Ad Agency Drops Suit Against Maine Blogger

Dispute Sparked by Barbs Over Tourism Campaign

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Warren Kremer Paino Advertising, New York, dismissed its lawsuit Friday against Maine Web Report blogger Lance Dutson for copyright infringement, defamation, and trade libel and injurious falsehood. Mr. Dutson posted regularly about the work the agency was doing for the Maine Office of Tourism.
Its battle with a blogger 'had taken on a life of its own' and become a distraction, said WKPA president Tom McCartin.
Its battle with a blogger 'had taken on a life of its own' and become a distraction, said WKPA president Tom McCartin.

'Globe' editorial
The dismissal comes the same day The Boston Globe published an editorial calling for the WKPA to drop its lawsuit. "Lance Dutson is a hyper-opinionated blogger, but that's no reason to shut him down, as an advertising agency is trying to do," the Globe wrote. Also, Maine State Rep. Stephen Bowen (R-Rockport) announced that he has asked the governor to suspend its contract with WKPA.

"It had really taken on a life of its own and it had really become more of a distraction to the business at hand, which is to advance the tourism industry in Maine," Tom McCartin, president of WKPA, said about his reasons for dropping the suit. "And above all, as I think any good agency would tell you, we have the interests of our client at heart."

Dann Lewis, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, was not available for comment. But he had told Ad Age earlier that the suit was affecting his office staffers time more than his state's image. "The only thing that's hurting us is it's distracting a number of my staff from dealing with the issues that really matter here -- our day-to-day activity in promoting tourism to Maine."

Mr. Dutson, a freelance Web designer who also does Internet advertising, said he feels vindicated. "I'm a little stunned right now by the swiftness of this whole thing. It's just really the magnitude of the reaction of the media and particularly other bloggers on the Internet and how effective really shining the light of day on the situation was in making it go away," he said. His blog can be found at www.mainewebreport.com.

Protecting reputation
Soon after the lawsuit came to light, Mr. McCartin told Ad Age he was most concerned about the blog because if potential clients search for the agency online, they could see the blog before the agency's own Web site. As a result, Mr. McCartin said his business, which sees capitalized billings in the $40 million range, has been hurt. And he wanted to protect his reputation.

The Maine Office of Tourism became the subject of Mr. Dutson's blog in October 2005 when he learned the office had bid for broad search terms that bumped into the interests of some of his clients. He argued the Internet-advertising strategy was misguided, because potential tourists must already be interested in the state to be led to the state's tourism Web site, he said.

When Mr. McCartin was asked if he had any further plans to stop the public critique of his agency by Mr. Dutson, he said he never had any plans to curtail the critique. "Whether we get a critique from Lance or we get a critique from Dann Lewis, I take the approach that we are getting some kind of intelligent input. And the purpose of it is to improve the state's marketing effort." But he is still concerned about damage to his reputation that might stem from a Google search. "I'll have to deal with it on a very individual basis as these instances crop up," he said.
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