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May 20, 2011

Watch Out for the Law Trolls

Troll ImageMost people online know what a “troll” is and pretty much everyone, regardless of whether or not they know the term, has encountered at least one in their travels on the Web.

Wikipedia describes a troll as, “Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

However, there is another type of “troll” working on the Web as we speak. Though this kind is much more rare, it is also much more dangerous. Where a traditional troll may disrupt a conversation or say hurtful things, legal trolls (or law trolls) sue/threaten people and, in doing so, attempt to ruin them financially, often over minor perceived violations or no violation at all.

But as few and far-between as these legal trolls are, they are growing and you need to be aware of them and how to avoid them, at least as much as possible. So, with that in mind, here’s your guide to the world of online legal trolls. read more

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April 4, 2011

Blogging and the Law: A New Column at the Blog Herald

Hello. My name is Jonathan Bailey. I’m the new guy here at the Blog Herald, once again, and I’m starting up a new column that will be running every Friday targeting the law and blogging. We’ll be tackling some of the major legal issues that bloggers face as they run their sites.

Many of you may already know me from the various sites I have either written for or currently write at. This includes a previous stint here at The Blog Herald, my ongoing Blogging Pitfalls column at BloggingPro, my hosting-related column at WhoIsHostingThis and, of course, my home site of Plagiarism Today, where I talk about copyright and plagiarism issues on the Web.

To be clear, I am not an attorney and nothing in any of my columns should be considered legal advice, but I have studied the law as it applies to mass media for over 12 years, come from a journalism background and have been studying copyright especially closely for over ten.

My goal with this column is to include a variety of pieces including general information pieces about how the law, in particular U.S. law, applies to blogging, legal news and rulings that might affect bloggers and also answer some of your questions as time permits.

With that in mind, here are just a few of the topic areas that this column will cover moving forward: read more

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December 14, 2009

5 Legal Issues to Watch in 2010

The blogging legal climate is one of constant change. Though certain issues will always be of critical importance to bloggers, as they will to anyone who is a part of mass media, there is always a great deal that’s in flux.

This is especially true for bloggers as legislators and judges are just beginning to take on many of the complicated issues that blogging and democratized media brings with it. But where 2009 was a busy year for bloggers on the legal front, 2010 promises to be even more so.

In many ways, 2009 was a set up year for what is going to happen in 2010. In fact, the easiest way to decide what will likely be some of the hottest legal topics in the new year is to look back over the past one and see where the dominoes are likely to fall.

With that in mind, here are five legal areas bloggers should be paying attention to in the new year as they have the potential to be major forces in the blogging world. read more

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September 1, 2009

Defamation, Libel and the Internet

Filed as News with 2 comments

Bruce Everiss is a well-known video game marketer who writes a blog on the topic entitled, quite appropriately, Bruce on Games.

In recent weeks Everiss has been very critical of the online role-playing game Evony, perhaps most famous for it increasingly sexualized ads, and highlighted what he saw as misconduct by both the company behind the game, Evony LLC, and the software itself.

Everiss was always careful to support his allegations with research, either his own or referencing work performed by others, but he nonetheless found himself on the receiving end of a threat of a defamation lawsuit.

While this is not completely out of the ordinary in and of itself, what made Everiss’ case more unusual is that the threat was coming from an Australian solicitor and was threatening action in an Australian court. This is despite the fact that Evony LLC is, by all accounts, a Chinese company and Everiss is a UK-based blogger.

Other authors who have written about Evony, including the UK newspaper The Guardian, have received similar threats. The case is controversial because much of what is being disputed as defamatory is widely viewed as being true, with at least some evidence to support it, or appears to be personal opinion. However, clearly Evony disputes this and calls Everiss’ statements “clearly defamatory” in their letter to him.

But as interesting as the case itself is, it highlights another threat to bloggers, one very similar to what I reported on with copyright and jurisdiction, since works published to the Internet are distributed all over the world, you can defame the reputation of a company and/or a person in any country or jurisdiction. That, in turn, means you can be brought into almost any court in the world for a defamation suit. read more

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April 20, 2009

20 Law-Related Questions Every Blogger Should Know

Though journalism schools are often maligned in the blogging world as producing stale writing, they do teach many valuable lessons that are useful when running your own site.

One of those lessons is a primer in mass media law. By publishing works to the Web, one is essentially performing much of the same function as newspapers and television stations did exclusively just a few decades ago. However, the laws that govern such publications are not taught in most high schools nor most colleges.

So what should a blogger know about the law before they put up their first post? There are many things, certainly more than what can be covered in this post, but here are twenty questions every every blogger should be able to answer. read more

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March 29, 2009

The Outing of a Blogger: Is it Legal to Reveal a Blogger?

blog anonymous mask over word bloggerIn “The Outing of a Blogger: Social Transparency or Violation?” I started this short series on the outing of a popular Alaska personal blogger, Mudflats (aka AKMuckraker or AKM), unveiled by a state politician.

The question I want to tackle in this article is the issue of the legality of blogger anonymity and what protects bloggers and not. This is a huge topic, so I’m only going to scratch the surface.

In many countries, there are no laws protecting freedom of speech nor journalists or bloggers. There may be protections for journalists, but none for bloggers. In countries where you would expect there to be such laws…it’s amazing how few there are and how flexible those laws can be.

Does a blogger have the right to privacy and anonymity? What rights do others have to expose them and why? read more

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November 10, 2008

The Sinister Sibling of Paid Reviews

In May of 2005, the Blog Herald reported on the case of Travel Golf Media, a blog and review site that covers golf courses across the country. The company behind the site site, two of its bloggers and its owner, Robert Lewis, were being sued by a Las Vegas golf course owner Billy Watson for defamation after the site had posted a series of negative reviews.

Though disputes over negative reviews are common, what makes this one unique is allegations that the negative reviews were a form of retribution for an advertising arrangement that ended. In a ruling handed down last month, judge Jennifer Togliatti agreed and awarded the golf course and its owner, Billy Walters, a $9 million award for defamation.

Even as Pay-Per-Post and similar paid-review sites take a drumming in the blogging world, it is easy to forget that the concept of paid reviews are nothing new as is its sibling, review extortion, where the writer threatens to pen negative reviews of a service unless they are paid a certain amount of money.

However, where pay-per-review services are primarily an ethical issue for most bloggers, review extortion also raises serious legal problems, as the Lewis case points out, and is something that bloggers need to be aware of and avoid. read more

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October 20, 2008

Joining the Media Bloggers Association

According to the Citizen’s Media Law Project, there were over 250 lawsuits filed against bloggers for defamation and another 150 lawsuits filed dealing with copyright issues. Though the number of lawsuits is still fairly small compared to the number of people blogging, there has definitely been an upward trend in recent years (link PDF).

At the same time, bloggers have been striving to gain equal footing with mainstream media representatives in obtaining access to both people and events. However, they have typically had an uphill struggle in obtaining such access for reasons that are not always clear.

Though bloggers have begun to act more and more in the same capacity as the mainstream media, they have typically not had the legal training and information nor the access of journalists. Few come from mass media or law backgrounds and thus often struggle with the legal issues surrounding blogging and even fewer have the connections and knowledge to obtain critical access to important events.

This is where the Media Bloggers Association steps in. It seeks to help grow citizen journalism by providing it with some of the same training and access that journalists in newspapers or television have. The goal is to promote blogging and citizen journalism as its own form of media and give bloggers equal footing, both in the courts and on the streets, to other journalists. read more

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