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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Yet another cheap libel threat

Our friend Atrios has been threatened with legal action because he called some yahoo at the National Review a stalker of Paul Krugman.

While I'm not a lawyer, I know a few and this reeks of a buddy favor. That's when your lawyer buddy friend sends off a cease and decist letter to clear up a hassle.

Except, when you do that, you don't always get people ready to cave. Some are ready to fight to the last round. That's the lesson the MPAA found when they sued Emmanel Goldstein, publisher of 2600. Now, if you know anything about computing, suing 2600's proprietor is about as smart as robbing a bank in Fayetteville, NC. You're gonna get a fight and you don't know who's coming to the party. Well, in 2600's case, Goldstein (nee Eric Corley) wound up with Maritn Garbus, Hollywood's top First Amendment lawyer defending him. They thought he qould quiver in fear over the power of the MPAA. He runs 2600, the MPAA is small beer compared to the NSA. But they didn't know that.

Atrios is already flooded with offers of legal help and cash. Which isn't surprising. People don't like bullies and they really don't like conservative bullies. There is a lot of quiet support for liberal bloggers. Josh Marshall raised 5K in a couple of days. Clearly, the internet has matured and people will support and defend those who share their views.

The lawyer whined about messages posed on his site as well, but that's not going very far:

Court decision protects bloggers from libel suits

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court has extended the First Amendment protections of do-it-yourself online publishers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's largest appeals court, said that online publishers can post material generated by others without liability for its content - unlike traditional news media, which are held responsible for such information.

"It clarifies the existing law," said Eric Brown, who represented the defendant in the suit. "It expands it in the sense that no court had really addressed bloggers, list serve operators and those people yet, certainly not on the level of the 9th Circuit Court."

Blogs, short for Weblogs, are online diaries updated frequently by tech-savvy writers who use the medium to comment on current events and everyday life.

Online publishers and free speech advocates lauded the court's decision.

"The decision is a real victory for free speech," said Jeralyn Merritt, a lawyer and blogger who manages, a Web site about crime-related news and politics. "Now we can publish information we receive from someone else without fear of getting sued."

Merritt said it would be impossible to monitor the nearly 200 messages posted on her site every day.

"I can't be responsible for the content of those comments," she said.

The decision recently was the most discussed topic according to, a current events search engine that crawls the Web and reflects its collective conscience, identifying the topics that are generating the most interest in the blogging world.

The decision last week was based on the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Brown said.

Other cases have said commercial service providers on the Internet are not responsible for information posted by a third party. And this decision says noncommercial Web site hosts are only liable when they post information that a reasonable person would have known wasn't meant to be published

Besides, if you sue for libel, if not only has to be false, but malicious as well. You have to know it's a lie and it's not merely opinion.
Winning a libel suit is pretty rare.

posted by Steve @ 6:16:00 PM

6:16:00 PM

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