Blogger Liablility for Third Person Comments

As everyone knows by know (we're a little behind the 8 ball on this since we're out of town), Atrios got a letter from a lawyer named Jeffrey J. Upton in Massachussetts threatening to expose his identity and sue him over some of Atrios' posts and reader comments to those posts about a NRO columnist named Donald Luskin.

Bloggers are not liable for the content of comments posted by readers. The Batzel case referred to in the article is Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2003). The statute involved is 47 USCS § 230, The Communications Decency Act of 1996 . Since Batzel, the 9th Circuit has reaffirmed this position in Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc., 339 F.3d 1119, 1122-1123 (U.S. App. , 2003). Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin agrees.

Upton charges that Atrios libeled Luskin by calling him a stalker. Professor Balkan responds:

.... read in context, Atrios' post is (a) not an allegation of actual criminal behavior, and (b) is a protected statement of satire and opinion. He is making fun of Luskin's own comparison of himself as someone who stalks Paul Krugman. Luskin's argument that Atrios has libeled him shouldn't survive a motion for summary judgment. Of course, the real problem is that getting to that point will cost Atrios money to defend himself.

Atrios should not have to go through this ordeal. We suspect, however, that just like the Fox suit against Franken lifted Franken's book up the best-seller charts, so too will Atrios ultimately benefit from the mainstream media attention the cease and desist letter will bring.

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