Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Ninth Circuit: Bloggers Protected by First Amendment" - North Caroline School of Law

"On January 17, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers have the same first amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation.

The case, Obsidian Finance v. Fox, was brought by Kevin Padrick, a bankruptcy trustee at Obsidian Finance Group, and Obsidian against blogger Crystal Cox after Cox wrote a blog post accusing Padrick and Obsidian of fraud, money-laundering, corruption, and other illegal activities.

In 2011, a jury awarded $2.5 million to the plaintiffs.  On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed and ordered a new trial because the district court’s jury instruction applied an erroneous standard."

"This ruling is a huge win for bloggers and other online speakers.

While the rule does have its limits, because it only protects individuals writing about issues of public concern, it recognizes that individuals do not have to be associated with a media outlet to be afforded First Amendment protections.

UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh, who represented Cox on the appeal, also warns “that the court’s reasoning is limited to First Amendment protections; it doesn’t discuss state or federal statutes that provide extra protection to the ‘media’ or to other subsets of speakers.”  So, while bloggers are not equitable to media under all laws, the Ninth Circuit ruling assures bloggers that they are protected by the First Amendment."

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