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Are You At Risk For A Lawsuit? Defamation Explained (as another blogger ends up in court)

According to the Legal Dictionary at Dictionary.com defamation is:

“Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.”

As bloggers, we alwayss express our opinions. Defamation is murky ground for most of us that tell stories on our sites that may involve products or people.

Recently writer E. Brian Rose wrote about choosing to take a blogger to court for defamation. After releasing his eBook, a woman named Suzanne Bucciarelli took issue with his book, and targeted it. Here’s what he said happened.

“Shortly after the release of my eBook, Bucciarelli posted articles on her privately owned blog sites. The articles were titled, “Legally Sell or Giveaway PREMIUM WordPress Themes Comes with Over $1000 Worth of PREMIUM Themes”, the exact title of my eBook. She then went on to place links to articles in social bookmarking sites, Twitter, and Google Plus. Bucciarelli even went as far as turning the articles into an eBook and publishing it at an eBook sharing site. A search for my book in Google and Yahoo resulted in her blog posts receiving the top positions.”

After much consideration, he decided to pursue legal options and sued Ms. Bucciarelli in court, where she failed to appear.

“A brief hearing, called a writ of inquiry, followed, where I presented my exhibits to the court and gave a timeline of events. After a half hour recess, the judge ruled that Ms. Bucciarelli was malicious in her writings and ordered her to pay me $79,141. Ten thousand dollars of that award was specifically for punitive damages, the court’s way of sending a message to others that are considering using the Internet as a weapon.”

So how can you, as a blogger, avoid making mistakes that could land you in court? This article by Law for Creatives offers great basic information that can help, including this perfect explanation.

“Defamation is a general term used when you don’t need to distinguish between libel and slander.  Defamation, or defamation of character, is the passing along of false information that is stated as fact.  In order to be considered defamation, the information must also: (1) Bring harm to either a person or an organization; and (2) Be told (in writing or verbally) to at least one other person than the victim.   So, telling Jane the Florist to her face or in an email that she is “a rotten, lying thief” is not defamation.  Telling other people that Jane is a rotten, lying thief could be defamation if the information harms Jane.  In order to really be defamation of character, the information must be untrue, so if you call Jane Doe out publicly for being a liar and a thief, and Jane has already been found guilty of theft in a court of law, you’re probably not defaming her character.  But publicly calling Jane a lying thief based upon your hunch about her, with no concrete evidence to back your theory up, is a quick and easy way to find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.”

As lawsuits like the one above become more common, it’s smart strategy to protect yourself. Good luck!

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