Literary Agent Battles Online Criticism In Court

by Staff

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined representatives for Wikipedia in a New Jersey court on Tuesday to fight for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by literary agent Barbara Bauer, the New Jersey Star-Ledger recently reported. Bauer sued Wikimedia, the online encyclopedia's parent company; the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site; and nineteen bloggers and Web site administrators who have posted disparaging comments about Bauer on sites such as and YouTube.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that advocates for free speech on the Internet, and lawyers for Wikimedia filed a motion in a Monmouth County court to dismiss the case on grounds that Web sites like Wikipedia are protected by the federal Communications Decency Act, which states that owners of interactive sites cannot be held liable for content posted by users. In Wikipedia's case, anyone, including anonymous users, can post and edit content.

"We provide a platform through Wikipedia for smart citizens to give their knowledge back to a larger culture," Mike Godwin, general counsel for Wikimedia, said in a statement. "Our ability to offer citizens that platform is what's at stake in this case."

"More and more you see these kind of lawsuits," Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation told the Star-Ledger, noting that the case was an opportunity for the court to tackle questions about the limits of free speech and who is accountable for user-generated content on the Internet.

Critics of Bauer, who, according to her Web site, has been in business since 1984 and has represented numerous award-winning authors, have named her one of the "20 Worst Literary Agents" and called her a "scam agent" known for going against standard industry practices by demanding high fees before the sale of a book. Videos and altered images of the agent have also appeared online. Bauer's page on Wikipedia has been removed.