They say “the truth is often stranger than fiction” and I had good cause to realise just what that meant last week. In the still on-going Ettamogah saga you simply couldn’t write this next chapter and have it believable if it didn’t actually happen. Myself and three others, all former (yes, “stood-down”) employees of Leigh O’Brien and Ettamogah Entertainment received letters from TressCox Lawyers citing defamatory comments made against Mr O’Brien on our blogs and the now shuttered “Boycott Ettamogah” group on facebook. This is the same Ettamogah Entertainment that has been reported on by The Age here, Inside Film here and here, and Screen Hub here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
After the initial shock and anger, or what one of my fellow recipients calls “The seven stages of What the F…!” I did some reading on the internet about defamation and what you can and can’t say and all that it entails. This particular site had a line from its opening paragraph that I found to be quite pertinent- “In practice its [Defamation Law] main effect is to hinder free speech and protect powerful people from scrutiny.” So here we were in a position where we’d been stood down from our jobs unlawfully and without notice, we’re fighting for our entitlements and the company is being investigated by Fair Work Australia, The MEAA and the ATO and yet in voicing our disgust we were now in trouble.
The letter from TressCox pointed out that “Mr O’Brien is a well known and respected figure” and “enjoys an enviable reputation within the broader business community, and in particular, within the entertainment, animation, hospitality and tourism industries”. The letter proceeded to claim that statements made on this blog “convey imputations which are grossly defamatory of him” and that “these statements have caused [him] much hurt, distress and embarrassment.” Whilst I can’t speak for my fellow stood down colleagues, I will say that as an actual member of the animation industry I wasn’t consulted to give Mr O’Brien a character reference.
Therefore under the threat of a potentially lengthy legal battle with someone who is better equipped to fight it than me, you may notice a bit of editing in the posts below because I, apparently am forbidden to provide my opinion on the matter.
And with that I’ll return to drawing pictures…