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Blogger Sued for $25 Million

Truth and facts are important everywhere, especially in publishing. 

However, no matter what the legal and constitutional issues are with libel and slander, or the burden of proof for the person that sues, fending off a lawsuit costs a lot of time and money, even if you did nothing but report what you think are the facts. 

The blogger that is being sued already lost his job because of the issue. 

A former editor of mine said, “There are always more than two sides to a story.”  You better know them before you publish.

If you aren’t a media company with a staff of lawyers, and don’t have an editor and fact checkers to check your work, it’s really important to be careful… and sometimes it’s not even worth saying something negative or bringing up a fact you are not 100% sure of.

In addition, since we are responsible for creating, moderating, (and deleting if necessary) our own posts, you have to be careful about what other people comment on a post or blog you start.  You may need to fact check, edit, or delete their comments (since you are the publisher).  This is a gray area that I don’t believe has been sorted out in the law and courts yet.

So before you blog, post, or accept someone’s comments, think about what is said and the consequences. Sometimes, as your mother taught you, it might just be better to not say it at all.

See the story below:

Click Here To See the Media Report (CBS4 in Miami)

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Filed under: Content Development, Media Law, Public & Media Relations, , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. Wynne:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I encourage you or anyone to speak your mind anytime you want. Freedom of speech is of vital importance.

    But the truth matters. Facts matter. So does reality.

    As a 30-year professional journalist and college j-school teacher, I’ve taken and taught media law for a long time. There are consequences for libel and slander.

    If you purposefully lie, distort the truth, publish outright false information, the legal action could be a real drag.

    I’m not talking about opinion. That’s different.

    If you want to publish that you don’t like something, it’s not illegal. Most companies or individuals won’t take legal action. It’s a business decision. Cost vs. bad press or customer relations. Public companies usually won’t take action.

    Private individuals or privately held companies are a different matter, especially ones with deep pockets.

    I personally witnessed the president of a privately held company legally and financially drain someone dry because of blogging. Would the pres win in court? Probably not, even though the blogger was a jerk. However, the legal games are endless and so is the cost.

    The question is… how much time and money do you want to spend with lawyers?

    Turn your publishing into a full-time rant, and the savvy will launch their reputation management system and make your posts irrelevant.

    You usually just ruin your own reputation.

    If you’re really nasty in your posts, with the sole reason to ruin someone’s reputation, some will take legal action based on “poison pen” law. I just read that someone just got found guilty of that. They’ve gone for years in the legal process. Great fun for them I’m sure.

    BTW, it isn’t just one court case. There have been many. Most don’t make the press. You have to read the court records.

    Many posts and blogs have been taken down because of violations of terms of service. Most article directories won’t even allow you to mention a company name unless it’s yours. They don’t want the grief. Censorship? Yes.

    In an ideal world, you’re right.

    Unfortunately, this is a hugely litigious country and the folks with the biggest bank account can bleed you dry. Is it right? No. Does it happen? Everyday.

    In almost all cases, lawsuits settle – you never get to court to have a “decision” based on what is right. Most of the time there is a signed agreement by both parties, and the judge that you never meet, requiring you to shut up about the case. So you won’t read much or you’ll have to go before that judge and defend against contempt of court.

    Usually they settle somewhere in the middle after both parties are tired of spending. Your time and cost will be yours – at $150-$350 per hour for your lawyer, who usually wants to keep it going, plus mediators at $750 a day.

    My point is: there is an ideal and purely constitutional law side to this – and there is a practical and real-world (and some would say cynical) side.

    The ideal is a free flow of ideas and honest discussion, agreement, and disagreement. That exists and it’s good.

    But get your facts wrong and in the process harm someone badly, or go over the top with opinion to the point that you anger someone with deep pockets, and I guarantee you’ll wish you never wrote that post.

    I know: reality stinks.

  2. Wynne says:

    Yeah right. So you are telling me all the bloggers out there have to be afraid to speak their mind because of one court case? I don’t agree with you.

    But in terms of the decision for the 25 million dollar ruling, I would have to properly assess the facts to see if I agreed with that or not.

    This situation reminds me of the situation with illegal torrent downloads on the internet. Big corporations were doing everything they could to stop it. But in the end most of their efforts to stop it came to nothing. But the smart ones (like Apple for example) turned around and changed their business model to suit the ethos of the web. Monetizing at the same time as offering great value. Rather than try and bend the web to some archaic rules that suited a select few people.

    So my point is, that freedom of speech to say whatever the heck we want is something that internet users have become accustomed to. Sure there will be the odd 25 Million dollar law suit, but I am going to make a bold prediction right here and now and say that this will not likely be the trend.

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R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
561-756-1674

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