That Old Blogs And Libel Question Comes Up Again

from the liable-for-libel? dept

In the past couple of years there have been a number of stories concerning the question of libel on blogs — and way too often people (usually bloggers) seem to confuse the facts — often assuming the law says stuff it doesn’t. The reality is that the law is far from settled when it comes to libel cases — but there are a few indicators of what’s likely to happen. What is clear is that if you libel someone on your own blog, (surprise, surprise) you’re completely liable for libel. Where it gets tricky is when it comes to the comments on blogs. It may depend on a lot of factors — including where you live, what judge you get and the details of your particular case. However, what we do know is that in the 9th Circuit, you’re pretty much in the clear for comments, after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear that someone who passed on an email to a mailing list wasn’t liable for the contents of that email (though, the email’s author was). That’s a situation where, even though the email was specifically passed on to a mailing list, there was no liability. That would support those who say that bloggers are safe from libel laws even if they moderate comments. The fact that the Supreme Court turned down the appeal of that case goes further to suggest that the Supreme Court supports that interpretation… but they might just be waiting for conflicting rulings from other districts — and they might get some pretty soon. Other cases with similar situations have come up in the past year — though not in the area of blogs. However, that’s now changing. Lots of bloggers are talking about how a company is suing Aaron Wall, the creator of SEO Book for comments on his blog that trash the reputation of a company called Traffic Power (Wall has posted his own take on the case, but says he may take it down). Of course, in this case, you could also make the claim that Traffic Power has caused its own problems. A simple search on the company’s name suggests they have a bit of a reputation problem already — and suing a well known blogger on flimsy claims is unlikely to help that reputation at all. It seems like Traffic Power is unlikely to win in court (though, it’s not impossible), but even more unlikely is the idea that this move will somehow improve their reputation.

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