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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Are Bloggers Protected as Journalist?

Two years ago Apple Computer went to court after information was posted online about new, still-secret product code named Asteroid.   The court ruled that Apple had the right to subpoena e-mail records from the websites who posted the confidential information.  The judge would not accept arguments about the First Amendment or California’s “shield law” commonly afforded to journalists.  The court ruled that the information was stolen property and compared the dissemination to the fencing of stolen goods.

Last year the Bloggers fought back.  A California Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled against Apple.  The court wrote…

"We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."  

However, be careful what you say.  Last fall, a court in Georgia upheld a $50,000 libel judgment against Blogger David Milum when he went a little too far.  Mr. Milum felt ripped off by his former attorney Rafe Banks so, he started a Blog to let folks know exactly what he thought.  In his Blog, he went as far as accusing the lawyer of bribing judges on behalf of drug dealers.

I was surprised to read that this was actually the first case of a blogger in the U.S.A. to lose a libel suit. I doubt it will be the last.  We’ve all felt pretty comfortable but a few bad apples could create a rise in litigation against opinions posted online.

If you find this topic interesting I recommend you check out information from the “Media Law Resource Center”, especially their page entitled “Libel and Related Lawsuits Against Bloggers”.

Other sources:
Media Bloggers Association
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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2 Comments:

Blogger Corrine said...

X-Reference http://communitygrouptherapy.com/2007/03/05/does-your-company-support-employee-blogging/#comments

8:48 AM  
Blogger Will Fastie said...

I don't think bloggers are journalists because I don't think blogging meets the definition of journalism. The former is individual opinion. The latter is (supposedly) vetted content.

However, libel is usually associated with journalism while slander is usually associated with individual expression. It is interesting that the Georgia case was a libel judgement, which in itself would seem to set a precedent that bloggers are, indeed, journalists.

This is not to say that blogs are not a protected form of speech nor is it to suggest that slander or libel should go unpunished.

6:55 PM  

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