Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

caveat bloggor...

Bloggers beware... (What follows cannot be considered to be qualified legal opinion. It is a very loose guide at best.)

Today I attended a quickie workshop designed to inform activists and community advocates about our new national defamation laws.

And the news does not get any better for bloggers either...

Points to consider:

A blog is a publication. Because it is seen by search engines, it can even be deemed to be a mass-circulation publication. This can have serious consequences... (So if your defence was going to be, "but I only have three regular readers", think again...)

Unlike large media organisations, bloggers do not usually have large budgets for a legal defense.

A defamatory statement is a statement which holds a person up to hatred, ridicule or contempt, or tends to lower the person in the estimation of reasonable members of the (Australian) community.

Intention is irrelevant. You cannot use the defense that you did not intend to defame.

Pictures/images can be defamatory.

You can defame by innuendo.

You can defame the person without naming the person.

Quoting another source (or merely publishing a link to a story) (e.g. a newspaper, website, another blog, etc.) may leave you open to a lawsuit for defamation by an aggrieved party.

Disclaimers may not protect you.

Dead people can't sue, but their relatives can.

Corporations of less than ten employees can sue (and corporations of all sizes can sue for monetary damages arising from defamation.)

You can be sued for an honest mistake.

Publication of a denial of the defamatory statement may not protect you.

Using the word "alleged" may not protect you.

If you can defend your statement, you're safe. What constitutes a defense?
Truth, evidence, and proof. But these are only truths, evidence and proofs if the court accepts them as such. In other words, if sued for defamation, the onus of proof regarding the truth of your statements rests entirely with you (even if you quoted someone else.)

Even expressing opinions requires careful wording.

The statute of limitations for defamation is 12 months. BUT... The clock starts ticking again (and again, and again, and again) every time your statement can be found by a search engine (for instance). If sued successfully, the task of removal of the offending material from the internet may be deemed to be your responsibility and it could be a mammoth, tedious and maybe even expensive task.

(There's a lot more but I'll deal with that via questions, and with the caveat that I am not in any way qualified to give legal opinion.)

So, bloggers, have a care...

Further reading: Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has legal advice for bloggers, including advice on defamation.


Blogger phil said...

Isn't it fortunate that the Man of Steel has a hide like a rhinoceros, otherwise I'm gone a million.

May 18, 2006 9:23 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Politicians need to be seen to cop a fair bit of argy bargy in the name of supprting robust political debate. Another thing is that if The Rodent goes to court, he makes all manner of things allowable to be tabled in court in defence of the defendant. It is a brave politician who takes that course.

I think it's a fair bet that his own party cronies would ship him out of the country if he even looked like going down that path.

Then there is the general public reputation of the man. If he is generally held by the public to be a rodent, then it is not defamatory to call him a rodent.

Also a politician in this country would not want to be seen to be victimising a mere blogger for voicing opinions which much bigger media fish are mooting. That would look like cowardice and bullying of the weak. So there could be severe political fallout.

The rich and powerful who are not trying to win elections are far more likey to sue for defamation.

It's probably a good tactic to steer clear of defamatory remarks as a general point of personal ethics and integrity anyway.

May 18, 2006 11:21 PM  

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