Recently, the federal appeals court of the 9th Circuit unanimously overturned a defamation judgment and award against a blogger, Crystal Cox, ruling that 1st Amendment protections allowed for traditional news media outlets also extend to individuals posting on the internet. In its decision, Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote, “The protections of the 1st Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with the traditional news entities.”
This ruling is very important as it relates to this era of online content and reporting, as it is first of its kind in the 9th Circuit, though other circuit courts have held that individuals have the same free speech rights as the news media.
What Does This Mean?:
According to UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, “This case is the first one from a federal court of appeals that specifically protects the rights of bloggers.” What this specifically means is that, a blogger will be held to the same standards and have the same rights as a “traditional” news entity and can’t be held liable for defamation unless they acted negligently. In terms of the case involved, the plaintiff, Obsidian, would have to show that the defendant had actual knowledge that the post was false when she published it. Additionally, the court held that the bloggers posts were so outlandish and outrageous, no one would have taken them seriously.
How Does This Affect You?:
We are witnesses to numerous sites, posts and information being authored and disseminated over the internet, with little to no determination or understanding of who is actually a member of the “institutional press.”
If you have a blog or website and are not deemed to be a member of the “institutional press” in the traditional sense, understand that you still may be held at the same esteem and garner the same rights as those who are, as it relates to free speech and what needs to be proven in order for certain claims and judgments to be ruled and enforced against you.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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