"SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court unanimously overturned a defamation award against a blogger Friday, ruling that 1st Amendment protections for traditional news media extend to individuals posting on the Web.
“The protections of the 1st Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities,” Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote for a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The panel said its holding was the first of its kind within the 9th Circuit but that other circuit courts already have extended protections for journalists to individual speakers.
“This case is the first one from a federal court of appeals that specifically protects the rights of bloggers,” said UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, who represented Cox without charge on appeal.
He said the ruling would also protect other individuals, including those who leaflet and who speak out on behalf of politicians or activist groups.