Blogging can be a legally hazardous activity, especially if you are doing it independently. If a staff reporter for an established news organization is sued for libel, he or she is in for an exceedingly unpleasant experience — but at least the employer and its insurance company will pay to fight the charges or settle.
Last year I attended a conference at which the subject of bloggers and liability came up, and let’s just say that it was chilling, in all senses of the word. Right now Cape Cod Today blogger Peter Robbins is facing a libel suit. What too many bloggers fail to understand is that they are not exempt from libel laws. They just lack the means to fight back.
That’s why a new project by the Media Bloggers Association is so interesting. MBA president Robert Cox (in photo) has come up with a new program under which bloggers who take an online course in media law will be eligible to purchase libel insurance.
It’s not cheap — David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project, who helped write the online course, says that it will cost a minimum of $450 a year. A prominent local blogger who’s been corresponding with me about this looked into it and was told that, in his case, it might be almost twice that. But it’s a lot cheaper than losing your home, which is what many bloggers are unwittingly risking.
Cox is a longtime leader in legal issues facing the blogging community, and he deserves a lot of credit for bringing this program to fruition.