By Elaine Shein
Can people write whatever they want in a blog?
What happens to a newspaper if one of its reporters or editors writes a blog and someone decides to sue?
Does it make a difference if this was a work blog or written as a personal blog?
In the August edition of Editor & Publisher there is a great story that encourages discussion and stirs debate on the world of blogs.
According to the story, it states that Technorati “estimates that some 75,000 blogs are created every day, nearly one per second, joining the more than 40 million blogs already populating cyberspace. That’s twice as many blogs as there were just six months ago.”
And then comes the questions: who is legally responsible for the material that appears in these blogs?
While blogs were created to encourage freedom to publish a diversity of opinions and subjects on the world wide web and become the bulletin board, diary or soapbox of anyone who wishes, legal experts are warning people to be careful.
In the case of bloggers tied to the traditional media, the print or broadcast owners may be responsible for libelous material that occurs on a blog by someone on their staff — even if the material was published as a personal blog.
Some of the issues that appear in the E&P article to think about:
Publishers need to think about “the balance between editing for liability and preserving the spontaneity of a blog.”
What kind of crosschecking on content was done on blogs before they were posted?
Newspapers need to check if their libel insurance will cover freelancers who blog on the company’s website.
If a staff person writes a personal blog from home, it may still be subject to defamation suits because of who the staff person is and the weight that that person’s job carries for the company.
If some of the comments or blogs from outsiders are edited by a company before they are posted online (even if it was to take out profane or offensive language), the company may bear some legal responsibility because they have been active in editing and decision making.
Newspapers may want to post on their websites that comments will be monitored and that “viewers should notify a newspaper’s online site about reputed errors, omissions or potentially libelous third-party postings.”
A disclaimer should also be added that the views expressed don’t reflect the “newspaper or its staff or its advertisers.”
Codes of ethics or guidelines for staff at media outlets should also add something about blogging.
The E&P article also suggested buying more insurance against libel, to cover blogging activity — and be prepared to answer how content is edited to protect against libel.
So what do fellow bloggers think of all this?
I invite you to respond to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
By Elaine Shein
Posted by Elaine Shein at 4:50 PM