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           Sydney Time



   Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009






Wine Paranoia (5 Dec)


Let’s face it; all wine lovers by definition are wine obsessive to some degree, but that is nothing like being wine paranoid, and one of the best examples of wine paranoia I have seen relates to the terms and conditions of registering on the Mark Squires' Bulletin Board, on the Robert Parker website.  


All board owners have the right to set the rules and in most cases they are reasonable, but this lot has to be seen to be believed.   


The first requirement is a “Real Names Policy” and fair enough, that’s a good idea. "Handles" or "pseudos" are not allowed and every post must display the posters real name. Not draconian and reasonable too, but here is where it gets “interesting.”  The board does not allow registration from web based email addresses such as Yahoo, Gmail, Excite or Hotmail. That may seem a bit harsh, but is sort of understandable. However the text following that condition (their bold print) says, Anyone who attempts to hide their true identity by registering and/or posting here using a phony name will be liable to pay the Administrator of the Board …… $6,000 each in liquidated damages on demand, which sum is accepted as valid and reasonable by this registration, plus all actual costs ……. related to the phony registration.”


When I read that, I honestly laughed out loud. People may or may not know that, in many cases, signs like the ones outside car parks for instance, that spell out the terms and conditions of entering, are unenforceable at law. In Australia a contract can’t overwrite the law of the land, and in particular consumer law; that’s why those signs are unenforceable. In most civilised states, contracts also have to be conscionable, and if they are not, they are also unenforceable.


Further down in the terms and conditions it states that the administrators have the right to censor certain words and entire posts. Fair enough too – or so it seems at first glance. It then explains that the only words that the computer program censors “are some common slurs.” Try typing the word TORB or TORBWine in on that site and the letters will be replaced by asterisks. I guess I am a slur on society!


Later in the rules it states that all parties agree that any legal dispute will have to take place in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, or the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania law would govern said litigation.”


I can just see it now. Some drongo in Australia decides to pull a swiftie and register under an alias. Mark Squires finds out the real identity of the said Drongo, ‘cause he would have to be a Drongo to get caught, and Squires decides to impose the US$6,000 fine plus costs. As Drongo is a bigger Drongo than anyone could give him credit for, he either voluntarily coughs up the six big ones or flies to Pennsylvania to contest the action.


Dear reader, can you see those little pink elephants up in the clouds playing leapfrog with the unicorns? The mind boggles! Does Squires seriously think that anyone would take that condition seriously, especially if they were out to “screw” with his rules?


Plain and simple; its paranoid wine behaviour, but wait there is more! This is also expressed in bold in the terms and conditions. If you are not a member, and you do not agree to this choice of venue, also contained in the Terms of Service sign-on agreement, do not post, read or otherwise use this BB for any reason at any time.”  (You can’t post if you aren’t a registered member, so that is irrelevant).


So if you don’t agree to being sued for $6,000 for registering under a false name, even if you have no intention of doing so, Mr Squires is telling you under the terms and conditions of his site, which you have not agreed to, that you should not to read his site. And the irony of it all – Mark Squires is a legal eagle but apparently he hasn’t yet fully cottoned on to the concept that publishing something on the Internet makes it possible for all to see.


But the wine paranoia continues. In a recent post of his site Mark Squires tells members of the forum that if they respond to a post that they know has been posted by a phony, they will be booted off the forum. Well that may be fair enough (depending on the circumstance), but Mark Squires goes on to state “that apart from the possible criminal implications….” Yes that’s right dear reader, do it and according to Mr Squires, you are (possibly) a criminal. Wine paranoia indeed! I don’t have to make him look silly; Mark Squires is quite capable of doing it all by himself.


Oh! In case anyone wants to take legal action against me, please contact my solicitors:

Sue Grabbit and Run in Partnership with Legales, Eagles and Beagles - by appointment to Pet Store Owners and Amateur Plonk Writers

123 Shyster Place

Sydney 2001


Oh, and all attempts at legal action against me must be lodged in the Berrima Court House - in the County of Camden and the Parish of Wingecarribe - which is the closest court house to Chateau TORB’s Joint.



Feel free to submit your comments!

From: Lyle Fass

11/29/2007 11:20:52 When this goes live can I link to it. Great post.

TORB Responds: With pleasure.

From: Mothra

11/29/2007 21:21:50 Beautiful. And not being a legal eagle, nor registered there, I wonder if the new items in the TOS can legally be applied to people that joined before they were changed? It would seem to me that without specifically asking people to agree to the new terms, he would not be able to enforce against somebody who registered under different rules.

But that is more of a question for the attorneys. Hopefully your board is free of those types. :-)

From: Board-O

11/30/2007 21:39:33 Bravo! I would love to hear a psychiatrist's opinion on this turkey.

From: RB

12/01/2007 01:50:05 How about this one? it's a classic:

From: Andrew Zachary

12/03/2007 10:35:11 I believe the best lawyer in these circumstances is

Huey Louey Dewy, Esq
of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe

I suspect each and every term is unenforceable, and would be rejected in almost any court, except, of course, for those stuffed with kangaroos!

From: monkeyboy

12/05/2007 08:05:04 I just read that link that RB posted. Yes it's a classic . Check out this gem from the Squires -

"As for a waste of my time in tracking it down, you are quite right. On the other hand, I've always been willing to cut off my nose to spite my face. I should tell you the story of how I sued the Port Authority of New York and their security company for false imprisonment after they wouldn't let me leave the waiting area at JFK Airport to get a news paper.

Took a couple of years. I litigated an appeal in New York as well as tried the case below. I served subpoenas in New York, after winning judgment, on various payors of the debtor as an aid to execution. I only won $1000. I certainly spent in excess of 150 hours of time and made numerous trips to New York. It was still worth it."

What a wanker! Can I say that? :)

TORB Responds: Anthony,

As I said, no one has to try and make Squires look bad, his own words are enough to show his true character; time after time! And the most stupid part about it is that he has absolutely no idea he is doing it to himself and blames things like "Ric's ego" for the problem.

From: Waz

12/11/2007 00:03:38 Hmmm. Interesting article Torb.

I'm a lawyer (well, actually, a frustrated wine lover who still has to make a living) and I deal with commercial and internet law as a large part of my job.

Unfortunately, I can say that this kind of onanistic rubbish from Squires gives many of us in the legal profession a bad name. We're not all that bad!

FYI to a couple of points raised by the posters:
(1) the enforceability of the terms of the contract would generally depend on whether these were brought to the users' attention when they registered to join the board.
(2) the $6,000 penalty would have Buckley's chance of being enforced in an Australian court.

Copyright © Ric Einstein 2007