Blogger rights in defamation lawsuits

This week, lead attorney of the Bradley Legal Group, P.A., John F. Bradley, Esq., successfully argued the extension of media defendant rights to the blogosphere. Some cases in Florida have dealt with this issue before, but this issue is not yet well settled and under considerable debate. Under Florida law, before a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit for defamation against a media defendant, a plaintiff must serve the media defendant in writing specifying the allegedly defamatory statements made. See, Fla. Stat. 770.01. The purpose for this required notice is simple; It gives the media defendant an opportunity to retract the alleged defamatory statement and publish a correction. If the media defendant does retract the statement within 5 days of the statutory notice, the plaintiff can only seek “actual damages” in a lawsuit, instead of potentially much higher (and easier to prove) “punitive damages.” The intent of these laws are to allow the free and uninterrupted dissemination of news, while still affording individuals who are allegedly defamed some recourse if defamatory material is published.

Historically during the last 60 years, these laws have applied to what you would imagine to be a media entity, such as the newspaper or the television station. This is because these were the only people who disseminated news as they controlled the distribution channels. With the rise of the Internet, it goes without saying that an individual can start disseminating news and information easily, quickly and cheaply so a grey area has arisen with how is the law to consider this new form of the dissemination of information and journalism. Which brings us to our current issue, is a “blog,” or any website which disseminates information, considered a media defendant under Florida law and thus a plaintiff would be required to serve the blog owner with a retraction notice?

Circuit Court Judge Victoria Sigler ruled in DeRosas et al. v. Johnson et al., 12-32919, 11th Judicial Circuit, that a “blog” falls under Florida’s retraction statute and looking at whether the defendant disseminates news and information is a key factor in determining whether the defendant would fall under the “media.” In the instant case, the Defendant runs a real-estate blog that reposts recent court decisions concerning landlord-tenant law in Florida, as well as fraud bulletins from title companies and other ancillary real estate matters. Overall, Judge Sigler found that through these activities, and specifically the two alleged defamatory blog posts that Plaintiffs complained about, that this was sufficient to establish the Defendant as a media defendant. This is a significant ruling for all those who run blogs, and perhaps post on the Internet, as it affords rights under the retraction statute. For more, please see an article by Mr. Nathan Hale of www.law360.com, a LexisNexis Company who was in attendance at the hearing.

Bradley Legal Group, P.A. are Intellectual Property lawyers, Entertainment lawyers and Music lawyers servicing clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Nashville. We also affiliate with entertainment lawyers licensed in New York and Washington, D.C. © 2013 Bradley Legal Group, P.A