
And while the merits of this case are before this Court to decide, Defendants have resorted to internet and social media outlets to gather support from followers for their position (and to solicit online donors to pay their legal expenses) in what is basically a public relations war against the Plaintiffs’ case.
Let me be clear: Those of us posting on #notchilled are a diverse group who (mostly, since at least two purported Ellora’s Cave employees have posted to #notchilled) agree on one thing: the case against Dear Author and Jane Litte was filed to quell free speech.
In short, we agreed with this Courtney Milan post (excerpt):
But in this country, we want to make sure that people have the right and ability to talk about matters of public concern, to express their opinion on them, and to speak freely without worry that their speech will be chilled. So if you inject yourself into an issue of public concern, you may be a limited purpose public figure–that is, someone for whom the standards differ.
It seems to me that the business of Ellora’s Cave–a multi-million dollar business, one where the owner has sought and obtained media attention from national news media, a business that deals with hundreds if not thousands of authors, editors, and cover artists, and who has thousands if not hundreds of thousands of readers who take an interest in it–is a matter of public concern. It seems to me that Ellora’s Cave and its owner, Jaid Black, by seeking out that media attention, by broadcasting announcements to its authors–announcements that were reprinted and referenced in publishing news ranging from Publishers Weekly to The Passive Voice–is a limited purpose public figure.
And the standard for defamation actions for limited purpose public figures is substantially different than for private citizens. The standard is that the speaker must be acting with actual malice: that is, they must know (or be reckless about knowing) that the statements they are speaking are false. What that means is that if I say something and I have a good-faith belief that what I am saying is true–even if it later turns out to be false–I am not going to be held liable for defamation.
I point this out because I am extremely, extremely pissed off about this lawsuit. I believe that this lawsuit was filed for the purpose of chilling speech–and for the purpose of chilling true speech about a matter of imminent public concern. And I think that despite the outpourings of support, it’s working. This lawsuit is about teaching authors to sit down and shut up, even if their livelihood is at stake.
Which is a pretty good statement of the unifying principles of the #notchilled regulars. Some are EC authors. Some are former EC authors. Some are readers, but not authors. Some (like Courtney and myself) are writers, but not for Ellora’s Cave.
But we weren’t posting specifically because of who the defendant was, but what the issue was.
Defense’s response in doc 74 (p. 3):
Defendants further note that Plaintiffs offer no evidence that Defendants are waging any sort of a “public relations war against Plaintiffs’ case.” Indeed, there is no evidence to be found. The purpose of this accusation is clear – to try and negatively color the Defense. However, should the Plaintiffs wish for Defendants to address this issue in earnest, the Defendants have preserved publications and statements by Ellora’s Cave’s founder, Tina Engler, about this case, as well as her “sock puppet” twitter account, which would scorch them with hypocrisy—should the court be interested.
The “sock puppet” referred to @pubnt (and possibly others), whose identity will likely never be known as a matter of law, but here’s the complete archive of 2,620 tweets.
What’s Up Next?
There’s still the matter of several hundred Ellora’s Cave authors, quite a few of whom have publicly stated that, as of this writing, they’ve not been paid royalties for periods later than February 2015. I do not know of anyone reporting having received payments for a later period, and February was eight months ago.
Here are a few sources:
— Kelly Jamieson (@KellyJamieson) October 16, 2015
And I just got an EC check for FEBRUARY royalties. That's *definitely* more than 3 months. #notchilled
— Ella Drake (@Lori_Ella) October 11, 2015
— Trista Ann Michaels (@trista_michaels) October 15, 2015
Given that Ellora’s Cave still has (as of a few days ago) more than 800 authors, that’s a seriously large quantity of royalty checks to be behind.
Let’s not forget the declaration of Romance Writers of America executive director Allison Kelley:
Based on complaints from authors, we contacted Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora’s Cave, in August 2014 to express concerns that Ellora’s Cave was unilaterally changing the terms of its contracts without authors’ written consent. Ms. Marks responded, “I’ll talk to Raelene and have our publishing department request signed amendments now and from here on out.”
In September 2015, I contacted Patty Marks regarding complaints about the company’s failure to issue royalty statements and checks to authors. Ms. Marks recently admitted to me that Ellora’s Cave is not up-to-date with paying its royalties and has not paid its authors in a timely manner.
Failure to pay authors and comply with the terms of contracts are violations of the Romance Writers of America’s code of ethics for industry professionals.
As a result of Ellora’s Cave’s violations of the code of Ethics, Ellora’s Cave has been suspended from certain privileges with the Romance Writers of America. This means that Ellora’s Cave is prohibited from contacting members of chapters regarding new submissions and may not participate in any Romance Writers of America chapter event until it has paid its authors all amounts due.
I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but I hope for authors’ sakes that it will.
Until then, I leave you with Lieutenant Commander Ivanova. Not quite as satisfying as having all the answers and full restitution for all authors, but it’s what I have to offer.
Tymber Dalton’s post Ellora’s Cave vs Dear Author: Not with a bang, but a whimper. Features this nugget comment by author Ann Jacobs, who attempted to intervene in the Dear Author case:
I believe there’s a good chance there will be a class action filing. My attorney has other authors who’ve expressed interest, and it will be a topic of conversation next week. Meanwhile, I know no more than anyone else, except that my motion to intervene in the DA defense is moot, since the suit has been settled.