Court tosses author’s suit against Amazon.com over negative book reviews

Plaintiff Hammer, a self-published author of books on handwriting analysis and hypnosis, sued Amazon.com, alleging causes of action for defamation, copyright infringement, breach of contract, violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, discriminatory business practices, and conversion. As characterized by the court, the plaintiff essentially claimed that Amazon had unlawfully colluded with an individual who posted several negative reviews of plaintiff’s books. The plaintiff also claimed that Amazon acted unlawfully by removing plaintiff’s books from its listings.

Amazon moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and the court granted the motion. It held that the allegations of defamation could not stand, as the negative reviews could not be construed as anything other than opinion. The claim of copyright infringement failed because the complaint contained no allegations that Amazon had copied the plaintiff’s work. There could not be any breach of contract, as Amazon was clearly within its rights to terminate its contract with the plaintiff after providing advance notice (which Amazon did). The First Amendment claim failed as a matter of law because Amazon was not a state actor. The discriminatory business practices claim was dismissed because Amazon had the right to independently choose not to do business with the plaintiff. Finally, the court dismissed the conversion claim because the plaintiff had merely re-styled a contract claim, thus that count was preempted.

In addition to dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety, the court entered a permanent injunction, enjoining the plaintiff from commencing any subsequent action relating to book reviews on Amazon.com or Amazon’s refusal to do business with him.

Hammer v. Amazon.com, — F.Supp.2d —, 2005 WL 2467046 (E.D.N.Y., Sept. 27, 2005).