Perez Hilton v Lindsay Lohan's Friend: Defamation Concerns for a Blogger

All the media coverage today surrounding Perez Hilton being sued by Lindsay Lohan's friend for defamation may give many a blogger pause.

Here's the skinny: bloggers can be sued for defamation not only for their own posts - anonymous or otherwise - but also for the comments left on their blog. Comments, too? Yep.

And, in today's legal arena, remember that while they may not win, they may well be able to pursue a lawsuit against you. In this murky, new area of the law, there's lots of leeway to argue that a cause of action has been established and the suit's not frivolous (even if it's not winable).

While the law is still evolving, here's what is leading the pack:

1. John Doe 1 v. John Cahill. In October 2005, the Delaware Supreme Court held that anonymous bloggers are not immune from being sued, but the standard of proof to reveal their identity is the highest possible burden.

2.The US Communications Decency Act holds that a blogger who repeats someone else's statements is legally responsible for the defamatory content of those statements, just as if the blogger was the original speaker, if the blogger knew, or had reason to know, that the statements were defamatory. The Act protects against liability for online "intermediaries" who merely provide or republish speech by others.

For a nice discussion of this evolving area of the law, check out TCS Daily's 2003 article, The Next Litigation Background; the British blog Internet Defamation which has been posting exclusively on this topic from a world-wide perspective since 2005; the articles at Law.Com, including Charles Toutant's on cult bloggers and the October 2007 Law.Com's online report of the National Law Journal's Roundtable discussion on this issue.