While many journalists and other types of media professionals have had the opportunity to secure insurance protection for their profession, bloggers have been ignored…until now. BloggerShield™, a brand new liability insurance product created exclusively for bloggers, is now available.
Unlike journalists, whose content often includes more reporting and less personal opinion, bloggers are typically valued for their point of view or their own personal brand. Often times, bloggers have a dedicated following, become social influencers, and are relied upon for information, insights, or even product promotions and reviews. With this power to influence, bloggers become vulnerable to an array of liability exposures as well as the potential backlash of critics.
Any reader may go so far as to use legal recourse to pause, halt, or counter one’s blogging activities. A blogger may experience this in the form of having a claim or lawsuit brought against them for defamation, slander, copyright infringement, or privacy violation. Regardless of the circumstances and the validity of a claim or lawsuit, bloggers are still faced with managing any legal action taken against them and keeping their blog and personal assets protected in the process. In addition, many bloggers are still unclear as to what their liability exposures are until it’s too late.
Let’s take a look at a few recent cases in which bloggers have found themselves facing litigation:
Woman Awarded $338,000 in Damages for Defamation as a Result of Anonymous Submissions
On July 11, 2013, jurors awarded Sarah Jones $338,000 in damages for defamation against gossip website thedirty.com. This high profile case arose out of two anonymous submissions posted in 2009 that claimed that Jones, a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals, had sex with every Bengals player and was afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases.
Nik Richie, the operator for the website, argued that he was protected under the Federal Communications Decency Act which provides immunity to website operators for content that comes from third parties. However, Jones argued that the protections did not apply as thedirty.com admitted to screening and adding comments before posting third party submissions. The jury agreed with Jones, finding that Richie acted with malice or reckless disregard in posting the submissions.
The posts were unrelated to Jones’ previous guilty plea to charges that she had sex with an underage former student. For more on the case, prior history can be found at Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings, LLC, 766 F. Supp. 2d 828 (E.D. Ky. 2011).
Blog Article Results in Libel Suit
On July 19, the District of Columbia Superior Court denied a motion to dismiss brought under DC’s 2010 Anti-SLAPP statute. Separate but similar motions were filed by defendants National Review and the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute after climate scientist Michael Mann brought a libel suit over an article published last summer on the organization’s blog, Openmarket.org.
Mann accused the publication of defaming him by accusing him of fraud in his research and by drawing comparisons between Penn State’s investigations into his research and the school’s previous investigations of assistant football coach and convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
In denying the motions, Judge Natalia Combs Greene found that the statements in the blog had crossed the line from protected opinion to factual assertions. Accordingly, Judge Greene wrote, “there is a strong probability that the NR Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.”
For more on this story, the case has been filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court under the docket number 2012 CA 0008263 B.
Anonymous Blogger Compelled to Identify Himself for Making Defamatory Statements
A New York trial court recently directed Google Inc. to identify an anonymous blogger who had been criticizing New York attorney Frederick Shulman on blogspot.com, a Google owned company. In his affirmation before New York Supreme Court, Shulman argued that Google should be compelled pursuant to the New York rules governing pre-action discovery to disclose the identity of the blogger posting defamatory statements to stopfrederickschulman.blogspot.com and frederickschulmancrookedattorney.com. Shulman further argued that “in the era of internet savvy individuals . . . the damage continues to mount with each day these web blogs continue to remain visible to the public.”
Justice Debra A. James found that Shulman had sufficiently shown a meritorious cause of action for defamation and the necessity of the information. Accordingly, the Court ordered Google, barring objections, to disclose reasonably available creation IP addresses as well as the name(s) and email addresses(es) used to register the blogs.
Counsel for Schulman has since disclosed that Google has cooperated with the order and that ongoing litigation is expected.
For more on this story, see In re The Matter of Schulman, Frederick Esq. v. The Go Daddy Group, Inc., et. al. at New York County, Index Number 155629/13.
So what can bloggers do to stay protected from lawsuit?
Most bloggers have some idea as to standard blogging best practices, i.e., using proper disclosures, correctly citing sources, etc. However, in many cases, this is simply not enough to stay protected from the consequences of legal action.
With the formation of BloggerShield™, a new insurance coverage created specifically for bloggers, protection is now available to bloggers. BloggerShield™ is a form of liability insurance designed to help mitigate loss and cover legal fees associated with issues arising out of a claim or lawsuit for one’s blogging activities. To learn more about blog liability exposures and BloggerShield™ Insurance, please visit www.bloggershield.com or call 888-228-7988.