An out of work real estate agent, who blogged about Anna Nicole Smith, was jailed for not turning over her computer in an online defamation case brought about by Ms. Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur. Lyndal Harrington is accused of spreading lies that Ms. Arthur married her stepbrother and abused Ms. Smith as a child. When court ordered Harrington to turn over her computer or face incarceration, she told the Court that the computer had been stolen during a burglary less than a week after being subpoenaed.
Defamation and online slander lawsuits against bloggers are ever increasing, with rather large judgments being awarded for defamation, copyright infringement and/or invasion of privacy. Bloggers don’t realize that they could be considered publishers in many courts in our country. State laws vary on what constitutes defamation, libel, and slander, and who qualifies as a journalist and who can protect sources. Judges have consistently applied the same standards to online blogs as they would any other medium of expression. Be very careful about what you “publish” on your blog as it could come back and bite you.