Shield Laws

US protects journalists but not bloggers

16th June

Shield Lowered...

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New Jersey journalist protection ruled not apply to comments on an internet forum

A blogger sued for defamation over comments posted on an Internet message board is not entitled to the same protections as a journalist, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said that blogger Shellee Hale's criticism of a software company on a porn industry bulletin board was not covered by the New Jersey press shield law, which protects members of the news media from revealing their confidential sources.

In an online reader forum, Hale had accused Too Much Media LLC, which provides software to adult entertainment sites, of profiting from a 2007 security breach that exposed customers' personal information.

After the company sued Hale for defamation.

(We) do not believe that the legislature intended to provide an absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards, the court wrote. Otherwise anyone with a Facebook account could claim the journalist privilege, it said. Instead, the court concluded that online message boards are little more than unscreened reader comment pages or public forums for discussion.


10th December

Update: Bloggers Aren't Journalists in Oregon...

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US blogger doesn't qualify for shield law legal defence designed to protect journalists and their sources

An Oregon court has denied a blogger protection under that state's shield laws because she isn't employed by a media organization,

Blogger Crystal Cox was accused of defaming Obsidian Finance Group in blog posts critical of the company's founder Kevin Padrick. The accusation was based on writings Cox had based on information she said was leaked from a company insider. Cox lost the defamation case and had to pay out $2.5 million.

According to Seattle Weekly. While defending her posts as factual, Cox also declined to reveal her source, claiming protection under Oregon's shield laws. Her bind was that concealing her source weakened her defense that her posts were factual and the court decided that Cox wasn't eligible for the shield law defense.

The judge wrote:

Although defendant is a self-proclaimed investigative blogger and defines herself as media, the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law


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