An editing refrain.
July 1, 2003 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Flame on. Bloggers gain libel protection .
posted by the fire you left me (10 comments total)
"The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily."

Oh-oh. Remember Vanessa Leggett? She was sent to prison, because the courts found that she was "not a journalist", and thus had no "right" to protect her sources.

So is this a case of gaining protection from libel, but only if you rat out who posted the material?
posted by kablam at 7:25 PM on July 1, 2003

In the US, perhaps. In Britain, where libel laws are famously more silly, there's the precedent of Godfrey vs. Demon which makes ISPs liable for 'republishing' libellous remarks. And if you think that you won't get sued by your ISP if someone gets a libel verdict against you under British jurisdiction, then you're taking a pretty heavy risk.
posted by riviera at 7:52 PM on July 1, 2003

Oh thank God. Was so worried about this very thing recently because I run a server for a user-content-based gaming site which has a tendency towards egregarious use of, uh, metaphors of a rather negative slant.

(read: a game-review satire site)

This literally could not be better timed for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by Ryvar at 8:44 PM on July 1, 2003

This wired piece has my vote for the most misleading article title of the year.

The libel protection is in a very limited circumstance -- when the original source, which is the media, commits libel, and an online content source such as a blog or listserv or forum repeats the statement.

It also only applies in the ninth circuit. And, it may only be precedent for a narrow set of facts. Care to guess how other circuits would rule? How about a tort action in state court?
posted by bragadocchio at 8:55 PM on July 1, 2003

In the UK, if you're involved in a defamation case, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove he's innocent instead of the other way around. I see this as seriously screwed up. Could someone from UK please explain why this is a better approach than making plaintiffs prove their case?
posted by madman at 9:24 PM on July 1, 2003

brag: it's a HUGE save for those of us who run forums full of hateful, angry, and above all snarky people who joke about the 'Yakuza in Animal Crossing' (the only semi-reasonable way to explain the screwed up economic system of the game) as readily as they breathe. I'm third party to all of them, and while I'd happily provide IP logs in response to any subpeona in a libel suit, I want to ensure I don't get taken down with them.

Also, I live in the Ninth Circuit.
posted by Ryvar at 9:34 PM on July 1, 2003

Ahhh Yakuza, that explains when they little rat bastards take all my bells for not guessing the name of their grandfathers uncle.
posted by MrLint at 12:55 AM on July 2, 2003


I guess anything that rings a little positive might help. You do never know what you're going to find posted by someone when you run a forum. There's only so much that you can disclaim in your terms of service. You also don't want to be heavy handed in moderating and editing visitors posts (but sometimes...)
posted by bragadocchio at 3:41 AM on July 2, 2003

I wouldn't celebrate quite yet. This was a split decision by the most overturned circuit court in the country. The Ninth Circuit is the same court that said Napster was okay-- and we all know how that turned out.
posted by cedar at 5:17 AM on July 2, 2003

Madman - the burden is on the defendant to prove that a defamatory statement is true. So if I were to publish in my newspaper that you were a child abuser and you sued me, I would have to prove that was true. If it was the other way round how would you go about proving you weren't a child abuser?

Moreover I have concerns about this. I fully agree that ISPs, message board admins, people like Matt H, should be protected from libel for the comments of others over whom they have little control. I just have a problem with the idea that someone can publish falsehoods, which could be potentially very damaging and the victim be left with no response. At the very least there should be an obligation to remove defamatory statements once the publisher is aware they are defamatory.
posted by prentiz at 5:39 AM on July 2, 2003

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