When a blogger believes they are alone and the only one, we all lose. In response to my friend, John Pozadzides’ recent experience outlined in “VistaPrint.com Is Threatening to Sue Me Over a Blog Comment. Really???,” I want him and all of you to know you are not alone when it comes to the threats against our blogs for being open spaces for free speech.
John is not the first nor the last but the many who have faced legal action and lawsuits for contents and comments on their blogs. The issue of contents is more clear cut when it comes to lawsuits concerning libel and defamation, as well as the freedom of speech in your country. The issue of comments is much more complex.
In general, the “owner” of the comment is the responsible part for their actions. Unfortunately, there are legal decisions that state that if you moderate and edit your comment queue, you are responsible, thus attackable, for any comments that appear on your blog. A good description and legal references can be found on Can Bloggers Be Sued Over Comments? Maybe from Contentious.com and Legal Liability Overview from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Jonathan Bailey writes a great post on The Legal Issues with Comments that should be a must read. ShoeMoney was among the earliest, publicly exposed blog comment lawsuits in 2006, though attempts were made long before, especially with comments in forums dating back to the early 1990s.
It will be a while before there is a good body of work to support freedom of speech online in blogs, forums, social media publishing platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, etc.), and other social web venues that are supported by laws that really protect citizens to have their say.
Freedom of speech does not mean you can go around saying anything you want anywhere. Freedom of speech implies responsibility. You can saw whatever you want, but you must be willing to live with the consequences of your actions.
Until there is a body of law to support blogger’s and their comments, to support John and others who have been sued for comments on their blogs, here is a reference list of some of the other attempts and commentary on them, as well as some legal decisions, advice, and reviews in their blog comments, to let you know that you are not alone.
Now that you know you are not alone, it’s time for us to stand together. Anyone up for a good fight?
- Fighting For Bloggers’ Rights! | SEO Book.com
- Intuitive with Dave Taylor – SEO Books Aaron Wall Sued Over Comments on His Weblog
- RSS Pieces – ePerks Sues Real Estate Blogger – Blogosphere Unites to Destroy the ePerks Brand
- Dr. Wes: Bloggers Beware
- Blogger Faces Lawsuit Over Comments Posted by Readers – WSJ.com
- POP! PR Jots: Blogs and Libel – or Damn, NKK!
- POP! PR Jots – Libel Revisited
- The Shotgun: Marc Lemire and freedom of expression
- Why Does Everything Suck – Who has Comment Copyright Ownership
- Why does everything suck?: Who Has Comment Copyright Ownership In A Disqus Era
- Asia Times Online: Southeast Asia news and business from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam
- AOL loses court ruling on Internet privacy issue
- Bloggers’ Protection Being Put to the Test
- Company hits Google with antitrust lawsuit – MarketWatch
- Model Liskula Cohen Sues Google Over Blog Comments
- Malaysian government checks blogger freedom
- Problogger – Slander in Comments – What are the Legalities
- If You Leave a Negative Comment, I’m Going to Sue You
- TechCult – If You Leave a Negative Comment I’m Going To Sue You
- NBC – Former Deputy Claims He Was Fired for Blog Comments
- Med-Blogger Subpoened Over Comment on Blog – New York Personal Injury Law Blog
- Blog-comment speechcrimes in Canada
This list is just the few I found during a quick search. If you have heard of more that involve legal specifics, let John and all of us know.
Blog this up. Tweet it out. FB it to your community. We need to let the world know that we, as a blogging body, want the right to freedom of speech for everyone, including those who comment. Let them know that we police our blogs’ comments and are proud of it, but that doesn’t mean we are responsible for the words of others. As I’ve always said, a blog comment is a mini resume. They tend to speak for themselves and their owners. Thus, you are responsible for what you say no matter where you say it, as long as your laws permit you the right to say it. If they don’t, that’s a different battle.
For now, let’s support John and others who fight for their rights to blog free.