March 14, 2011

An Internet Defamation Attorney Discusses Online Libel Law Issues

Internet Defamation Attorney Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal, PLC discusses what you should do if someone says something derogatory about you or your business online.

  • The first thing you have to do is identify who the person is that posted the derogatory or defamatory statement.
  • Identify the registrant of the domain name. 
  • See if you can determine whether or not the registrant of the domain name is the same person who is operating the website

Announcer:  Welcome to Internet Law Radio.  This program is brought to you by Traverse Internet Law, when you need an internet attorney for the internet age. 

Enrico Schaefer:  Welcome to Internet Law Radio.  This is Enrico Schaefer, and I’ll be your host.  Today we’re talking about the specialized issue of internet defamation of character, also known as internet libel or internet slander.

What happens when someone says something derogatory about you or your business online?  What happens when that derogatory statement - that defamatory statement, that defamation of character - states a false allegation against you; a false statement of fact?  How is it that you handle that situation and how do courts handle online or internet defamation issues? 

At Traverse Legal, our internet Law firm  handles these issues day in and day out, and they can be extremely complicated.  However, here’s a template for you to follow if you’re trying to deal with one of these issues, and you are seeking redress for an internet defamation type situation:

The first thing you have to do is identify who the person is that posted the derogatory or defamatory statement online.  Check out the domain name.  Identify the registrant of the domain name.  See if you can determine whether or not the registrant of the domain name is the same person who is operating the website; sometimes they can be different.  Furthermore, was the defamatory statement posted as a comment on a blog by a third party that is user-generated content?  If the person who posted the libelous comment isn’t the website registrant or owner, or isn’t the person who runs the website, then you may have a much more difficult challenge.  You’re going to have to identify the person who posted the comment in order to address them.  Sometimes they’ll leave their email address or their website as part of their comment, but oftentimes, they don’t use their real name and offer very few clues about who they are.  In those situations, you may have to file an online libel lawsuit or contact the domain owner or website operator.  If there’s a violation of the website’s policies concerning defamation, the website owner may take the information down, and you will, in a short period, no longer see the result return as a Google search result.  However, online defamation or internet defamation can be really tricky when there is an anonymous commenter, and sometimes you actually have to file an online libel lawsuit in order to get subpoena power so that you can send a subpoena to the website host, to the website operator or the domain registrant, in order to identify IP information concerning the person who posted the comment.  Sometimes, the website operator will have an email as part of a registration procedure that you can get via subpoena.  Once you identify whose household or business generated the comment, you’ll be in a much better position to deal with the defamatory or libelous statement. 
Online defamation / internet defamation can be extremely tricky.  I would encourage you to do as much research as you can concerning online libel law and then contact an internet law attorney or specialist to help you understand what your chances of success might be, if you should sue for defamation, whether or not you should consider a threat letter against the website owner or host concerning the defamation of character claim and what the possible return on investment that you will see if you pursue legal action, how much is it going to cost and how much are you going to get?  This is Enrico Schaefer and that’s all for Internet Law Radio today.  Have a great day and we will see you next time.

Before you decide to sue for online libel, defamation, or slander,  you need to speak with a qualified internet defamation attorney.


I am a divorce attorney in Colorado and was libeled on multiple occasions by my soon to be ex-husband, and, on a much more extreme level, by my mother-in-law. She lives in PA, and sent a sheriff's department "investigator" here in Jefferson County--investigation was a felony theft claim against her daugher--accusing me of severe drug addiction, alleged assaults against her daughter and son, and allegations that I "tried to kill" both. I have met her and her daughter on only two occasions over the past 17 years. These and other allegations are now part of public record, are false, and nothing said about me to the investigator had any relevance to the theft investigation. Following my discovery of her libelous emails, my husband turned on me, and he, "mom," and daughter have made numerous and false allegations in an attempt to have me arrested and prosecuted on outrageous and false claims of violence and abuse. I have NO history of such. This is only the tip of the story, and their intentional false statements and infliction of emotional distress has been enormous. The statute of limitations is close upon me. My ex and his sis live in Iowa, altho my ex spends half his time in PA with mom. I am desperate for help! Thanks for your time!

Professional libel online is a difficult issue to address since the right to free speech is assumed up to a certain point where it may cross the legal line.

However, posting unfavorable statements that are factual does not constitute libel. Professionals may not want to publicly acknowledge bad behavior, but truthful unfavorable statements are protected speech when supported by fact.

I'd always leave these kind of situations to the experts. Most of the commenters feel safe behind their cloak of anonymity and they are rightfully almost untouchable. You don't know WHO posted that bad review or who spread lies about your business online. It's best to just hire an online reputation management company and let them find the identity of the attacker and gather evidence about their activity and the facts behind their claims.

As an internet defamation attorney I see internet defamation as a growing concern on the internet. Know your rights and remedies if you have been the victim of internet defamation. Good article.

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