Passing On Third Party Emails Officially Not Defamation

from the phew dept

Last year, a US Court of Appeals ruled that someone just passing on an email accusing someone else of a crime was not guilty of defamation. While this ruling got plenty of misplaced attention when someone (erroneously) interpreted it to mean bloggers could libel anyone they wanted, it was still an important statement about the liability of third party publishing done online. Now, the US Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, meaning that the Appeals Court ruling stands, and third parties are free of libel or defamation claims for items written by others. While I doubt it will stop people from trying to file lawsuits for third party comments on sites (which we’ve been threatened with way too many times) at least it gives people a clear ruling they can point to in telling those people to go away.

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Comments on “Passing On Third Party Emails Officially Not Defamation”

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Doug says:

Not so encompassing

When you say, “third parties are free of libel or defamation claims for items written by others,” that should be qualified by “within the 9th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction,” which is the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Because the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, there is no inherent national significance. As noted here, “decisions from other circuits are ‘merely persuasive.’ ”

A different Circuit Court could come to a different conclusion in the future. This is called a “split in the circuits.” If that happens the Supreme Court very well might hear the later case in order to resolve the split.

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