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Bloggy Court Ruling

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An appeals court says you are not libel for information you republish on the Internet:

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can’t be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.

    Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.

    “One-way news publications have editors and fact-checkers, and they’re not just selling information — they’re selling reliability,” said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But on blogs or e-mail lists, people aren’t necessarily selling anything, they’re just engaging in speech. That freedom of speech wouldn’t exist if you were held liable for every piece of information you cut, paste and forward.”

    The court based its decision on a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. That section states, “… no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Three cases since then — Zeran v. AOL, Gentry v. eBay and Schneider v. Amazon — have granted immunity to commercial online service providers.

    ….”Some weblogs are interesting mixes of original and forwarded content, so this issue may come up again in the courts,” EFF’s Cohn said. “Where that legal line is drawn may become a point of contention.” [Wired]

This gets very gray: what about commentary on republished material, such as much of what we publish here?

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.unproductivity.com Tom Johnson

    What I’m curious about is how it will affect bloggers who are fired for their activities. There have been numerous bloggers fired now for content on their sites, even if they don’t use real names. This ruling, in a roundabout way, could provide some backing for bloggers . . . in the hands of the right lawyer.