It's taken some time, but courts seem to be coming around to the idea that there's no reason to think of bloggers as being distinct from journalists in terms of what rights they have. Last year, the California Appeals overturned a lower court's ruling that a site posting Apple trade secrets did not have the right to protect its sources. Well, with rights come responsibilities, as some are now finding out. In Georgia, an appeals court upheld a $50,000 judgment against a blogger for libeling his former lawyer. The blogger was angry that his lawyer refused to return $3,000 to him after he removed that lawyer from a DUI case. So, he started attacking the lawyer on his blog, accusing him of bribing judges on behalf of a drug dealing operation. It's pretty obvious that this wouldn't fly in a traditional publication, and blogs are no exceptions. What's interesting -- and a positive indication that blogs aren't the legal novelty they once were -- is that the case seemed to be decided on the same grounds as any other libel case. The jury pondered issues such as whether the statements were indeed defamatory, and whether the defamed individual was a public figure or not. Neither the jury nor the court of appeals seemed interested in the longstanding issue of whether one could commit libel on a blog. As for the blogger, who is described as a local political gadfly, he seemed unrepentant, claiming that the trial was a sham and that he planned to "...let the public know it."
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