Breaking news – designer sued for $20 million over blog post

of particular concern to artists, designers and bloggers:

Local business owner sued for $20 million over blog post

When Vision Media Television first contacted Leslie Richard, who runs The Oko Box, a small eco-fashion business out of her Asheville home, she was interested.

“They said that their TV producer wanted me to be interviewed for a documentary on eco-fashion,” she says. “I talked to one of their producers, and she told me that 84 million people were going to see this. She said it would be on PBS, CNN, that it’s going to be aired all over Europe.”

Then came the kicker: VMT wanted $22,900 for production fees and $3,000 for airfare to do the program, according to Richard.

“I was shocked,” she says. “I didn’t know what to say. My store doesn’t have that kind of money.”

Richard began researching the media company and came to believe she was being scammed. She reported VMT to the Better Business Bureau and wrote about the situation on her store’s blog, referencing e-mails the company sent her and reports of what she believes are similar scams. On consumer-report Web sites like the Ripoff Report, various businesses have asserted that the scams follow a similar model: The company touts its connection with major networks or PBS and says they’ll feature the business in a segment. Later, they ask for money to defray production costs.

On July 17, VMT filed a federal lawsuit against Richard for defamation, trade libel and “tortious interference with business relationship.” The lawsuit claims that Richard’s blog has lost the company $5 million in business and seeks another $15 million in punitive damages. Filed in the Southern U.S. District of Florida (the company is based in Boca Raton), the lawsuit gave her 20 days to respond. The lawsuit also confirms that the company does charge $22,900 for producing an “interstitial,” a short segment that runs between longer programs.

and the plot just thickens from there. It involves Walter Cronkite, Michael Douglas and a disturbing array of companies centered around Boca Raton. You should read.

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