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BizReport : Law & Regulation : November 21, 2006

U.S Websites and Bloggers Protected from Third Party Libel

The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that websites, ISP’s and bloggers could not be held responsible for defamatory material posted on their sites by a third party.

by Helen Leggatt

Those who have been libeled will now have to seek recompense from the originator of the post, not the website who published it or the ISP who relayed it. This comes as welcome news as providers have argued for some time that they, like telecom operators, are merely the carriers of such material.

"The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. "Nevertheless ... statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended."

The Court’s ruling was a victory for freedom of speech and a San Diego woman who was sued by 2 doctors for allegedly posting libelous material on a website. She was supported in her case by some big internet players, including AOL, Google and eBay, all of whom had concerns about their liability for third party content.

Not everyone was convinced the right decision had been made. Christopher Grell, the lawyer for the doctors, said they have not decided whether to appeal the decision. "What this decision does is, it basically promotes the distribution of offensive material, which I can't imagine Congress ever intended," he said.

Tags: blogs, content, law, libel

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