It’s been up for discussion on many occasions, whether a blogger can, and should be, considered a journalist. Many times, bloggers post opinion pieces with information and “facts” they gathered from different places, and never really think twice about it.
After you read this story about an Oregon blogger who lost her case in court and is being sued for $2.5 million, it might cause you to think a little more about what you post on your blog. Or, this story just might make you angry that this judge drew a clear line between journalists and bloggers.
Crystal L. Cox, an Oregon based blogger, writes several law-centric blogs. She wrote posts on the Obsidian Finance Group firm, and its co-founder Kevin Padrick, stating the company and Padrick were guilty of bankruptcy fraud. They eventually took her to court and won.
The judge ruled in favor of the firm, saying this single post was grounds for defamation because it stated her opinion as factual. Cox claims she received the information from a very reliable inside source, who she was not willing to give up, and therefore is protected by Oregon’s shield law. The judge said, “not so fast” and offered up his opinion on the difference between a “journalist” and a “blogger”.
Here is U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez’s statement obtained from Seattle Weekly:
. . . although defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law
Cox told Seattle Weekly this ruling could impact bloggers everywhere.
I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this story. Here are some questions up for discussion:
- Should Cox be protected by the Oregon Shield law since she claims she received her information from an inside source?
- Do you agree with the judge’s ruling on the difference between a blogger and journalist and the fact that Cox isn’t affiliated with any media companies?
- Do you think bloggers need to be more careful in regards to what they post?
- Do you believe this single case will impact bloggers and anyone who writes on the internet?
Image Source: http://www.crystalcox.com/
My question, Julie, is why this blogger didn’t lawyer up. In a case of this magnitude, she chose to represent herself rather than consult or solicit an attorney. Why? Did she really think she was so smart that she could outwit the highly paid attorneys on the other side? Did she think it was really just all about her and that the case didn’t have far-reaching ramifications? (I don’t think we can say it was a financial decision; I’m certain the EFF or a journalistic watch group or *someone* would have stepped up to the plate if asked.)
The popular reaction will be to cast Crystal Cox as a victim or martyr, and to decry the chill factor introduced that might limit what bloggers choose to say. The reality is that a lawyer or team of lawyers arguing in favor of bloggers’ rights or their place within the media might have made a difference in how the case was decided. Among all the lessons in this case for those who blog is surely this: the dangers of hubris.
@cbarger No It was not thinking I was Smart. It was because I have no money for any Attorney for One, and also I got alot more information by doing this Pro Se. Yes its a large magnitude, but not really for me money wise as I have no money, so they got a judgment yes, but 2.5 Million, well I don’t have that. I never thought it was all about me, never have. I have over 400 blogs and I use search engine marketing to get voice to victims, yes I care about other bloggers that never noticed what I do, but I care more about the victims I am trying to get justice for and this case went along way in exposing the Plaintiff which was the goal. I am not going to hide under my bed or take the easy road just to make my life easier while I leave victims in the dark with no voice. My fight is real, it has been going on for years. I expose corruption, plain and simple. I receive tips and documents, whistleblowers come to me because I am very good at getting to the top of the search. I may sound like an idiot at times, oh well, my methods are my own person way, and judge me if you must, what I do is expose judges, attorneys, cops, and more who violate our constitutional rights.. I am not a Martyr, however if that is what needs done for the greater good then so be it. You don’t have any idea what it took to get here or what has happened in the Summit Bankruptcy story over 3 years. Is hubris really the word you want.. I am good at what I do, and I have been set up by judges, persecuted, death threats and more for years for exposing the information I find, know and get on local law and the judicial process. I stand for real estate consumer and for victims of the legal system set up to support them and instead is a Culture of Corruption and Pay To Play.
@cbarger Thank you for your question. And @CrystalCox , thank you for personally answering his question. I am hoping this opens up some good dialogue between all of us bloggers and the media as well.
@JulieBonner@cbarger Me To My intentions are of the highest integrity. yes I use foul language at times and am a bit over the top. Thing is I am passionate about these stories, they affect and tear apart real lives, and I expose injustice to the best of my ability. I am not claiming to be smart, not looking for notoriety, I have lost my 15 year relationship, lost my home, lost everything and fear my life most of the time. I always did this to speak for victims and have always had the highest good in my intention. Many will trash me thing is my motive, my mission .. well its a Calling and I give voice to the voiceless.. I use powerful search engine marketing strategies to get their case found and those who harmed them. These are real stories, suppressed documents, and stories that involve the biggest tech and media companies in the world. I write on Intel, Warner Bros, Sony, and more in the iViewit Stolen Technology story. Last Summer Proskauer Rose Law Firm in New York fought me with WIPO to take my domain names, and they lost, I was Pro Se. I am alone in this, and I do the best I can for the greater good. And to protect you all, I will get an attorney for my appeal, some are calling me. .. bless you all and email me any time Crystal@CrystalCox.com Thank You for all you do to make this world a better place.
Although I don’t write about anything in the legal area, it does bring up the consideration of having liability insurance for your writing. I have been working on getting that for myself since I do so much for my own site and for others. While I take the time to thoroughly research things and figure nothing can really come back to bite me, it would give that sense of comfort when thinking about the what-if’s.
@Kristi Hines Yes there is Defamation Insurance, GET It NOW.. no one would touch me now I am Sure.. You Should Get It..
Yes there is Defamation Insurance, GET It NOW.. no one would touch me now I am Sure.. You Should Get It..
I’m not licensed in Oregon, and my review of this case has been brief and superficial at best, but here it goes:
1. Should Cox be protected by the Oregon Shield law since she claims she received her information from an inside source?
No. The law (http://www.orenews.com/web/legal/shieldslaw.php) appears to be intended to protect *professionals* who are in the business of factual news reporting. A blogger isn’t protected by that law. Note well, before you jump all over this as “freedom of speech,” we’re not talking about the freedom to express an opinion. We’re talking specifically about the right to hide your source for what otherwise appear as defamatory, and thus unprotected, statements. With all the vitriol on the internet, that’s a fair way to approach this issue. Ms. Cox admits in one of these comments that she often uses over-the-top and profane language. I assume that wasn’t doing her any favors in terms of how she was viewed by the Court. She probably appeared to be an internet troll to the judge.
2. Do you agree with the judge’s ruling on the difference between a blogger and journalist and the fact that Cox isn’t affiliated with any media companies?
Yes, but not because it’s my opinion or the opinion of a respected judge. Neither opinion is relevant. It seems that too many people think the law is subjective (i.e., a matter of opinion). It is not. It’s an objective matter. If you rob a liquor store, you’re a criminal whether you believe it or not, or whether you agree with the law or not. This law simply doesn’t protect bloggers. That’s a fair interpretation of the law. (FYI, I personally agree that it shouldn’t [see below], but as I’m not an Oregon resident, it’s not my place to agree or disagree.)
@RobertEBodine I never claimed I had an inside source, Seattle Weekly Said that, my Source was provided to the court, it was a judicial proceeding, another blog, depositions, videos and more.
@RobertEBodine Also I am not an Oregon Resident Either. I reside in Montana, I lived in Colorado when I posted that exact blog post. And the Summit bankruptcy involves victims in over 5 states.
3. Do you think bloggers need to be more careful in regards to what they post?
This is a silly question. Really. Ms. Cox just got nailed for $2.5 million. Unless you have a thorough understanding of First Amendment jurisprudence and journalistic statutory law — not many have time for that — you need to be very careful. While I’m not specifically commenting on Ms. Cox’s case — I don’t know enough about it from this short post — I like knowing that “internet tough guys” can, at least in theory, be held accountable for their defamatory words. If Ms. Cox turns out to be accurate in her accusations, then I’m glad she exposed the truth, but as a blogger, she better be *willing* and able to prove that it actually is the truth. In other words, she needs to let her source know that she can’t legally hold the conversation in confidence. Interestingly enough, a preemptive $150 legal consult fee could have prevented this entire lawsuit.
4. Do you believe this single case will impact bloggers and anyone who writes on the internet?
Yes, but only to the extent that it will scare the bejesus out of them, and that’s a good lesson. In *many* areas of life (great example: fair use), people take tremendous risks and do so ignorantly, relying on wishful thinking rather than knowledge and understanding of the law. If you are so poor that you can’t spend $150 for a 1-hour consultation with an attorney, you shouldn’t take such risks. Again, I remind you, though, that this shouldn’t “chill” free speech. Ms. Cox wasn’t punished for speaking, so the need to spend money before speaking generally isn’t at issue. She’s being punished for not revealing her sources when making a specific accusation that was litigated by a bankruptcy court yet still went undiscovered. That’s *completely* different. The great likelihood for situations like this is that the accusation is false, and that’s going to be every responsible judge’s assumption unless the accuser can back up their words.
All of this leads me to ask a question, which hopefully Ms. Cox will answer: If the entire problem here is that Ms. Cox wouldn’t reveal her source, when facing such a huge judgment, why didn’t she? Is she merely relying on bankruptcy law to mitigate her damages? If so, she better either realize that she’s not entitled to be treated as a professional blogger or not blog more than once every 10 years or so. 🙂
@RobertEBodine I Did Provide My Source, the Seattle Weekly Said I did not. I provided over 500 pages of source material and it was thrown out. A consultation fee? Hmmm if only it were that simple. I was sued Jan. 14th, this blog post was not introduced into this case until July 22nd 2011, the trial was said in a hearing August 30th. They never gave me an exact post, I demanded a more definitive statement and was not told what blog post i was being sued on. I am legally media, by law and supreme court standards and in that they have to prove actual malice, I provided over 500 pages of source information that proved I had no actual malice. And that there are many who have brought up issues of possible fraud in the Summit Bankruptcy, the Judge ignored all this.
@CrystalCox Your response, not surprisingly, is filled with lots of facts I don’t have and can’t address, as I’m working without the benefit of researching your case. The only point I can reasonably address is your statement that, “I am legally media, by law and supreme court standards.” On what do you base this? The Oregon law at issue in the case clearly doesn’t support that view, and I’m unaware of any US Supreme Court case labeling a private, unpaid blogger as a professional on First Amendment grounds. In fact, I thought that was the entire point of your story being told; that is, that a private, unpaid blogger was deemed outside the protections afforded professional media. As to your claim that the Seattle Weekly misrepresented what happened, are you saying the quote from the judge is inaccurate? If not, the judge seems to be talking about exactly that issue, i.e. your refusal to give your source. Why would the judge discuss it if you weren’t requesting that protection? Also, why would the attorney that drafted the shield law in Washington state (http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/12/unlike_oregon_bloggers_are_jou.php) be discussing your case within the context of that particular issue? I know very little (factually) about your case, yet I already see several inconsistencies between what little I know and what you’re claiming.
@RobertEBodine I am swamped, had it up but can’t find it will post soon, its a supreme court decision that media defined as having a contract, or making a living at media.. I will be post lots of facts best i can soon.. i am swamped and want to do the right thing by all..Peace and Love to you ..
@CrystalCox No worries. Take your time.
This is why my Blog is an LLC. They can sue me all they want, but they only assets they can go after is what the company (LLC) owns.
Sorry Julie, but your post doesn’t actually say what the opinion says, merely restating what the local paper (I’m in Seattle) may have said.
I urge everyone concerned about this issue to read the ACTUAL opinion here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74870113/Crystal-Cox-Opinion
In my opinion the precendential value of this case is quite minimal.
This is why I avoid blogging about anything that walks upon the Earth.