A New York City dentist is facing legal charges over her requirement that patients assign her the copyrights to any public comments they make about her dentistry practice; a requirement, the lawsuit’s plaintiff argues, that effectively prevents patients from engaging in fair and honest criticism.
Public Citizen, a nonprofit political advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against Stacy Makhnevich, MD, on behalf of Robert Allen Lee, in New York City on Nov. 29. The complaint argues that her practice of acquiring the copyrights to patient commentary is unconscionable and should be prohibited.
According to court documents, Lee was asked to sign a “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy” before receiving treatment from Makhnevich for a sore tooth. Makhnevich’s office allegedly overcharged for the procedure, transported Lee’s insurance claim to the wrong insurance provider and refused to give Lee a copy of his records, prompting Lee to publicly criticize her on several websites, including Yelp.
Makhnevich allegedly contacted the websites to request that the comments be removed, but they refused and she began sending Lee $100 daily invoices for copyright infringement. The complaint filed against Makhnevich argues that the comments in question are protected by the Copyright Act.
In addition to voiding the agreement between Lee and Makhnevich, the plaintiff is seeking an injunction forbidding the assignment of copyright to Makhnevich in the future and damages in the amount of $4,766, the amount that Lee was originally asked to pay. The plaintiff also invited similarly affected patients of Makhnevich’s to join in a class-action suit against the dentist.