Two very interestering, and similar, perspectives in the recent Digg debacle about the publication of secret HD-DVD copy-protection keys:
Whatever the “right” decision was for Digg regarding whether or not to delete the offending post, Digg knows it is nothing without its passionate and participating members. The enlightened path should have been obvious to them: be completely transparent with users from the beginning. Before it took any action that stripped power from users, Digg should have shared its dilemma with the community, explained the conundrum and the legal advice it had been given, and then solicited candid feedback via its forum. Debate would have ensued, but everyone would have felt like they were part of Digg’s ultimate decision, even if that was deletion of the code. More than anything, passionate users want to be heard.
And in much shorter and more powerful way:
The people who man Digg want what everyone wants, respect. To be listened to. To be considered. Solicited. I think that's where the disconnect was.
Dave Winer: Why the users of Digg got pissed.
From my experience, lawyers, especially during a communication crisis, aren't the most subtle and communication- and/or business-savvy people. They tend to see things in black and white and focus on what they're paid for primarily: minimize legal risk. The expression « unleash the dogs » isn't pretty, but isn't baseless either! So, as much as the two advices above are good and rely on common-sense, it's not how lawyers function, and not every CEO is cold-headed enough to balance all risks, legal as well as business and image, during a crisis, when the dogs are unleashed and barking... Something tells me we haven't yet seen the end of this story.