Convergence Legal

Blogger Wins Defamation Suit

A South Carolina US District Court Judge threw out a defamation lawsuit filed against a blogger who “published articles on the internet critical of the Plaintiffs’ business.” Here is the key section of this 16-page ruling:

[In] determining whether Smith was engaged in news reporting or in news commentating, the court has applied the functional analysis … which examines the content of the material, not the format, to determine whether it is journalism… Upon review of the content of the article, the court finds that Smith’s use of the BidZirk mark in the article was in the context of news reporting or news commentary… Smith’s article evidences his intent to report what he believed was a newsworthy story for consumers.

The four pillars of defamation, from the ruling (pdf):

  1. A false and defamatory statement was made;
  2. The unprivileged statement was published to a third party;
  3. The publisher was at fault;
  4. Either the statement was actionable irrespective of harm or the publication of the statement caused special harm.

The judge ruled that the statements about the business were opinions that were “incapable of being proven true or false.”

In addition, the judge ruled that linked to a published image on another website cannot be considered an invasion of privacy under SC law. If you post something publicly, and someone else links to you, you can’t cry foul. This seems like common sense.

Tip: Slashdot, Eric Goldman.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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