Press Release – For Immediate Release – Internet Merchants Association President Threatens 1st Amendment Rights of Bloggers & Journalists

Press Release - National - For Immediate Release

Internet Merchants Association President Threatens Freedom of Speech and Action against Independent Journalists

The president of an eCommerce Trade Group, the Internet Merchants Association, has stated he will "go after" any bloggers or websites covering IMA business.  The IMA is a non-profit organization which recently experienced mass resignations from a majority of the board due to ethics concerns.

In an article published by the Trading Assistant Journal - http://snurl.com/2uvam Scott Pooler details the open threat by IMA President Steve Grossberg to "Go After" publishers of independent blogs and websites covering the events leading up to and following a mass resignation and ouster of several members of the board of directors and ethics committee of the Internet Merchants Association. http://www.imamerchant.org/

Mr. Grossberg, when asked to comment, only sites privacy issues and has stated he has hired the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP http://www.bsfllp.com/index.html to represent the IMA in these actions.

The IMA is a non-profit Corporation registered in the State of Florida. Several current and former members of the Internet Merchants Association have been quoted or have commented in the blogs and websites Mr. Grossberg has threatened to sue.

These same former and current members of the IMA appear to have filed complaints with the Florida Attorney Generals economic crimes division regarding claims of malfeasance and ethics violations within the IMA board of directors and presidents offices. No comment has been issued from the IMA regarding these charges.

The Trading Assistant Journal is an independent industry publication and has covered the IMA board disturbance with several articles beginning in the first week of July, 2008.

Scott Pooler, the publisher of the Trading Assistant Journal has stated his publication will "support and defend any blogs or websites in any way possible to maintain the freedom of speech and press rights of independent journalists and bloggers guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the United States of America".

No avenue for resolution of these disputes has been offered by the IMA president.  The membership of the Internet Merchants Association attempted to call an emergency meeting in an effort to elect a new board of directors. This meeting was cancelled however; due to the current board changing association rules of assembly in the bylaws late in the night Sunday July 6th.

Many former members were unceremoniously removed from the association without explanation. These IMA members claim they were removed because they either commented upon or did not agree with the actions of the board when it fired and removed the ethics committee while the current president was serving a 3 day suspension due to ethics concerns.

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0 Responses to Press Release – For Immediate Release – Internet Merchants Association President Threatens 1st Amendment Rights of Bloggers & Journalists

  1. Charlie July 8, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Scott,

    This article is simply not true.

    That only applied to situations where “copying and pasting” from posts on the private IMA forum to outside publications are involved if they are not the original author of such.

    The freedom of speech and press rights of independent journalists and bloggers guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the United States of America does not (and never did) extend to copyrighted materials.

    Of course IMA and its members support free speech. The lawyers have been merely consulted with due to the possibility (and threats of) lawsuits being brought forth from person(s) not affiliated with IMA.

    Charlie
    Member of IMA

  2. Scott Pooler July 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    We simply quoted your president. If his words were inaccurate he should say so.

  3. Scott Pooler July 8, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    Also, copyrwrite law only extends rights to the authors of those comments, not the venue on which they chose to publish them, unless the author specifically transferred the rights to the venue.

    i.e. I do not own the rights to your comment above and I can not claim damages if someone copies and pastes them into another blog, only you can do that.

  4. Charlie July 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Scott,

    “Go After” is the extent of the quote???????

    Out of context of course, but that is what feeds the so called press these days.

    Charlie
    Member of IMA
    Member of PESA

  5. Scott Pooler July 8, 2008 at 3:12 pm #

    Actually, – @Can’t Say

    The quote is…

    “Going After” … and… “the aswas blogs, sportinggoodsusa, agenius etc. Our attorney today strongly advised that this was the #1 priority for us to accomplish and he stated this over and over that swift and decisive action is needed.”

    When the term “Going After” and “attorney today strongly advised” and “Swift and decisive action” are placed together in context, one only need to read the actual text to see the intent of this comment.

    AsWas, Sportinggoodusa and agenius are all independent blogs and as such deserve the protection of the freedom of speech statutes of this country.

    Threatening these same blogs with litigation is no less heinous than actually filing suit, as the intent is to silence the dissent expressed in these blogs by the owners and commenters.

    When a person or persons elects to join an association and then either leaves or is rejected from that association, can you show me where that person has relinquished their freedom of speech rights?

    There is no copywrite issue and there is no privacy issue, if the person who wrote the comments elects to make them public.

    Charlie, are you sure you wish to defend this point? I understand you are loyal to your organization but is it worth your while to stand on a principle which has been conjured up in one persons mind?

    If you are a member of PeSA, you know that no one has been cheering there, or anywhere, over these events at the IMA, not myself, and not any of the members of PeSA or the ECMTA.

    The “so called press” will cover the issues as they are presented by the members and the board of directors or president of the organization. So far we have only received pertinent information from the members.

    The organization is trying to bluff and bluster its way out of a beehive of what seems to be very disgruntled members who feel they have been mislead and misinformed.

    Bluff and bluster will not save the day.

  6. Charlie July 8, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    Scott,

    I will not debate you on what constitutes “blogability” and “freedom of speech” etc., however I will clarify that what the IMA is considering “going after” (your words/not mine) is the blatant theft by copying and pasting of private copyrighted communications among its’ members that have been posted on a private membership accessible only discussion board to outside non IMA member media.

    Your article in this “blog”, is attempting to convey that the IMA is out to “squelch dissent and the freedom of speech”. That simply is not the case.

    In reference to your mentioning of PESA (in post 5) “you know that no one has been cheering there, or anywhere, over these events at the IMA, not myself, and not any of the members of PeSA or the ECMTA”, I will concur. I would expect no less. PESA as is IMA, is made up of professionals that indeed recognize belaboring an organization benefits no one.

    In reference to your mentioning of the members of IMA, “The organization is trying to bluff and bluster its way out of a beehive of what seems to be very disgruntled members who feel they have been mislead and misinformed” is again, simply not true.

    The majority of the members of IMA are not disgruntled. The majority of the members of IMA are working to get past this “bump in the road”. The majority of the members are working to make IMA a better, more productive ecommerce association that will continue to deliver and provide those, that desire to be a member of IMA, an even more rewarding and beneficial experience.

    Charlie
    Member of IMA
    Member of PESA

  7. (IM)quitting(A)sap July 8, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    Charlie,

    If the IMA isn’t trying to squelch the members, then why don’t YOU post a message to the IMA board asking why all the IMA websites are registered under the name Steve Grossman instead of the legal non-profit entity that SHOULD own the websites. Two other members posted this question and POOF the messages disappeared (probably before you saw them) and the members got unannounced refunds.

    Since your lips are so far up Steve’s butt, why don’t YOU post this very legitimate question to the forum and then we’ll see how much the IMA supports your freedom of speech.

    Transparency? Only as in the emperor wears no clothes!

  8. Unbelievable July 8, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    The current BOD is challenging members to offer up 7-10 members to run for the BOD. So, open election? Sounds like it to me. They’ve posted the same refrain over and over. If your seats are open, 7-10 people WOULD step up!

  9. Kim - former IMA member July 8, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    Charlie?? Will Steve be suing himself for what he copied and pasted? Ask him. Because it WAS private

  10. Debbie Levitt July 8, 2008 at 8:44 pm #

    I don’t feel it’s a totally open election while you have Board members who are responsible for ongoing unethical behaviour and manipulation. When you have a President capable of being thrown off the Business Group board, and getting himself suspended for attacking IMA members on the IMA forum, you have a problem that doesn’t go away.

    There were 7 Board members. There were also moderators and an Ethics Committee, and all became meaningless when the Board decided it knew better than the Ethics Committee and moderators it always otherwise trusted.

    7 new Board members may mean nothing while you have a core group who is comfy manipulating. I would expect the President’s biggest supporters to want to be with him on the Board so they can support him more… and then you’d have a system with TRULY no checks and balances.

    Who will be left in the IMA to vote in a Board member who ISN’T a Steve and Ben supporter? If the people who don’t like those two all leave, who is there to vote in anything that might have balance?

    How does it feel to be 2 weeks into this, and still not be told the truth? To still not have real transparency? To have a manic President who one day wants to say how humble and sorry he is, though somehow he can’t say that to me after libelling me, and another day, he is posting all of his evil plans to sue bloggers and spend the IMA money unchecked. Hey, he’s the Treasurer too. Who is going to outvote THIS guy and tell him what he can’t spend money on?

    I think that without the current board removing itself, which is evidently had earlier agreed to do, you are dooming yourself to history repeating. The only difference is that with new by-laws and new lawyers, plus new rules about not posting anything bad about the IMA inside the forums, nobody will have a voice to speak up against what will be going on.

    I think the IMA can only prosper with the current board completely going away. It can survive if it doesn’t, but few who know what went on will want to join. They will have to hope that nobody finds out what went on.

  11. (IM)quitting(A)sap July 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Not up for the challenge of asking the question I posed in the forum, eh Charlie?

    Didn’t think so.

  12. Kim - former IMA member July 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    Debbie, I don’t think they are going to replace the three there, just that they want to give the voters a choice for the four open slots.

    My question is how will they run the election, doesn’t it have to be in person, using an ink pen, while standing on your head in Steve’s master bathroom?

  13. (IM)quitting(A)sap July 8, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    C’mon Charlie, you directed everyone to come here now you don’t have a response? Why won’t you ask the group this simple question: Why are the IMA websites registered to Steve Grossman as an individual when they should be owned by the IMA, a not-for-profit corporation?

    Will you post this question to the IMA board? Or are you too afraid of getting kicked out?

  14. IMA-Trial-Membership July 9, 2008 at 12:50 am #

    For those of you who are not members of the IMA, let me give you a little preview of the real benefits of the IMA discussion board.

    Let’s say you are an eBay seller and are having a problem with your business. As an IMA member, you can post your problem on the forum and some of the most successful names in e-commerce will reply to you. You’ll get such replies as:

    -eBay sucks. It will be out of business any day.
    -Maybe you should sign up for Channel Advisor – only $500 a month
    -eBay is lame, why are you even selling there?
    -Want to see some photos of my geodesic house?
    -You should be glad you are asking us this question and not those jerks at PESA
    -The IMA bylaws say that you may not ask the second part of your question (effective last night at 11:34pm)
    -eBay sucks. Oh, and they are a sponsor. eBay will you pay us more dues?
    -I can’t wait until someone starts an auction site that is just like eBay but without the fees.

    Yes, prospective members, all this can be yours for only $129 per year (note – this fee may increase for 2009 because of legal fees the IMA is racking up suing bloggers).

  15. Angela July 9, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    IMA-Trial-Membership,

    Be careful. Steve’s going to get you for stealing his confidential information from HIS forum!

    As for “TRIALS”, I was one of the eBay sellers that went there and clicked the “trial” link that they had at the time I made the mistake of clicking it. Unfortunately, there is no “end trial” link. You have to email to get your refund. And guess what, you don’t get your refund because that trial link wasn’t supposed to be there and it’s all that the programmers fault! Too bad for you and I’ll be sure to have that programmer fix it so that it doesn’t happen again. Enjoy your membership!

    THEN after you realize you are stuck, you get to go read “eBay sucks!” ad infinitum which can readily be found on the eBay boards for free.

    At least that was my experience with IMA. Now that I agreed to leave if they gave me a full refund, they kicked me out and gave me a pro-rated paypal payment that I had to pay the fee. I have since mailed them back to either give me all of my money (a lousy $53) or I still consider myself a member and will take them to court for the money. They’d rather the IMA members pay at minimum $250 and hour for an attorney to prevent giving me my $53 (plus paypal fees) or giving me access back to the forums.

  16. Gem July 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    IMA is clearly a very unprofessional group. I requested my refund on July 10th (joined June 10th) before the July 12th deadline for requesting a refund. I requested a refund because I found this entire situation ridiculous.

    What is the date today?

    Have I gotten a refund? NO

    Was my access blocked to IMA? Yes, it was blocked 1 day after my refund request.

    4 emails later still no refund and not ONE professional response from the “leaders”. Only one email was replied to and their excuse was that I had blocked them. That did not happen this was entirely their doing.

    Clearly not an organization I want to belong to. I would still like my refund and I won’t stop posting on blogs until I get it.

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