August 11, 2009
Bloggers Beware What You Write Can Leave You Liable For Defamation
Blogging has become a new form of communication. What one has to say can be posted within seconds for the world to read. However, what you have to say could land you in a courtroom as happened to one blogger in Monmouth County. In Too Much Media LLC v. Hale the defendant blogger was sued for her online criticism of a software company on a porn industry message board. In response, the blogger claimed that her statements were protected under New Jersey’s press shield law because she was a journalist. The court disagreed. In so doing, the court found that the blogger was not a journalist and therefore she was not entitled to any protections afforded to journalist under New Jersey’s Shield Law. The court noted the difficulty raised by the current blogging trend where everyone claims to be “reporting on issues” and therefore a legitimate journalist. More often than not, however, the blogger is not a journalist but is doing little more than shouting from a digital soap box. Such conduct is not entitled to protection under the Shield Law. As a result, the blogger was subject to suit for defamation based on the statements she posted about plaintiff. The message for other bloggers is clear- be wary of what you write, you may consider it legitimate reporting, but the law says otherwise. Unless you carry the credentials of a journalist your postings will not be protected.
Christina L. Saveriano is an associate of Hill Wallack LLP in the Princeton office where she is a member of the Complex Litigation and Regulatory & Government Affairs Practice Groups. She concentrates her practice in commercial litigation, complex civil litigation and regulatory law with a focus on corporate compliance issues.