Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




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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  • identicon
    Doug, 9 Jun 2004 @ 4:46pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Doug, 9 Jun 2004 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Not so encompassing

      Err... the 9th Circuit Court's jurisdiction also includes Alaska and Hawaii. I keep forgetting those are states now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        aNonMooseCowherd, 9 Jun 2004 @ 6:54pm

        Re: Not so encompassing

        Err... the 9th Circuit Court's jurisdiction also includes Alaska and Hawaii. I keep forgetting those are states now.

        That's ok, lots of people don't seem to realize that New Mexico is a state.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike (profile), 9 Jun 2004 @ 6:54pm

        Re: Not so encompassing

        Good points. However, the fact that the SC refused to hear the case suggests they're not so upset with the decision. It's true, another circuit court could rule otherwise, but for now, this is the case that stands, and the initial indication is that the SC agrees with it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          JeffR, 9 Jun 2004 @ 9:30pm

          Re: Not so encompassing

          Actually, the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) not hearing a case has no judicial weight one way or another.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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