Crutchfield Dermatology of Minneapolis claims copyright in everything you write, forever, to keep you from posting complaints on the net

An anonymous reader writes,
Crutchfield Dermatology, in the Minneapolis area, requires its patients to give them the copyright for everything they write on the Internet, in exchange for service. The provision is in an agreement called: "No Show and Cancellation Policy, Patient Satisfaction Agreement, Privacy Protection and Assignment of Copyright Policy." Basically, the company doesn't want its patients saying bad things about it on the Internet. So it demands:

"In consideration for your medical care and the additional patient protection, described above, by signing this document you or your legal ward agree to refrain from direct or indirect publication or airing of commentary about Crutchfield Dermatology and Dr. Crutchfield's practice, expertise or treatment except in the manner provided in the preceeding Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures. You recognize that Crutchfield Dermatology has made significant investments to develop Crutchfield Dermatology's practice and reputation for outstanding care, and that published comments on the internet or through mass correspondence may severely damage Crutchfield Dermatology's practice. By this agreement, you grant all copyright ownership in any and all published statements, comments, blog postings, and any other communication made by you outside of the Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures. You further agree that Cruthfield Dermatology is entitled to equitable relief to prevent the initiation or continuation of publishing or airing of such commentary regarding Crutchfield Dermatology's practice, expertise, or treatment."

Giving them copyright over things I write about them is bad enough; giving them copyright over everything I write turns me into an indentured servant. And, of course:

"Crutchfield Dermatology reserves the right to modify any policies without notice."

Crutchfield Dermatology


  1. There are a whole bunch of companies selling medical practice agreements now, some of them including tracking services, designed to discourage any kind of rating, comment, tweet, or what have you about doctors and dentists.

    What’s fortunate about such an agreement is that should a doctor bring a suit under the agreement against a patient, the patient would in some states be able to file an anti-SLAPP suit, just like you all did at BoingBoing. Further, a judge looking at the agreement would the vast majority of the time express that a patient couldn’t have had reasonable understanding nor necessary counsel to sign such a lopsided and inclusive agreement. A doctor would almost certainly be forced to pay out and pay big, depending on the jurisdiction.

    1. My godfather (a lawyer) once told me that, when pressed to sign something he hadn’t read to his satisfaction, would always sign his name and then write “no consideration” after it… because a contract without consideration is not a contract. He never was pressed to argue this in court, so it’s hard to say how effective it might be.

      I do think it’s utter garbage. Me, I’d just add something like “signed but not agreed” or cross sections out or something. I’m an author. You want what I’m writing, you pay me just like anybody else.

      You know, with this one, I might just put a margin note after the line in the contract that says “Crutchfield Dermatology reserves the right to modify any policies without notice” and say “So do I” and initial it. Fair’s fair, right?

  2. Wow. Everything, for all time.

    Just wow.

    -abs is really dumbstruck, he doesn’t even have a parenthetical comment to add to his “sig” he’s so astonished

  3. Yikes. I hope people are reading the fine print on that one – and I hope they lose business when people do. That kind of practice is just unethical.

  4. How do these kontrol-freaks not know that policies like this one will wind up giving the company a much worse reputation and set of publicity problems to deal with than simply working with each dissatisfied customer to address her grievances?

    Now, everybody and their brother knows about Crutchfield Dermatology and their stupid fascist policy. Congratulations, idiots.

  5. In practice weird boilerplate legal agreements like this don’t stand up in court If I understand correctly, so one danger is that they undermine people’s respect for contracts and laws. Real sane contracts are of course vital to modern rule-of-law societies and it would be good if we didn’t undermine people’s faith that they can be used well.

  6. bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! No. This is where the pen comes out crossing out all that crap or this is where my feet hit the road. I wonder if they solicit business from famous writers like Stephen King, Amy Tang Dean Koontz. They could get out of this medicine biz entirely.

  7. Wouldn’t there also be contract problems for “consideration” and the simple and apparent signing-away of 1st Amendment rights? Sure, you can work places where you are not allowed to speak or write of information that is the institution/company’s “property” (such as it is, stay focussed), but my experience with my dentist is not their property and so they have no right to control it.

    absimiliard: Good, because typing or pasting sigs for individual messages is stupid.

  8. A company I worked for tried to get all of the developers (myself included) to assign all patent rights to all of our work, present and future, even if it was done on our own time, not connected in any way with our work and even if we left employment with the company. They told us we would be fired if we didn’t sign it. I refused saying that my attorney was not done reviewing the agreement and it all just went away.

  9. I wonder how bad the services of Crutchfield Dermatology must be, that they require such an incredibly sweeping provision before they’ll even treat you? My assumption is that a service they go to such lengths to prevent anyone ever mentioning must be so unbelievably dreadful that if anyone did see an honestm review from one of Crutchfield’s customers they’d go elsewhere. If I was ever in the market for a Minneapolis dermatologist I’d definitely choose one of the ones that doens’t do this.

  10. A studio I worked for many ages ago once tried to get the art staff to sign a contract that essentially signed-over the rights to anything an artist did to the studio, even work the artist did on their own free time at home. It took quite a bit of pressure to get management to see that this was a huge problem. They kept assuring us that “Of course, the company would never actually do that.” We eventually threatened to stop working until they changed the language. They changed it, but they never did seem to understand what the issue was.

  11. …and that published comments on the internet or through mass correspondence may severely damage Crutchfield Dermatology’s practice.

    imho, that says it all.

  12. I don’t know if this works under US law, but in England (where it would almost certainly be unenforcable as a unfair consumer contract anyway), you can have fun with a rule called “Nemo dat”.

    Essentially, before you sign this contract, you assign the rights in the relevant future copyrights to someone you trust. Since you no longer own the copyrights, you can’t assign them to Crutchfield. (Hence nemo dat quod non habet: no one (can) give what he/she doesn’t have).

    Sure, Crutchfield could argue you were in breach of contract, but that wouldn’t entitle them to any control over the copyrights, just a contractual claim against you, or any “right” to equitable relief such as an injunction (there’s no such thing as a “right” to equitable relief under English law – it’s entirely in the judge’s discretion). It would be a horribly tortuous claim, against a very unsympathetic judge, though. And clearly this “reputation” they so fiercely guard would be somewhat tarnished by the ensuing PR.

    Amazon used to have assignment clauses in their review terms and conditions, so I assigned the rights to my wife before I posted them. Yes. I was that sad. But it annoyed me.

  13. An agreement like that looks like an outright admission that they are the absolute worst provider of their services around. If they were good, they wouldn’t be trying to stifle reviews about them. Clearly, they must be horrendous.

    If I were handed an agreement like that, I wouldn’t dream of using their services. I’d tell them what I thought of it (including the paragraph above) and walk out.

  14. This contract probably wouldn’t be legally binding for me anyway since I signed over power of attorney last time I had a dental checkup.

  15. As I never signed an agreement like that, I’m free to say
    Crutchfield Dermatology misdiagnosed me, costing me thousands of dollars. Of course, I have never been a patient of Crutchfield Dermatology.

  16. Looks like they were eerily prescient.

    Published comments on the internet have now severely damaged their practice.

    Too bad the comments were made by someone who hadn’t signed their stupid overreaching agreement.

  17. I’m a physician. I haven’t had any feedback, reviews, comments online that I know of, but I can appreciate that the ability of everyone to say pretty much anything they like about anyone on the internets is sure gonna change the patient-doctor interaction. Often times, a patient is referred to a specialist by a family physician or another specialist, and the patient has traditionally relied on their current doctor to send them to someone competent/kind/prompt. Now, patients will have more power to choose. This is good. But there will be change, and that may sometimes be painful. I can understand Charles’ desire to manage that, but unfortunately he is about to understand the Streisand effect, up close and personal. This is strange as it looks like he is very proficient at communication with lotsa radio, TV and many honors

  18. So far, their “no bad review” program has led to their being voted a “top doc” in MPLS/St. Paul Magazine a second year running.

    I wonder how the dissenters were disposed of.

  19. Quick – everyone who is NOT a patient of this medical office, go post negative reviews about them. Be sure to include “facts” about how you “saw” them eating babies.

  20. Several questions about this post:

    Has this been confirmed by multiples sources? Was this physician’s office contacted?

    And if it’s real, has a breach of an agreement of this type ever been successfully argued in court?

    What does their state licensing bureau for dermatology have to say about requiring copyright assignment for proper treatment and patient protection?

    Sorry, after all the hyper emo about stolen food articles, I’d want to wait to hear more before torching the castle.

    1. “Has this been confirmed by multiples sources? Was this physician’s office contacted?”

      Multiple sourc–huh? It’s right on their website.

      This isn’t 60 Minutes, it’s the internet dude!

  21. I’m no legal expert, but it seems that a full context reading is only referring to comments made about crutchfield dermatology and not all communications of all kinds. That being said, even trying to take control of net-talk that refers to them IS pretty terrible.

  22. I was a patient of Dr. Crutchfield many years ago; I went to him with a severe case of adult acne about 10 years ago (before this policy).

    At the time, the contract required that you submit to before-and-after pictures as well as sign away your rights to their use. Dr. Crutchfield does a lot of heavy advertising around the Twin Cities area.

    The thought of them posting my “before” pictures on billboards or any other media was horrifying and I refused to agree. And then I was subject to serious pressure to sign, by multiple nurses and then Dr. Crutchfield himself. Each person came in and tried to make me feel guilty for not allowing my pictures to be used to “help others with similar problems.” One person promised they’d only be used in the office, with current patients – but refused to put that in writing. Only after I said that there was no way I would sign and threatened to leave did they drop the matter. It was extremely unpleasant.

    That being said, Dr. Crutchfield was amazing and my skin has been perfect for 10 years. I’m incredibly grateful to him (I had visited other dermatologists before who were not able to help). It’s too bad he feels he has to resort to these aggressive tactics.

  23. Hmm…one could have fun with this.

    1) Become a patient of theirs, ensuring that you agree to their terms regarding copyright of everything you write on the Internet.
    2) Start writing things anonymously on the Internet that would result in legal action. Bomb threats, threats on the President’s life, etc.
    3) Be sure to clearly state on each post that it is copyrighted by Crutchfield Dermatology of Minneapolis.

    The views expressed in this posting are wholly copyright (C) 2010, Crutchfield Dermatology of Minneapolis, which is wholly responsible for the content, and do not reflect the views of the poster.

  25. Wow. As a physician, this I find this absolutely unconscionable. What next? Gag clauses to prevent people from badmouthing you? Perhaps Dr. Crutchfield should spend a little less time online and a little more time with his patients.

    I suspect that he’ll get the message that he crossed a line soon enough, though, as he’s on Twitter and Facebook.

    1. Again, I wouldn’t be quick to bum rush him until he has a chance to respond. He should admit that he received bad advice from the person who drew up this agreement. He probably was concerned about I-chatter, and he was sold an agreement that is patently ridiculous.

      Hey, if I wanted to plump up my nasolabial or melomental folds with non-animal sourced hyaluronic acid or induce a little flaccid paralysis with botulinum toxin, strictly for cosmetic purposes, I’d go to him. Who doesn’t want to look good?

      This guy’s a rock star. In NYC we had Dr. Zizmor with all the subway ads.

      1. The language is in the new patient forms downloadable from his website. I’m sure it for real. And I suspect that this guy, who clearly works to get media exposure wherever he can, is fully aware of what that language is trying to do.

        My concern is that you now have physicians, as a result of market forces, trying to “manage” their image by restricting the rights of their patients as a condition of treatment. It’s an unacceptable quid pro quo, and, in my opinion, unprofessional.

        1. Look, he’s a smart guy, but needs to be educated. The derm people tend to be from the top of their class–you know, lifestyle and all that.

          As a rule, I never try to be assured what someone’s intent is. Right now he’s managing his image right into the ground. I don’t enjoy bellicosity, but don’t get me started.

          I recently went to an optician who did a fancy digital fundoscopy during a routine eye exam, and I asked by what criteria would it be evaluated (I had recently read a review article in the NEJM). She pulled up the image on the lcd monitor but couldn’t give me an intelligent interpretation. I called the state licensing board to set up a hearing, and the result was I got my money back.

          Sorry, I’m not big on Facebook but I do get results with my methods. If I were your patient, you’d have your hands full, but I say this with the deepest respect.

          I would invite any physician to take me on with this copyright nonsense. Just sayin.’

        2. “by restricting the rights of their patients as a condition of treatment. ”

          I hope your practice isn’t one of the ones that requires your patients to submit to binding arbitration by a firm chosen by the doctor in lieu of any legal action. That is to say, every doctor I’ve been to in the last ten years.

          1. When I practiced (I now only do research), my practice NEVER had that type of language, nor did it force people into binding arbitration. As I said before, it’s over-reaching at best and in my opinion, an improper thing for a physician to do.

  26. enjoy the poison that is copyright, I say. Like the ancient romans enjoyed lead powder flavouring in their wine.

  27. If patients can severely damage Crutchfieds reputation by telling others about their experiences, what kind of dermatological treatments are they offering?

    Ewww, ewww, ewww.

  28. The blanket transfer of all unrelated copyright ownership in return for medical cosmetic service is beyond the scope of the provided service. It is next to impossible to enforce.

  29. The problem with letting the market take care of this sort of thing is that medical care isn’t a luxury you can skip like buying an SUV. If every doctor in your area does this sort of crap you are s.o.l., you’d have to accept it. Ultimately the state gov needs to ban this sort of practice and make gag contracts with medical care profs illegal.

    1. This is a basic misunderstanding of economics. Every doctor in town wouldn’t do this, because if one didn’t he would suddenly start getting loads of business, so that the others would be bound to abandon these anti-buyer practices.

      It’s an unenforceable contract anyways.

      But don’t worry, in a country where no one right or left ever acknowledged that it was over regulation and subsequent cartelization (along with the insurance system) that has caused the massively, extortionately inflated medical costs, your economic ignorance is not alone.

      In many parts of the country, having some basic car is not a luxury, but rather a necessity. But, in a largely unregulated market where most anyone can buy or sell a car, it’s not a big deal and you can still get decent cars for cheap.

      Not so in countries like Japan where the government regulates the auto market the way we regulate our health market, and basic used cars can’t be had for much less than $10,000.

      1. This is a basic misunderstanding of economics. Every doctor in town wouldn’t do this, because if one didn’t he would suddenly start getting loads of business, so that the others would be bound to abandon these anti-buyer practices.

        This assumes doctors are fools. You’re saying abandoning the practice wouldn’t gain anything in the long run, because everyone else would be forced to do the same. In that case, what incentive is there to counter the advantage of doing it, besides sacrificing permanent success for a fleeting advantage?

  30. They’re probably good dermatologists, just stupid about other things.

    The career model for most US docs is that, after spending a decade or so learning their craft, butt-deep in clinical science, day and night, to the exclusion of all else, they abruptly shift gears and open their own practices, which means having to turn instantly from clinicians into small businessmen–and that’s not what they trained for.

    If all you want to do is be a physician, you hire people to handle the business end and advise you about stuff like this.

    Looks like they got bad advice. I don’t suppose they can sue whatever twit convinced them that this policy would preserve their reputation on the Internet–if anything, it’s sullied their name by making them seem like over-reaching control freaks with something to hide.

    However, Crutchfield certainly can fire them–and maybe talk about them on the Internet, as a warning to other practitioners.

  31. Ironically, I have actually been a patient at Crutchfield Dermatology, and I also happen to be an attorney. What I find fairly incredible is the “lawyering” in this thread about the above language, yet nobody has cited what the “Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures” actual are.

    When I first saw the agreement, I took special interest in the operation and intent of the language. As the Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures are written, the earlier claims posted above that Crutchfield Dermatology would own the copyright in anything, ever, for all time is false. The only things covered are “question[s], issue[s], or concern[s] in any way related to the care [Crutchfield Dermatology] ha[s] provided . . . .” So, Crutchfield Dermatology has no claims to a patient’s blogging about bunnies or the recent election because they aren’t related to Crutchfield Dermatology and so aren’t “outside the Patient Satisfaction Agreement.”

    Moreover, as a patient, I have the right to broadcast complaints about Crutchfield Dermatology provided I first give them a chance to address the concern (again, in the Patient Satisfaction Agreement). If I give them a chance and I am still unhappy, I can make critical statements to my heart’s content.

    It hardly seems unreasonable that they want a chance to make things right or verify that negative comments actually come from patients. It is, however, disappointing that the language quoted above leaves out that critical information contained in the remaining language of the agreement.

    1. “Moreover, as a patient, I have the right to broadcast complaints about Crutchfield Dermatology provided I first give them a chance to address the concern…”

      You don’t trust me, why should I trust you.

      “It is, however, disappointing that the language quoted above leaves out that critical information contained in the remaining language of the agreement.”

      Cory, you’ve been spanked by GopherFan.

  32. Kosmoid, if I understand the basic issue for doctors and other businesses, it’s not that they want to own what people say about them, but rather they want to ensure that if somebody does post negative comments, they come from actual patients as opposed to competitors, etc. Because federal law protects blogs from direct claims, the copyright provision may be the only means for companies to identify whether a comment is legit.

    My understanding (as I looked into the issue briefly) is that a person who has not permitted the clinic a chance to respond to a complaint gives the copyright to the clinic, which gives the clinic the ability to have a say in its publication. If the posting is from someone who is not actually a patient, most blogs have a policy that postings should be based on first-hand knowledge and may remove the false posting. Again, if the patient goes through the process, they may post at will and retain ownership.

    For me, if a posting is not by an actual patient, it doesn’t help me to read the posting. If a posting is by a patient who gave the clinic a chance to address a concern by the terms of the policy and they still were not satisfied, their posting is helpful to me. If somebody finds it unacceptable that they would have to give the clinic a chance to make them happy before scorching the clinic in public, they would certainly be in their right to go to a different clinic.

    I was happy with my care at the clinic. I also appreciate that people on the net pay attention to this stuff and seek to protect the free flow of information. However, the criticism seems a bit off-base in this case, because my impression was that the clinic wanted to have a chance of making patients happy while keeping its reputation for doing so in the new internet environment, not to stifle legitimate concerns. That seems pretty fair.

  33. Kosmoid, I believe the copyright concept is that a business can show one of two things. First, they can identify a posting because an actual customer (or patient) went through the process and thus is free to post whatever they want, with full ownership. Second, if they didn’t have a patient go through the process and a complaint arises, they can approach the blog or other source with the fact that either a) the business owns the copyright because all of their patients have (if applicable) signed the agreement or b) the posting isn’t actually from a patient, so the business doesn’t own the copyright, but the posting violates the blog’s policies because it isn’t from an actual customer (patient).

    Because the Communications Decency Act shields blogs from defamation claims, copyright is probably one of the few means of businesses showing that an attack posting is or is not legitimate.

    When a colleague sent me a link to this stream, I was a bit surprised that Crutchfield Dermatology was the target, because I know there are a lot of businesses claiming copyright in everything (as someone suggested was happening here) without an opportunity to either make a complaint to the company or to even own the copyright afterward.

    I spoke to the clinic administrator a little bit ago about the issue, and she indicated that their intent (and apparently it has worked for quite a number of patients) was to create a satisfaction policy other than just making them call the receptionist to complain. They also wanted a way to show blogs and other media whether or not a complaint is from an actual patient.

    At least as of now, they say they have never had an issue with this. I’m not really surprised, as I was referred there by a friend who loved the care and it’s a pretty long wait to get an appointment. Whether or not one likes the higher profile of the clinic, I think part of that high profile is because they do a good job.

    1. Thank you for such an illuminating post.

      I would love to fly out there and see Dr. Crutchfield immediately. I need to get the full treatment. If we can negotiate a discount I’d be more than willing to sing the praises on the Internet to lose 20 years or more.

  34. Hey, give them a call. If you’re traveling, they might give you a deal! (Be sure to read the fine print, of course.) :)

  35. I hate shit like this, where they just have you sign something where you’d have to be an attorney to understand the ramifications of it. The thing is, it’s not a reasonable demand for them to try to control your satisfaction or communication of your satisfaction to others about your experience with them. If you get screwed over by someone and they have failed to subsequently satisfy you, you can tell others about it all you want…

    But the average person might not know this, and might allow this document to overawe them or otherwise exert a chilling effect on their ability to tell others about their unpleasant experiences.

  36. “If they were good, they wouldn’t be trying to stifle reviews about them. Clearly, they must be horrendous.”

    Not so fast. Remember, doctors can’t defend themselves against online patient complaints, because that violates privacy laws.

  37. Not only is that contract unenforceable but someone needs to tell the drafting attorney to lookup the doctrine of copyright misuse. Maybe they slept through that portion of Copyright in law school?

  38. As with much lawyering the agreement is slimy and underhanded. I suspect that most people sign the paper without reading it since they trust the doctor with their medical issues then the agreement must also be trust worthy; Dr. Crutchfield and his attorney surely know this. It is expected that treatment will be successful, it isn’t until a mistake is made most people become aware that their rights have been curtailed.

    Patients will be seeing the Doc. from all walks of life many of whom may not be capable of understanding the language used. Even if the language in the “Patient Satisfaction Agreement” diminishes the scope of the copyright being claim, the language is still over reaching.

    I think that if the clinic decided to rewrite their agreement in plain English, patients would be better off, and the Doc can regain some trust.

  39. By this agreement, you grant all copyright ownership in any and all published statements, comments, blog postings, and any other communication made by you outside of the Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures.

    The language of the agreement is way too ambiguous. In context, it seems to imply that the copyright ownership applies to anything you say about their practice. If their treatments so far have been good and their customers are largely satisfied, then why have such and ambiguous, poorly-worded agreement? One bad review won’t sink the practice.

  40. While people have been raising some valid concerns here, it stills comes down to the point that the policy does not prevent people from leaving legitimate negative reviews unless one believes that giving the clinic a chance to address their concerns under the agreement is an onerous burden (as opposed to an unusual opportunity to achieve satisfaction). If the agreement is ambiguous, over-reaching, poorly-worded, etc., that goes to enforceability, especially related to any postings outside the scope of service provided by the clinic.

    Based on the waiting list for an appointment at Crutchfield Dermatology (it was several months, last time I checked), one has to conclude that either people simply don’t read the fine print or, more likely, that they are comfortable giving the clinic a chance to address their concerns before they light them up with negative reviews. Anyone who is not comfortable with the language (or thinks it ambiguous, poorly-worded, etc.) is of course free to take their dermatology needs elsewhere – basically the same right to enter or reject any contractual relationship.

    1. Gopherfan,

      As a lawyer, can you explain you use of “If” in your sentence “If the agreement is ambiguous, over-reaching, poorly-worded, etc. […]”

      As a consumer, and as someone who has read the agreement several times, I find it unclear whether or not the practice wants to claim ownership over everything I say on the internet. In what way, exactly, are people like me served by your assurance that the way this seems to read is not what is meant?

      And how is the practice served by this lack of clarity?

  41. Apologies if someone has already commented on this but, “lawyering” aside:

    “By this agreement, you grant all copyright ownership in any and all published statements, comments, blog postings, and any other communication made by you outside of the Patient Satisfaction Agreement Procedures.”

    Grant to whom?

  42. Yeah, that contract provision isn’t even a little bit enforceable. It’s so unconscionable it’s not even funny…

  43. Regarding Crutchfield Dermatology’s un-Constitutional attempt to alienate their patient’s Inalienable Right of Freedom of Speech.

    A review of Crutchfield’s website would seem to indicate Crutchfield Dermatology is a first class operation recognized by peers and medical rating organizations as such. But in these days where We The People have forgotten our moral and legal roots, even the very best can fall into error.

    Freedom of Speech is indeed a God-given Inalienable Right. What is an Inalienable Right?  Inalienable is defined as: That which CANNOT be given away or taken away (Black’s Law Dictionary). See also Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (1856 Ed.).

    Rights and Responsibilities are inseparable, you cannot exercise one without the other because you are Accountable to The Giver of Rights (see Declaration of Independence) for how you exercise your Rights.

    Rights are Indivisible: You cannot lose one Right without losing all Rights. Life/Liberty/Property are Indivisible; either you possess all or you possess none.

    If the reports on your website ( are accurate, Crutchfield Dermatology, has unwittingly (giving them the benefit of the doubt they are unaware of how they may be violating their client’s Rights) gone beyond the pale of reason and Law in their attempt to silence their client’s; the fact they are a state chartered corporation involves the state in their potentially un-Constitutional behavior. What makes behavior un-Constitutional or criminal? Crime is defined as any act that violates the Life/Liberty/Property of another.

    There is the matter of intent that separates crime from mere accident, but that defense is invalidated once Crutchfield Dermatology has been made aware of their potentially un-Constitutional behavior; I sent them a copy of this information so they may no longer claim ignorance of the law although I am not certain ignorance is ever a valid defense since the universal maxim “Ignorance of the Law is no defense” and its corollary, “Every man is expected to know the Law,” applies in every jurisdiction, in Heaven and on Earth.

    I can sympathize with Crutchfield in trying to protect information and procedure that is truly proprietary in which case I would think they should seek patent protection (they should consult a patent attorney to determine their options and to determine if their proprietary information is patentable or may be protected in some other manner.) As a state “created” corporation, a creature of “privilege,” they have no Rights, only privileges. Bear in mind the state has no Rights either since the state is a “creation” of We The People and the “Law of Inalienability” prevents We The People from transferring God-given Rights to a “creation”of ours. Since the state possesses no Rights, they have neither Power nor Authority to grant Rights to their corporate “creation.” Granting Rights is a prerogative reserved to God and God alone.

    One last point and a caveat: First, William Blackstone, arguably the primary legal and moral mentor to the Founding Fathers of the U.S., arms us with these words: “Any human law that contradicts the Law of God is not valid Law.” Commentaries on the Laws of England.

    The caveat: “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In exercise of my own Freedom of Speech I have just provided a “little bit of knowledge.” Readers should govern themselves accordingly; I recommend further study. I am open to correction if I have erred in my statements above. I am not an attorney.

  44. You Voiced Your Concerns, We Listened.

    A recent post claimed that: “Crutchfield Dermatology . . . claims copyright in everything you write forever . . . .” Fortunately, someone (quite a few people worldwide, actually) not only notified us of this post and dialogue, but also expressed dismay at our clinic attempting (among other things) to claim ownership of our patients’ intellectual property in writings about anything for all time and stifling free speech.

    As one might expect, for a small dermatology clinic in the Upper Midwest, these claims came as quite a shock and concern. Although we were disappointed by the claims and assure our patients and the public at-large that the claims are not true, we took this as an opportunity to review the current language (and wisdom) of our policy as posted.

    While we are confident that our current policy, in context of the entire agreement, does not make the outrageous demand for all copyright in everything a patient ever writes, we realized that if the well-informed participants in the blogosphere were alarmed by the language, perhaps a number of our patients had a similar concern.

    As a couple posts have pointed out, a large number of doctors and other professionals have adopted the advice of legal counsel that assignment of copyright is the only mechanism for protecting a business against online reputation attacks. While we rejected this broad approach, like any business that relies on reputation, we have had our concerns, as well. Let me explain.

    We previously had a problem with a disgruntled former employee posing as an unhappy patient to make dozens of fictitious, scathing web reviews about our practice. Because the postings were anonymous, it was extremely difficult to prove that they were fabricated and not based on actual patient experience. It is important to note that we have had legitimate criticisms posted about our clinic, and we use those criticisms to improve our operations. However, if a claim is fictitious, it neither aids the public in assessing our clinic nor provides us information we can use to improve our services.

    So, to address the potential for false, damaging claims by non-patients, we implemented a two-part enterprise. First, we established a comprehensive plan to give patients a mechanism to have concerns addressed. Even more important than defending against false claims, we want to do everything possible to satisfy our patients. In the rare situation that we simply cannot meet the satisfaction of a patient, the patient is free to express that dissatisfaction in any way, as they always have been.

    Second, we sought to find a way to determine the legitimacy of complaints and adopt a means to impress upon a host site when a claim is false. We rejected the overreaching legal recommendation to demand all claims in copyright. Instead, we offered the very limited requirement that patients give us a chance to make things right before taking concerns public. Patients we consulted before implementation thought the arrangement was helpful and fair.

    In light of the recent dialogue cited at the beginning of this message, it is clear that the issue of copyright is a hot-button issue that may have a greater significance than is warranted by our intent. Simply, we are not really interested in owning a patient’s copyright interests in writings related or unrelated to our care (although if John Grisham were a patient, we might make an exception). We merely seek to protect our practice from spurious claims and seek to improve to quality of information available to the public.

    As such, we are revising our patient agreement. We will continue to require our patients to give us a reasonable chance to make them happy before they resort to public complaints about our clinic, without any asserted claim in copyright. As has been our past experience, we expect these circumstances to be infrequent and resolvable. To the extent that a patient disregards those terms or a non-patient posts fictitious reviews, we will rely on the administrator of the hosting site to consider our evidence of falsity and rely on their defense of their site’s integrity.

    Thank you to those who have provided input, favorable and unfavorable alike. Thank you also for taking the time to review this response.

    Pat Edwards
    Patient Satisfaction Director
    Crutchfield Dermatology

Comments are closed.