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In ancient Rome, fights between gladiators were a public spectacle. Now, suing is a kind of sport. These two forms of entertainment have both found a home on the Internet. A new Web site invites the public to be voyeurs into the sacred art of suing. The site, called “I’m Right, You’re Wrong,” lets people battle out their disputes online, for free. It can be found at www.imright.com. “It’s like the eBay for fighting,” says co-CEO Louis Pizante, a 1998 graduate of New York University School of Law who launched the site about six months ago with two partners. Dispute-resolution sites like SquareTrade and CyberSettle already populate the Web, but they are of the more serious variety. This site is a public forum for kvetching. It resolves disputes from the petty to the gratuitous, from the factual to the fictional. Conflicts tend to be of the lover ilk (“my boyfriend never tells me when …”) or the domestic variety (“my roommate doesn’t do the dishes …”). A party who feels wronged simply fills out a form online. An online “lawyer” (not real) can help draw a complaint to get the point across: “There are two sides to every story — your side and the wrong side,” the site explains. The accused party then receives an “e-subpoena” saying he’s been sued. Then there’s the fun part. The disputing parties duke it out online. The text of their cases appear on a page: “She barely even talks to me, even though we live in the same dorm,” for example. A volunteer jury sits in. (Anyone can be on a jury, even friends.) The public can view the case. To resolve a dispute, there are three possible rewards: an e-apology card, a specified duty (a week’s worth of doing the dishes) or a gift from the site’s online boutique (offerings include a bouquet of roses or a “Loser” T-shirt). The game is free to play; the company collects a modest fee from advertisers and spare change from the site’s online store. Pizante doesn’t expect to get rich off the site, at least for now. By day, Pizante runs Athena Resources, a legal and financial consulting company that advises young technology companies. He spends about 10 hours a week on the upkeep of the site, including culling it for disparaging language. About 1,200 disputes have been decided since the site’s launch, says Pizante. The site gets about 10,000 visitors a month. Many participants are college age, he says. Lawyers are hardly a target audience, but he’s gotten good feedback from them nonetheless. “When [attorneys] see the law in an entertainment format, they get a kick out of it,” he says. Pizante says he and his co-founders came up with the idea for “I’m Right” a few years ago at a barbeque. They first considered starting a more traditional online dispute settlement site, but they thought the Web market wasn’t developed enough yet to make it successful. Besides, the market is plenty crowded. Mediation sites began to spring up during the dot-com boom. CyberSettle Inc., for example, specializes in settling insurance claims online. ClicknSettle.com Inc. says it has handled online mediation and arbitration work in a number of industries, including insurance and online auction sites. (CyberSettle was recently granted a patent for its online resolution process. ClicknSettle’s patent application is still pending, according to its Web site.) CyberSettle lets insurance carriers and attorneys representing claimants make blind demands to settle a dispute online. About 15 percent of the claims that are submitted are settled online, says John Zissu, vice president of marketing for CyberSettle. Dueling parties that didn’t solve things the first time around can always come back for more. Zissu says the online settlement process is faster than the paper way, because there’s less back-and-forth among parties. SquareTrade, a San Francisco-based online settlement site, provides dispute resolution for customers on the online auction site eBay Inc. Customers who have gripes about their purchases can first try to work them out with the seller. But when that doesn’t work, eBay sends them directly to SquareTrade for mediation. Trained mediators will help decide who must, say, pay for the repairs of a broken chair purchased on the auction site. “SquareTrade gets people to take [a dispute] seriously,” says CEO Steven Abernethy. SquareTrade is now on the lookout for other industries that might lend themselves to online mediation, says Abernethy. It currently handles settlements for the California Association of Realtors. These companies typically make money by charging a fee for each case that goes into arbitration or that gets settled. SquareTrade is inching toward profitability, but is not there yet, according to Abernethy. Pizante is also hedging his bets. He is pursuing a contract for a book loosely based on “I’m Right, You’re Wrong.”

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