Don't Blog This, Or I'll Sue!

By acting like bloggers, are journalists leaving themselves open to litigation?

"Who's here to find out about libel?" asked publishing law expert Dineen Wasylik. She used that line to kick off her quick guide to reporting on the web (Journalism in the Blogosphere: A Legal Guide to Internet "Press") this afternoon If you thought you could get away with saying anything on a blog, just because it's on-line, think again. Oh, and just because you're a blogger, doesn't mean you get the legal protections afforded journalists. So tread careful.

Legal conundrum time: it's probably better to be a blogger, because if Joe McBloggington throws a bad-tempered hissy about MegaSupaCorps, they're not very likely to be sued for libel. Why? Because blogs aren't taken very seriously. If that same blog was printed in, say, The Wall Street Journal, then they would get sued, because they're a publication of record, and people take what they say seriously.


On the other hand, it's better to be a real journalist who happens to also blog, because then you get to take advantage of nifty things like shield laws and the Communications Decency Act.

Confused? Wait 'til you find out that, as a blogger, you might be legally liable for anything that people write on your comments board. Depends if the court thinks you're a publisher or a service provider.

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