Guide to Libel Law:

The folks over at Public Citizen have just released what looks like a very useful guide to avoiding libel/defamation liability (and libel/defamation litigation) for "bloggers and non-profit organizations." It's a good idea, and nicely executed. Public Citizen, though unabashedly of the "left," has done some terrific work over the last decade in an area that is also dear to the heart of many on the "right," namely protecting the rights of individuals on the Net to speak freely (and, if they so choose, anonymously). And whereas 25 years ago 99% of the population could go about a lifetime's worth of business without ever thinking about the laws of libel and defamation, that is no longer true, thanks to the Net — another Internet-enabled change in the scale of the relevant legal domain.

corneille1640 (mail):
Very interesting. Thanks for providing the link.
4.4.2009 11:48am
It strikes me that the guide is more keyed towards organizations than bloggers. Bloggers wont have the resources to follow through with many of the guide's recomendations. Many of the recomendations are also pretty cautious. While that may avoid someone from even bringing suit, it will also make it alot harder to run your blog.

INAL but make sure you can justify why you beleived what you said was true, and avoid people's private lives unless there is a compelling reason why its anyone else's buisness and you should be all set. Also, the solution to foriegn (international) libel litigation is simply to not have assets abroad (in england).
4.4.2009 12:14pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
The guide looks okay but it's very weak at the end, when it says libel reviewers can't perform any other kind of review function at the same time.

What it really should say is that:

1 - observations/criticism/grammar edits should be presented to the author in a completely separate section, so that there is no ambiguity about what the libel reviewer says needs to be changed because of libel law, and what the stylistic or substantive changes the libel reviewer is suggesting.

2 - the libel reviewer needs to be aware that suggesting substantive changes to the piece could compromise his ability to be a neutral evaluator of whether something is potentially libelous. Be aware, and take it into account.
4.4.2009 2:52pm
John D (mail):
As an ACLU-supporting leftie, I would like to point out that right of individuals to speak freely (not only on the Internet, but everywhere) is something that I hold dear.
4.4.2009 6:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I thought there were a few really funny errors in the paper which could use correcting. For example:

"In most states, only living persons can sue for libel" is pretty funny. Even if one could sue for libel relating to a dead person, a living person would still have to sue, correct?

Being sued by a dead person would suck. Night of the Living Dead.... In Court......
4.4.2009 11:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also the paper could use editing in other ways. For example, they claim to show "why liability reviews or[sic] required." Obviously they also showed why proofreaders or required.

However the comment about living plaintiffs being required in most states was pretty funny. In states which allow the successor in interest to sue for libel, that successor still must be living in order to sue. So there are some obvious content edits that need to happen too.
4.7.2009 12:01am

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