Is it safe to socialize?
It seems bloggers are not immune to large legal settlements. A judge decided that bloggers are not journalists.
In a case that’s sending a frightening message to the blogger community, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a blogger must pay $2.5 million to an investment firm she wrote about — because she isn’t a real journalist.
Judge Marco A. Hernandez said Crystal Cox, who runs several blogs, wasn’t entitled to the protections afforded to journalists — specifically, Oregon’s media shield law for sources — because she wasn’t “affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.”
The Obsidian Finance Group sued Cox in January for $10 million for writing several blog posts critical of the company and its co-founder, Kevin Padrick. Obsidian argued that the writing was defamatory. Cox represented herself in court.
The judge threw out all but one of the blog posts cited, focusing on just one (this one), which was more factual in tone than the rest of her writing. Cox said that was because she was being fed information from an inside source, whom she refused to name.
The debate over whether bloggers are journalists has been going on for years, but the consensus has been largely settled — on the opposite side of what Judge Hernandez has ruled. Attorney Bruce E. H. Johnson, who wrote the media shield laws in next-door Washington State, told Seattle Weekly that those laws would have protected Cox had her case been tried in Washington.
Will Medicare sue a blogger? How about Aetna, or Humana, or Blue Shield?
Are your tweets protected information, or your Facebook comments?