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Pianist Thinks He Can Use 'Right to Be Forgotten' Law to Remove His Bad Reviews, Accidentally Outs Himself as a Thin-Skinned Censor Instead

Dejan Lazic discovers the Streisand Effect.

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Europe's "right to be forgotten" law, which lets people force search engines to scrub away links to certain sorts of embarrassing information, has produced several free-speech horror stories already. Now it's given us this:

"Hmm," he thought. "I wonder if there's a way I can make people forget the actual performance, too."
Channel Classics Records

The pianist Dejan Lazic, like many artists and performers, is occasionally the subject of bad reviews. Also like other artists, he reads those reviews. And disagrees with them. And gripes over them, sometimes.

But because Lazic lives in Europe, where in May the European Union ruled that individuals have a "right to be forgotten" online, he decided to take the griping one step further: On Oct. 30, he sent The Washington Post a request to remove a 2010 review by Post classical music critic Anne Midgette that—he claims—has marred the first page of his Google results for years…."To wish for such an article to be removed from the internet has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or with closing down our access to information," Lazic explained in a follow-up e-mail to The Post. Instead, he argued, it has to do with control of one's personal image—control of, as he puts it, "the truth."

If the right to be forgotten actually worked like that, this would be its worst free-speech horror story yet. Instead, it's more of a horror for Lazic's reputation. Mike Masnick lists some of the ways the pianist has misunderstood both the law and the likely effects of his request:

1. The [E.U.'s right-to-be-forgotten] ruling only applies to "data controllers"—i.e., search engines in this context—and not the publishers themselves. That was clear from the ruling.

2. The ruling applies to search engines in Europe, not newspapers in the US.

3. The ruling is not supposed to apply to people in the public eye, so famous world-traveling musicians don't count.

4. The purpose is to remove outdated information, not things like a review of a performance.

5. It most certainly is not, despite Lazic's stated belief, supposed to be about letting someone control "the truth" about themselves.

6. Because of all of this, the lukewarm review of Lazic's performance from 2010 is getting lots of new attention.

7. Because of all of this, Lazic's views on censorship, free speech and his own personal reviews is now widely known.

I suppose that's one silver lining to Europe's ridiculous rule: It's a honey trap for would-be censors to expose themselves—at least as long as they don't understand the law.

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  1. He doesn’t deny ——- —–.

  2. something, something six inch pianist walks into a bar…

    1. Is that a pianist in your pocket?

    2. Guy walks into a bar, orders a beer, and looks in vain for a jukebox. So he asks the bartender if there is any entertainment, and the barkeep pulls a box out from under the bar. Inside is a man, about a foot tall, who sits down to a miniature piano and proceeds to play.
      Amazed, the customer asks where he got the little guy, so the bartender reaches under the bar again. This time it is a lamp. As the customer polishes off a smudge, a genie appears. In a booming voice he offers to grant one wish. The customer asks for a million bucks and the genie disappears.
      Outside ducks start falling from the sky. Thousands and thousands of ducks.
      In response to the customer’s surprise, the bartender smiles and says “Do you really think I asked for a twelve inch pianist?”

      1. *starts a million ‘uploads’ to sarc’s computer, since I thought that’s what he meant when he said ‘applause’*

      2. So, the ducks are dead? Or what?

        And if the ducks are magically created by a geenie, do you need a hunting license to collect the ducks?

        1. Quack if I know.

        2. So, the ducks are dead? Or what?

          Well, ducks can fly, so they should be able to arrest their fall safely.

          And if the ducks are magically created by a geenie, do you need a hunting license to collect the ducks?

          “Prove that is not a natural-born duck now that we have confiscated the remains and seized your bank accounts”

          1. There are quite a few breeds of domesticated ducks that cannot fly. I can easily see the genie’s little prank going all WKRP, and ending quite badly for our web-footed friends.

  3. In related news, Barbara Striesand applies to have some unflattering statements about her removed…

    1. Nah, just pictures of her house.

  4. I suppose it would be beneath the Post’s parlous dignity to run a front-page headline “Bad Pianist Dejan Lazic Seeks Removal of Accurate Review”.

    1. They might – but then it’s a libel suit.

      1. Which Lazic would also lose. “Bad pianist” is a subjective opinion, which is fully protected speech, and “seeks removal of accurate review” is a factual statement, which again is protected.

    2. Sounds perfect for The Onion.

    3. Oh, I’m sure he is an excellent pianist. The reviewer isn’t going to even bother with reviewing anything by someone who isn’t. He’s just a whiny little turd.

  5. Was there ever any doubt at all that the Right to be Forgotten would quickly morph into a kind of heckler’s veto?

    1. I doubt it.

      It has nothing to do with the truth either. I’m pretty sure that in most of Europe you can sue if people say untrue things about you in public. It’s about allowing people to have true information about them removed from searches.

      I guess Europe doesn’t really claim to have any sort of absolute freedom of speech. I’m always amazed at how many people seem to think that is a good thing. I mean, think what you will about economics or abortion or deep dish pizza, but I would have thought that the first amendment was something that everyone could agree is something really great about the USA.

      1. It’s one of our best things. And we’re pretty much alone in having more or less unregulated speech. Sort of, anyway.

    2. Shut up, old man! If Reason doesn’t ban you, I’m going to go all Warty/sheep on this place!

      1. How can they ban me? I’ve invoked my Right to be Forgotten.

        1. You have been forgotten, and to be sure, you’re banned from reminding anyone you exist.

          1. That’s not how it works. It’s a personal right.

  6. Pianist Thinks He Can Use “Right to Be Forgotten” Law to Remove His Bad Reviews, Accidentally Outs Himself as a Thin-Skinned Censor Whiny Little Bitch Instead

    ftfy

  7. Wow. Who ever could have foreseen THIS happening??!!

    Incroyable, EU!! TOTALLY unforeseeable!!

  8. Pianist rubbed wrong way, seeks government assistance.

    1. Bad touch?

  9. Pianists tend to be egotistical pricks.

    Glenn Gould stopped having public concerts because he didn’t think the audience appreciated him sufficiently.

    Liberace sued a British reviewer who implied that Liberace was gay. (It was true, but the review was long before gays felt safe coming out of the closet. Liberace won, BTW.)

    1. Don’t know the details, but under UK law, the reviewer would have to prove Liberace was gay, in contrast to U.S. procedure, where Liberace would have had to prove he wasn’t. And if Liberace counts as a “public figure,” he would also have to prove the reviewer knew his review was false or acted with reckless disregard of its falsity.

      1. I don’t think that truth is even a sure defense against libel in the UK.

  10. Question/Philip K. Dick story pitch: if the technology existed to delete information not only from computers but from people’s minds, would the EU declare a right to force other people to forget disgracing information about you?

    1. Did someone just say something? I have a vague memory of someone posting a question.

    2. Maybe they already do.

  11. Better headline: “Whiny Thin-skinned Eurotrash Pianist Gets Butthurt Over Less Than Fawning Review”

    I’m pretty sure none of that could be considered libel either: he’s clearly whiny and thin-skinned, and as for being Eurotrash – just look at him.

  12. “To wish for such an article to be removed from the internet has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or with closing down our access to information,” Lazic *LIED*

  13. 1. The [E.U.’s right-to-be-forgotten] ruling only applies to “data controllers”?i.e., search engines in this context?and not the publishers themselves. That was clear from the ruling.

    Oh well PHEW! For a minute, I thought europe was passing seriously disastrous laws which would have a chilling affect on free speech. Carry on then!

    2. The ruling applies to search engines in Europe, not newspapers in the US.

    Is Google not a search engine operating in Europe, subject to European law?

    3. The ruling is not supposed to apply to people in the public eye, so famous world-traveling musicians don’t count.

    Sounds like an excellent law which allows someone to stay OUT of the public eye.

    5. It most certainly is not, despite Lazic’s stated belief, supposed to be about letting someone control “the truth” about themselves.

    Nooo, the intentions of the law, and the results are perfectly aligned.

    Masnick comes off sounding like a technocrat who really doesn’t care about the actual, broad implications of such a dangerous law, but is instead only interested in making sure everyone understands the law’s intent.

    1. That’s a strange reading of Masnick’s post. He is opposed to the law.

      1. My apologies, I only read what you linked.

        What you linked sounded like someone attempting to school us on how the law is really quite narrowly targeted, so we can breathe easy that Lazic’s bad reviews will remain intact (for now).

        1. It was more of a “this guy thinks the law is even worse than it is” post.

    2. 2. The ruling applies to search engines in Europe, not newspapers in the US.

      Is Google not a search engine operating in Europe, subject to European law?

      The request is against the Washington Post, not Google.

      You haven’t gotten either the trees or the forest correct.

  14. The appropriate response from all search companies would be to fully comply with the title of the law and completely forget this douche bag. Every single search for him should be black holed so that he never appears in a search query again. That should really help his sales.

    1. A better response would be to list his request and all the URLs blackholed.

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