Is Libel Dead... Or Is It Just Changing?
from the not-dead-yet dept
The Observer also wonders if another reason may be the general decline of the financial well-being of various big name media publications -- such that those who might have filed libel lawsuits in the past just don't think it's worth it. I don't buy that. Most people file libel lawsuits out of anger, not necessarily for the monetary rewards.
I have another thought why such libel suits may have declined, and am somewhat surprised that the article didn't mention it: our old favorite, The Streisand Effect. That is, over the past decade, perhaps more and more lawyers (and those considering libel lawsuits) are realizing that in bringing such a lawsuit, they often are calling a lot more attention to the content they wish would disappear. It's often easier to just let it go than to file a lawsuit.
Of course, there is another view on all of this as well. Media lawyer Robert Ambrogi noted, in response to the Observer article, that the article only seems to look at libel lawsuits against the mainstream media. The truth, he questions, might just be that libel lawsuits have moved elsewhere, such as us riffraff who publish online blogs or other online forums. I can definitely say that the number one legal threat we get here is libel (and those come often enough, though, no one's yet actually filed a lawsuit). Usually, the threat of such a defamation lawsuit is an empty legal threat to get us to delete a comment, but it is made frequently enough. So, while there may be fewer libel suits against big name publishers, it's still a favorite tool used (or at least threatened) against plenty of online sites.