Legal liability

One surprise for me in the Channel 11 piece was the depth of specific discussion of liability (link mine):

But what if someone posts something that’s not
true or is libelous? Federal law says the computer service provider
isn’t necessarily responsible–it’s the person who wrote it.

lawyer Tom Williams says that limits the damages a defamed person might
be able to win in litigation. He says the defendant "could just be
anybody who might not have the assets to satisfy a judgment even if you
sued and were successful in recovering a judgment."

Img_0116   That would seem to protect Pegasus and other start-ups.

(I include the screenshot of Donte, because, where’s he’s been deadpan during the entire piece, he gets this great smirk right on cue during that last bit of voice-over, as if he were pleased at the pronouncement.)

While the point is a fair one, it’s interesting that when I went to the Citizens Media Summit, the same legal facts were used to present the flip-side of this picture — The possibility that a poster or commenter to a site who posted something both true and well-documented, could still be harmed irreparably by the expense of defending a frivolous libel suit.

A discussion of the law in this area can be found on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website. 

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.