by CIO Staff

Calif. Court Expands Protections for Web Pundits

Nov 21, 20062 mins

A California Supreme Court on Monday reversed an earlier appeals court ruling regarding individuals who use the Internet to distribute information originally published by other sources, saying such people cannot be held responsible if the material reposted is considered to be defamatory, Reuters reports.

The ruling backs federal law, which protects bloggers and others who distribute information via the Web from being held responsible for reprinting information published by another source that is found to be defamatory, according to Reuters.

The Californian court opinion, penned by Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, reads, “We acknowledge that recognizing broad immunity for defamatory republications on the Internet has some troubling consequences. Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area, however, plaintiffs who contend they were defamed in an Internet posting may only seek recovery from the original source of the statement,” according to Reuters.

The court case at issue involved two doctors who claimed Ilena Rosenthal had distributed electronic messages and Web postings that contained defamatory statements regarding their character and job performance, Reuters reports.

Rosenthal held that her postings weren’t violating any libel laws because she was not the originator of the alleged defamatory information, according to Reuters. Rosenthal claimed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protected her from liability, Reuters reports. The act reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” according to Reuters.

A California appeals court previously decided that ISPs and their users could be held accountable for republishing statements known to be defamatory, Reuters reports; however, that ruling was taken up again by the state’s Supreme Court because Rosenthal was an individual and not an ISP.

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