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URGENT: zeke and a court injunction

Yulblogger, podcaster, ilesansfiler, and art gallery/space guy Chris Hand, aka Zeke, has had his blog shut down (UPDATE: possibly permanently???) by a court injunction.

The Montreal and Canadian blogging, free speech, rational people communities ought to be up in arms. I urge everyone to at least write about this to get this info out. It’s a real danger to all of us who write what we think online.

The story, as I understand it, is this:

1. Radio Canada, National Post, and Le Devoir ran stories about alleged art forgeries sold to Loto-Quebec by a local art dealer whose name will remain unwritten, lest I too get sued …all links still live.

2. Loto-Quebec issued a press release about the incident … link still live.

3. Zeke, who runs a blog about art in Canada, wrote a number of posts about the incident, linking to the articles above (the posts have since been excised from the web – tho the articles he based his posts on are still up). Also, due to some vague language, suggesting that the man in question had been somehow affiliated with the mafia.

4. The fellow mentioned in articles (still available online) by Le Devoir, Radio-Canada, and Loto Quebec sued Zeke for $25,000 in damages.

5. Zeke was told to change the wording of the posts (he did).

6. Zeke posted about the threats from the other guy’s lawyer.

7. A court order required Zeke to take down the relevant posts (he did).

8. Zeke posted about the court order.

9. A second court injunction appears to have shut down Zeke’s blog altogether
UPDATE: it seems as if this injunction may only last “until after the next court hearing, June 21”

10. Zeke is no longer posting.

Here is a Globe and Mail article about the events.

Those who know Zeke know he’s loud, opinionated and something of a loose cannon. He’s also a stalwart of Montreal’s blogging/podcasting/art/arts scene, and a good guy.

But regardless of Zeke’s personality, and given that:
a) the articles Zeke linked to, and based his posts on, are still on the net in the public sphere, and
b) Zeke is now under threat of $25,000 in damages, and
c) Zeke’s blog has been shut down by court order

how do you, as a reader of blogs and citizen of Canada and Quebec, feel about freedom of speech in your country?

Chris, what can we do to help?

Heri’s take
Fagstein’s review


  1. zura zura 2007-06-18

    This is just plain ridiculous. The news was already out about the forgeries, so how is one blogger’s recap of it doing any harm? It’s a fact, cannot one talk about a fact? Things have snowballed into something unnecessarily much bigger than they ever should have been. It seems to me that the suer is just trying to go after the “little guy” to cover his own costs of getting caught for dealing in forgeries. What a crock.

    I wonder if people would react the same if it were a book, or a magazine article or a play written on some tricky subject. For some reason, I get the feeling that something posted online is a much easier target. Are bloggers easier targets? I wonder.

  2. Boris Anthony Boris Anthony 2007-06-18

    The question, Hugh, is rather: what are you going to do about it?

  3. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-18

    Well the fact that the newspapers, radio station and even Loto Quebec’s own site still have the info, I’d suggest that it’s not so much that something online is easy to target, it’s that bloggers without much money are easy to target.

  4. Michael Michael 2007-06-18

    Hi Hugh,

    Very nice summary of the events.

    I have an opinion on all of this – in fact I have several opinions. Note that I’ve been friends with Chris for over a decade. I like Chris, I like Zeke’s, and I like his blog.

    1. I’m not sure this is a freedom of speech issue. As much as it pains me to say so, Zeke’s Gallery is a commercial entity and its blog is a marketing and PR organ of the Gallery – it is not the musings of a disinterested individual. Can the McDo Canadian Head Office discuss ongoing legal problems at Burger King in which it is not involved? I doubt it. There are very different rules surrounding commercial speech than surrounding individual speech, and I think that difference is likely at the heart of this.

    2. I’m not sure this is a freedom of speech issue at the level of the court, rather, it very much seems to rely on the exploitation of the ignorance and over-workedness of the court system overall. I don’t think any court has said “bloggers can’t do this”. I don’t think the question of whether or not this is a media outlet or “speech” has been considered, yet, even a little bit.

    3. That said, I think those two points are but technicalities. This sucks for Chris, and for the rest of us, and I think it’s shocking – commercial entity or no – that any judge sees fit to find against Chris for simply referring to things OTHERS have written.

    4. This is a case of deep pockets trying to bully someone into submission, and finding that the courts are of great service. Nothing new in that, particularly. Tactically, I think that when faced with a court order, if you can’t afford to fight it with a fully-engaged legal team (of one or more), then you should (quickly) do what you can to make it disappear. Live to fight another day.

    5. I really hope this works out for Chris. This whole thing is completely ridiculous and offensive on the part of PAT – clearly the work of a desperate, petty person. This is important, though – normal people will be abused by the desperate and the petty. The question is how to respond. A cornered mad dog is dangerous.

  5. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-18

    @Boris: post and forget?

    but seriously, the things I have done:
    1. post about it to try to get a little more exposure and traction online at least
    2. told Chris to contact Pippa Lawson and David Fewer at; and to see if they can help with the legal side of things

    and the things I am considering doing:
    1. attending the June 21 hearing
    2. wondering what else a lowly blogger can do to help

    does anyone have any suggestions? i’m at a loss.

  6. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-18

    1. point taken that Zeke’s is “commercial” (ha!), his blog is PR, and that he is writing about a “competitor” (ha! again). But, if Burger King’s legal troubles have been written about in newspapers, I fail to see why McDo’s legal rights should be different than anyone else’s … that is, if Globe&Mail can write about BK’s legal issues, referring to matters of *public record*, I can’t see why McD’s PR dept could not issue a press release (even if it would be considered crass to do so).

    2. I ain’t no lawyer, but whatever the reasons behind the court’s decision, it is still, as of now, a legal precedent: all of us could now, theoretically, be forced to shut down our blogs for writing something unflattering about someone (rich), even if we are just pointing to links of articles in the public record. so whether the court sees this as a freedom of speech issue, it IS one because of the legal precedent that it sets, stating that if what we write does “damage” to someone, then we are on the hook – even if what we write is in the public record, and written about with impunity by big media outlets with expensive lawyers.

    3. yes.

    4. yes. i have no doubt that Chris did not go about things in the most tactical way. But still the worry is the law, not Chris’ stubbornness.

    5. right again. so my question is, how can *we*, Chris’ fellow-bloggers, respond?

  7. Zeke Zeke 2007-06-18


    A) Thanks tons! to everyone for your support.

    B) Doing what you have been doing is great, any other ideas anyone has would be equally good if not more so. Basically getting the word out and spread far would be wonderful.

    C) I have emailed the EFF, PEN, RCFP, and about a gazillion other folk and organizations. The only responses I have received have been from Hour, the Gazette, the G&M and an awful lot of local bloggers. If anyone knows how to get responses from any organizations, I’d be extremely grateful.

    D) I do have some legal representation now, but was refused legal aid. At some point I am going to have to deal with a bill.

    E) As we are in Canada, MIchael is right it is not a freedom of speech issue. In Canada it is called freedom of expression. Then on top of that the blog is not a marketing and PR organ of the gallery, any more than the Gazette is a marketing and PR organ for Canwest/Global. Beyond that there are a whack of other things as well – but I don’t have the space here to respond, once this is all settled, I will answer them all. Thanks again for your help and support.

  8. Michael Michael 2007-06-18

    Well, on #1 – I would love to hear a lawyer discuss this, but I think it would not be permissible for McD’s PR dept to do anything like that. I would love to learn more about this. Remember though that until the mid 70s in the US, one company couldn’t even mention another company’s NAME in its advertising. Period. That’s why I used the McD example – they were BK’s target (Jodie Foster was the child actress in the ad) when BK broke this wall and win the resulting lawsuits.

    Commercial speech in Canada is limited, and much more so than in the US. I personally believe that for the most part, this is a good thing even while in many ways I have become more of a free speech extremist than ever in the past few years.

    On #2 – I don’t think there’s any special precedent here to worry about. Libel and other laws in Canada are well known and apply to bloggers no more or less than anyone else. This isn’t yet a libel cause as far as I know.

    On #5 – what we should do? I think more than anything Chris needs good legal advice. I understand that he is getting this now (I have spoken with him about this a couple of times). There may be a bill for this at some point – I’ll follow up on this side of things.

  9. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-19

    My big wtf is how the WHOLE blog got shut down. I mean, the offending posts were already gone…. so why shut down the rest of it? Doesn’t that make you nervous?

    I gather Zeke got in trouble for posting about the legal issues as they arose (and was found potentially in contempt of court): posting the judgment, lawyers letters online etc.

    But again, aren’t these things in the public record?

  10. Michael Michael 2007-06-19

    Chris, if you’re reading, can you clarify if you shut your blog down on principle or if someone demanded that it be closed beyond just removing the supposedly offending material? I’m not clear on that point.

  11. Zeke Zeke 2007-06-19


    After talking with my lawyer guy, I decided it was best to take it down entirely. The judgment itself isn’t clear on what has to be removed, so I thought it best to err on the side of caution.

    It is most likely and hopefully only a temporary (although tedious) move. 2,481 posts, each one taking three clicks in order to remove it without deleting it. I’m amazed that I don’t have a splint or a cast on my hand.

  12. Shawna Shawna 2007-06-19

    I blogged about this (directing people here) .. is it in contempt of court to post judgements and lawyer letters during a court case? When and where is the next court hearing exactly?

  13. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-19

    next hearing june 2, 9:30am, not sure where.

  14. Christian Christian 2007-06-19

    Hi there. Although I am sorry for what’s happening to Zeke, my opinion is that the bloggers community should not build up this story anymore.

    First, mixing mafia with a fellow competitor’s reputation (even if journalists may do so) in a too short post was not very clever. Second, publicizing private talks with his lawyer was (1) not very fair (2) irresponsible because you should have perfectly guessed what the next step would be, Zeke. (3) Publishing the blue papers was totally stupid. Quite obviously, you never do that to a lawyer or you get prepared to pay the bill.

    Now bringing the freedom of speech issue and requesting legal aid from tax payers in order to avoid predictable consequences of above mentioned acts is another proof of bad judgment. I am really sorry to say that but my feeling is that you should have stepped back a long time ago. Everyone can make mistakes but repeating them ad libitum and pretending to be a poor victim at the same time simply does not make sense.

    That’s my opinion and I must tell you that I have waited a long time to express it in public but that I am certainly not alone to think that way. Please do not involve the larger bloggers community into your own troubles, thank you.

  15. Zeke Zeke 2007-06-20


    If anyone is interested, I just came across this: a list of some of the other times, M. Tremblay has sued people and the results.

  16. Hugh Hugh 2007-06-20

    so, sifting thru some issues as they become a little more clear:

    1. zeke was required to take down the offending posts by court injunction.

    2. zeke took down the rest of his posts *voluntarily*, in order to avoid any problems before the june 21 hearing.

    3. zeke is a gallery owner, and hence a “competitor” (tho if you know zeke’s indie gallery, calling them “competitors” is a bit of a farce), of mr. tremblay (also a gallery owner), and so must be more careful about what he writes – legally, ethically, and sensibly.

    4. my objection is court rulings against a blogger linking to documents in the public record.

    5. I have no problem with bloggers getting sued for libel, if what they say is libelous.

    6. Once writing determined to be, or expected to be libelous been removed from a site, then the rest of the site should be allowed to live in peace.

    7. @christian, the story *should* be built up to the extent that it could have a negative impact on people’s ability to write & link freely about things, short of libel. In the case that there is no legal impact on our ability to write (ie no court ruling barring people from linking to stories in the pubic record), then you are correct, this is a matter for zeke to sort out.

  17. […] synopsis’ of the situation and the turn of events see this article by Steve and this blog post by Hugh. Hugh’s post also has a very good discussion about it in the […]

  18. […] updates on the story of Zeke & Mr. Tremblay. The court session was held June 21, arguments were made, and now … we wait again till […]

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