Sue me sue you?

A bill filed today would specify that blogs can be libelous.

Sen. Steve Goss said he wrote the bill over concern that "fast-moving Internet technology" may be outstripping existing libel laws. He wants the law to specifically say that blogs and other online media can be considered libelous. "We need to make sure that we're keeping up with technology," he said. "I believe these blogs are getting out of control."

These blogs? Just exactly which of "these blogs" is the Democratic Senator in Raleigh talking about? I'd be surprised to learn that Mr. Goss has ever even visited a blog. That said, he's an ordained Baptist preacher, so I'm guessing he has god on his side when it comes to policing the blogosphere.

To my knowledge.

Comments

Great use of time

Ignore that 2 billion dollar deficit, lets stop those mean people from saying bad things about us!

"Keep the Faith"

I don't know.

Many of us have wanted to be treated as "press"; indeed, some of us have been. I think that we might have to take the good with the bad.

That said, most members of the mainstream media usually have the benefit of an organization behind them, to edit, fact-check, and, if it comes to it, back them up in court.

For the most part, bloggers don't have such parachutes.

That is exactly true

So far we are only protected against a charge based on something someone else writes on our site.

There is no need for a special libel law for bloggers. We're already subject to all existing laws on the books.



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Thanks, James and Betsy!

I honestly hadn't thought about it in that light. You're right. Thanks.

Clearing things up

1. Sen. Goss said he regularly reads Watauga Watch as well as blogs on mainstream news sites such as CNN, MSNBC and the New York Times. He said he'd never read anything on them he considered libelous.

2. It's not true that all existing libel laws apply to blogs. Under common law, you could be sued, but the state's libel laws include specific protections for newspapers and magazines that may not apply to individual bloggers.

— RTB

Ryan

You aren't making sense. Say that again. Which protections provided to newspapers and magazines also apply to bloggers?

What James and I are saying is that we have no special protections and I believe we are correct.



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Libel protections

"Before any action, either civil or criminal, is brought for the publication, in a newspaper or periodical, of a libel, the plaintiff or prosecutor shall at least five days before instituting such action serve notice in writing on the defendant, specifying the article and the statements therein which he alleges to be false and defamatory." - G.S. 99-1.

To the best of my knowledge, no court case has determined whether BlueNC, for example, would qualify as a "newspaper or periodical" in North Carolina.

RTB

I can't understand this.

PS I don't mean I can't understand you, Ryan. I just don't have a grip the whole issue. I wish I had the time and brains to dig into this.

PPS Any takers?

Ryan, to the best of my knowledge,

no court case has determined that the News & Observer is a newspaper.

We aren't a newspaper and we aren't a periodical. Both terms refer to dead tree paper and ink publications. We are new media. Even if we were to successfully argue that we deserve the same protections in a court of law, it wouldn't change the fact that we are not a newspaper or periodical.

Newspaper - 1news·pa·per
Pronunciation:
\ˈnüz-ˌpā-pər, ˈnyüz-, ˈn(y)üs-\
Function:
noun
Date:
1670
1 : a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinion, features, and advertising
2 : an organization that publishes a newspaper
3 : the paper of a newspaper : newsprint

1pe·ri·od·i·cal
Pronunciation:
\ˌpir-ē-ˈä-di-kəl\
Function:
adjective
Date:
1601
1: periodic 1
2 a: published with a fixed interval between the issues or numbers b: published in, characteristic of, or connected with a periodical

Publication refers to the printed word.

There, that was easy. I didn't need a court of law. All I needed was Merriam Webster.

I believe James and I are still correct. Bloggers at BlueNC are afforded no special protections because we are bloggers and we can be held accountable under current libel laws.



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Not a lawyer

Publication does not necessarily refer to the printed word. I'm no lawyer, but I'd be willing to be that even in North Carolina there have been plenty of cases that say that putting something on a newspaper's Web site is publishing it.

— RTB

But we aren't a newspaper, Ryan

We do publish, but we don't publish a newspaper or a periodical.



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You're being too literal

The law is not a set of equations. I think a lawyer could make a decent case for classifying BlueNC as a periodical. Heck, the Huffington Post is even named like a newspaper. And I run a blog on a newspaper's Web site, so what does that make me?

RTB

I'm not being too literal

We can certainly argue that we deserve the same protections as a newspaper, but we can't argue that we are a newspaper. Our profit margin is too high. Hahahaha. OK..sorry, I'm punchy.

HuffPo, Politico - They are heavily funded or heavily leveraged online professional news media. It's a job. They actually get paid. As far as you're concerned, sorry but I have never considered you a blogger. You are a reporter/journalist working for the man. Of course, you could always decide to break free of those corporate ties that bind you. Break free, Ryan. Join this rag tag band of patriots who sweat day in and day out without pay simply for the love of seeing the truth in print. BREAK FREE!

Or...you could keep getting that paycheck.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Please, please, please tell me

you know I'm joking in the above comment without my using emoticons.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

moved

n/t

A Couple Points

First, I know Steve Goss. He is my state Senator.I have campaigned for him and interned for him one semester. I was a research assistant using primarily online sources. My point here is that I know Senator Goss is aware of and utilizes the web on a daily basis.

Second, I know Senator Goss to be quite progressive. His district includes one left-leaning county and three right-leaning counties, and his largest base of support is in the left-leaning county.

Third, in one of his largest counties, there is a blog/forum that gets pretty out there. It is filled with actual debate but also a lot of gossip and arguing. The blog owner has been threatened with legal action on several occassions.

Finally, Senator Goss is very, very big on constituent service. My guess is that a group of constituents complained, either because of the aforementioned blogs or others, and he introduced this bill in response.

I do need to say that I have not spoken to Senator Goss personally about this bill. Everything is just conjecture on my part.

That said, I strongly disagree with the bill. It stifles free speech in a medium that is built upon free speech as a way to counter-balance the monopolized print and visual media.

On the legal argument, I think this may be what it boils down to:

GS 99-3:The two preceding sections [G.S. 99‑1 and 99‑2] shall not apply to anonymous communications and publications.

GS-99-2 lays out the specifics of good faith:

99‑2. Effect of publication or broadcast in good faith and retraction.

(a) If it appears upon the trial that said article was published in good faith, that its falsity was due to an honest mistake of the facts, and that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the statements in said article were true, and that within 10 days after the service of said notice a full and fair correction, apology and retraction was published in the same editions or corresponding issues of the newspaper or periodical in which said article appeared, and in as conspicuous place and type as was said original article, then the plaintiff in such case, if a civil action, shall recover only actual damages, and if, in a criminal proceeding, a verdict of "guilty" is rendered on such a state of facts, the defendant shall be fined a penny and the costs, and no more.

(b) If it appears upon the trial that such words or acts were conveyed and broadcast in good faith, that their falsity was due to an honest mistake of the facts, or without prior knowledge or approval of such station, and if with prior knowledge or approval that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the words or acts were true, and that within 10 days after the service of said notice a full and fair correction, apology and retraction was conveyed or broadcast by or over such radio or television station at approximately the same time of day and by the same sending power so as to be as visible and audible as the original acts or words complained of, then the plaintiff in such case, if a civil action, shall recover only actual damages, and if, in a criminal proceeding, a verdict of "guilty" is rendered on such state of facts, the defendant shall be fined a penny and costs, and no more.

So, in the end, while I still disagree with the bill, it seems they are trying to remove the protection of anonymous authors.

Public Figure Clause

Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with "actual malice". In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth.

http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/defamation.html

Caution

Hmm, maybe I should just be cautious, until and unless the courts establish that I have to be warned before I can be sued. No more angry midnight posts, I suppose.

Dan Besse

defamation by bloggers

Defamation is comprised of two categories, slander and libel. Slander is spoken and Libel is written. Publishing anything written that is knowingly false with an identifiable source makes a blog liable for libel. This new proposal is much needed as people can blacklist or accuse others and there's little recourse.

Sounds like the people writing it

can't grab their collective asses with a handful of fish hooks when it comes to understanding how a blog works.

We are each responsible for what we publish. Each person is responsible for their posts and they hold their own copyright. There is always a source - just like there is with a new reporter. There is always a source. News reporters use the "some people say" line all the time. There is always a source.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.