Medical Professionals Increasingly Asserting Copyright to Your Online Reviews

Ryan Whitwam

It feels like a scene out of some manner of satirical dark comedy. Medical professionals are increasingly requiring new patients to sign forms that purport to give the doctor copyright to any reviews that the patient may write online. If said doc disagrees with the content of a review for any reason, he or she can force the patient to remove it for breach of copyright. This shady trend is now the subject of a class action lawsuit against one over-zealous dentist.

One New York dentist, Stacy Makhnevich, is taking this practice so far that she reportedly began billing a patient $100 per day when he refused to remove a negative review. She and other medical professionals are making use of forms provided by the advocacy group Medical Justice. Many legal experts that have looked at the forms consider them to be borderline illegal. Perhaps due to the extreme case in New York, a group called Public Citizen has filed a class action against Makhnevich.

As we live more and more of our lives online, we are all coming to the realization that the things we put on the internet are forever. It’s not just a passing complaint around the water cooler that vanishes into the ether any more. Interestingly, it was Makhnevich’s billing practices that the patient in this case complained about, not her dentistry. Do you think any professional should hold copyright to things you write about your interactions with them?

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