So, a blogger in Oregon named Crystal Cox was fined by a judge $2.5 Million dollars because she wrote posts on her blog trashing a corporation, and the judge decided that as a blogger she did not have the same protection journalists have, therefore what she was doing was defamation.
OUCH. And I’ll be right back, I’ve got a couple blog entries I need to pull. Hold on.
WOW. This is big news, yes?
Well, probably not. If you’re a blogger that has written a post trashing a company, you’re probably safe. It’s not likely that you’ll be charged with defamation just because you wrote a rant on your blog about the shitty customer service you got from your cell phone company (ahem). The blogger in the case, Crystal Cox, claimed to be an “investigative blogger” and had several sites up that all trashed a single company, Obsidian Finance Group (one site belonging to Ms. Cox was called ObsidianFinanceSucks.com). While at least one blog post had some facts that were apparently fed to her by an inside source (according to this Mashable post), generally the posts seem to be somewhat erratic and obsessive (this is my completely unprofessional assessment, for the record).
This post at the Seattle Weekly Blogs actually breaks down some of the issues with the Oregon law as it stands, if you’re interested. Media shield laws vary state by state (apparently, if Ms. Cox had been in Washington State, the laws would have protected her), and it’s not entirely unlikely that Ms. Cox’s case will be overturned on appeal. In fact, if she actually hires a lawyer instead of representing herself (as she did in this case), she might also stand a better chance of success.
Does this case impact the average blogger, particularly bloggers that cover corporate shenanigans? It’s a complicated question, and it’s hard to say if this case will stand. But it’s probably safe at this point to assume that bloggers don’t necessarily have free reign to create websites that focus specifically on trashing one particular person, organization, or corporation.
Lastly, no matter what you write, as long as it’s clear that it’s strictly your OPINION, and not cold hard facts, then you are safe. At least for now, in this country, we are all still free to state our opinions, no matter how insane and unattractive they are.
So rest easy, for now, bloggers. But keep your eye on cases like these.