Smile-and don't write a bad review

How far will you go to ensure good online reviews?  One New York dentist went too far.  Stacy Makhnevich, a New York dentist, is on the losing end of a class action law suit filed on behalf of her patients.  The judge found that she had misused copyright law in an attempt to prevent the posting of any negative reviews on Yelp.

In her practice, Ms. Makhnevich forced patients to sign a contract in which she owned the copyright in any reviews they may write about her practice.  She would subsequently threaten to sue any patient who may post a review online.   

The judge found that the contracts were essentially a misuse of copyright law.  The judge stated that “the agreement’s assignments of copyrights, and the assertion of copyright claims by the dentist for the express purpose of preventing the dissemination of [the patient’s] commentary, …constitute copyright misuse.”  The court ruled in the patients’ favor.  The full case is Lee v. Makhnevich et al., case no. 1:11-cv-08665, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

What’s the take away here?  Don’t try to control things you cannot.  If your business receives a negative review, deal with it specifically and try to ensure that it won’t be repeated.  Trying to exploit the copyright laws won’t help your case.

Understanding the scope and limitations of intellectual property law is critical to any organization.  Having the right person to help you make those decisions is important.  The Law Office of Kathleen Lynch PLLC is designed to help businesses such as yours keep ahead of the game.   The first telephone consultation is free.  Email us at