Several weeks ago, I talked to people about the Chicago Twitter defamation case. Monday, another case regarding defamation surfaced. This time, it involved celebrity Courtney Love and a dispute with a designer. The designer accuses Courtney Love of using twitter and her website to defame her. Among the accusations are that Courtney Love used these mediums to allege she was a drug addict, a prostitute, and some other words that I don’t want to publish on my blog.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Courtney Love’s attorney has stated “It is important that this cherished right not be marginalized when speech is communicated via the Internet. Ms. Cobain (Love) enjoys using Twitter and expressing her views … to her fans and those who are interested in following what she has to say.”
Although most of my readers (I think) aren’t famous, the question still arises – what is safe and what isn’t safe to say on my blog or website. Unfortunately, this really depends on who you are and what you do. For instance, if I was an advising an accountant, I would say that you need to be careful about what tax advice you give (along with thousands of other things). I would advise a teenager to be careful about posting explicit information or pictures about another teen (in addition to a thousand other things). For pretty much everyone, I would say to be careful posting anything untrue about anyone or something that you wouldn’t want said about yourself.
Just like with any other media, if you say something that is an outright lie (i.e. Elizabeth Lewis is a terrible artist, because, come on guys, I can actually draw, paint, and take photographs!), you can face defamation charges. So, for instance, if in the case described above, the person isn’t actually a drug user or prostitute but the information was posted to cause people to stop using her, there could be a problem. However, on the other hand, if the person is a drug addict and prostitute, it would be hard to argue defamation.
In order to make sure either you, or your company, is safe from law suits, it is always good to have someone familiar with online law to review what you are posting online. For instance, I review companies’ communication policies to ensure that anything said online or offline about the company or its clients isn’t going to cause the company problems. I also review companies’ websites and literature to ensure it is okay to print. So whether it is in print or online, if you are going to be printing something, make sure you are in compliance with defamation, advertising, and any other laws that may apply!