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back to article ‘Blogger not a journalist’ says Oregon court

An Oregon court has denied a blogger protection under that state’s “shield laws” because she isn’t employed by a media organization – a distinction which has cost her $2.5 million in a lost defamation suit. Blogger Crystal Cox was accused of defaming Obsidian Finance Group in blog posts critical of the company’s founder Kevin …

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Rights of the Established Media?

So, if a newspaper or even The Register was paying her even a trivial sum then they could have bestowed immunity to her? Thats not right, the law stinks.

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It not only stinks

It's deaf, dumb and blind. It also has the frequent ability to contradict itself. In ol’ OZ we have self-referencing sub sections and machinery sections that basically enter you into an infinite loop. Yep, the laws’ a fuckin’ ass. But what do you expect from a bunch of friggin’ idiots who are typically in a drunken stupor or half asleep when they ratify these things into law

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Boffin

@david kelly2

I think you miss the purpose of the shield law...

The law was designed to protect the journalist from being sued under defamation law as an effort to get to their inside source. If the journalist could not protect their confidential informant, then less people would be willing to speak out. Same too for the police's confidential informant.

What's at issue is how do you classify a blogger? Do all bloggers meet the requirements of being a journalist just because they post their blogs?

Suppose my real name was Seymour Butts and I post a blog under the title 'Kitty Liter Daily Journal'.

Now since I have a regular blog does that make me a journalist? Suppose I write rants about the Brit Royals getting randy in Buckingham Palace, citing an unnamed source. Clearly its not true, and when the Brit Royals sue me, can I hide behind my unnamed source?

And thats the point. Anyone can blog about anything. In the US they have limited protection under the first amendment. That doesn't make them a journalist.

Now had the blogger actually had an article picked up by a journal or some other publication, then she could have been protected as a freelance journalist.

Sorry you don't like the shield law.

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Anonymous Coward

so...

"fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system"

if she printed out some of her blog posts and handed them out at random, then she would qualify?

or posted stuff on youtube? or had self published or POD'd a collection posts?

assuming that the articles *are* factual, and she ends up revealing her source, does that then entitle her to counter sue? or will that then open her up to another lawsuit for betraying (under court order) her source?

Presumably if her source is an employee, so the consequences of being a whistle blower are rather high...

sorry for lowering the tone, but her name sounds like a sex toy.

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Happy

Duke

'sorry for lowering the tone, but her name sounds like a sex toy'...

...actually it makes her sound like a Fox News botoxbabe...oh, wait, sry, same thing really...

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WTF?

Um...

I get the majority of my news from twitter and bloggers. Where do I send an amicus brief for her appeal?

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Anonymous Coward

I heard on twitter you can send them to: Santa Claus, Reindeer Land, SAN TA1

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May I suggest that what you believe to be 'news' is really just rumour and gossip?

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SAN TA1

Seriously, what are the odds?

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Wrong address - Canada IS a Canadian but his postal code is H0H 0H0

Santa's address is:

SANTA CLAUS

NORTH POLE HOH OHO CANADA

By the way you will see he can also be reached by email.

http://www.canadapost.ca/dec/santa/writesanta/

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So..

May I suggest that what you believe to be 'news' is really just rumour and gossip?

So employees of Heat, OK etc magazines are no longer journalists ? Right?

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Anonymous Coward

Well done!

You've confirmed my suspicions about why "da yoof" of today are so asinine.

I would advise you to try doing some proper research and locating a few trusted media outlets staffed by proper journalists and leave the blogs to continue pumping out half-arsed opinions parading as fact.

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tim, this is different from the self-proclaimed "media" how?

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Anonymous Coward

"So employees of Heat, OK etc magazines are no longer journalists ? Right?"

They never were IMHO

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Were

they ever?

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Facepalm

I'm not defending all the media, but some of them do actually fact check their articles. Plus they have the risk of being sued for libel which keeps them partially in line. Twitter contains 75% nonsense.

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75% eh? I'd say that compares well to the Daily Mail (80%), Independent (82%), Mirror (90%) and Sun (102%)*

Twitter is mostly full of noise, it's true.But, so is the rest of the mainstream media, which these days seems to largely rely on what's trending on twitter when it isn't copy-pasting Reuters and AP straight from the wire. Given that they're acting largely as a relay of what the public are nattering about, why do we need them any more?

And given that newspaper circulation figures are nosediving, and television news figures are in similar decline, it seems evident to me that a great many people agree with my stance.

*Like you I am, of course, making all of that up...

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WTF?

Why can't she be a media in her own right?

She publishes a blog, surely that makes her blog a periodical publication. Why the need to be employed by a newspaper? Did they not consider that her blog is a publication in its own right?

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Devil

Because

...then any loud-mouthed idiot with a blog could claim protection under journalist protection laws. I'm sure the US has an association of journalists. Maybe membership of that body should be the litmus test.

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Anonymous Coward

Because the law says so

The relevant Oregon media shield law lists various forms of media communication, including newspapers and TV, but makes no mention of the internet or online distribution. So independent bloggers are not considered journalists (n.b. laws in other states are different). Arguably this is a flaw in the law that should be fixed, and she could probably win on appeal with the help of a decent lawyer.

On the other hand, taking a look at some of these blogs, the quality falls rather short of what I'm accustomed to from investigatory journalists. Long on outrage and hysteria, rather short on clear and reasoned arguments, and desperate for attention. I've seen better writing in high school student newspapers. It would be much easier to call her a 'journalist' if the posts read like something out of the New York Times instead.

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And if she weren't a fool*

the verdict of the Oregon court would be overturned in a heart-beat because the law does not offer equal protection to all citizens.

I'm strongly against shield laws because they create privileged classes in society. Journalist should be held to the same standards as anybody else who says something in a public forum.

*from the common knowledge quote "only a fool represents himself in a court of law."

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The RealWTF

Quite frankly, she probably could have won if she had decent counsel.

I'm sure there are plenty of attorney groups out there that would have done it pro bono.

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Anonymous Coward

Damn you could have asked me for a dollar and said you work for a news organization. You could have got a friend to give you a dollar and they could say they employed you.

On the other hand, this is a BAD LAW which needs to be nullified. Too bad I wasn't on her jury pool.

Maybe she could wait a year or so, and the DOD will replace the DOJ and then she can be indefinitely detained, tortured and killed by this fascist system of bullshit.

Bottom line, U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez is an oath breaking domestic terrorist.

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The jury nullifies you.

"On the other hand, this is a BAD LAW which needs to be nullified. Too bad I wasn't on her jury pool."

The way jury nullification works in the real world is that the jury cuts some slack for the home town boy and hangs the outsider:

the nerd, the dork and the geek, among others.

Oregon doesn't requre a unaminous verdict even in a murder trial. (11/12) If you want to play the lone hold-out, get a job in dinner theater,

The judge does not want to exclude any relevant evidence.

He does not want to hear that your only defense to --- any --- charge is a witness who cannot be brought into court.

To re-imagine the printing press as a "license to libel" can do enormous damge to the innocent. That is why shield laws are construed narrowly.

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Media is plural.

Medium is the singular. If she was a real medium she would have seen this comming.

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"Comming"?

Remember - grammar nazis are held to higher standards than normal people...

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Headmaster

"Comming"?

Remember - grammar nazis are held to higher standards than normal people...

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Joke

Double posting?

Remember - "grammar nazi" nazis are held to an even higher standard than grammar nazis...

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@Red Bren: Web site management's ebbs & flows?

Remember, "paying attention to the a site's ebbs & flows" nazis are held to an even higher standard than double posting nazis ...

Seriously, ElReg, what's going on? Let us (TINU) know ... There are many here who are probably more than happy to provide hints & tips.

I probably missed the Elreg self-implicating article ... I'm good at that. ;-)

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Not a journalist

I think that's the problem - if she had been a journalist the nobody would have believed anything she wrote and so the comments would have done no harm.

But by not being associated with any of Murdoch's mighty organs - she automatically achieved a higher level of trust and so the comments had so much more potential to inflict damage,

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Meh

Murdoch's mighty organs

*looks at title of post*

*looks at blogger name*

It is way to early for me. I need to get my mind out of the gutter.

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No new media?

So the decision is basically saying that there can be no new media organisations? I mean, where do these things start if not with an individual?

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As Iunderstand it

The purpose of a shield law is to give journalists cover when the actions would otherwise be illegal. If you allow everyone to be decribed as a journalist on their own say so, then effectively you are making those actions legal for anyone who can talk fast enough.

So if its desirable that these actions should generally be illegal *and* its appropriate that journalists should have an exemption, then the lack of protection for amateur "journalists" follows logically.

If on the other hand you don't think what she did should be illegal at all, then that's an entirely different topic and absolutely nothing to do with the workings of the shield law.

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WTF?

Pamplet

"the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system"

Pamplet? So, er, to get journalistic protection all she has to do is print out a couple of copies of each blog entry and give them to a few people, then?

What an idiotic ruling.

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Moronic

There is no substantive difference between a blog and a " newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system."

This judge is barely up to speed with the 20th century, let alone the 21st

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appeal

I imagine she would be best appealing that a blog is effectively an online pamplet. That overturns the previous ruling.

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WTF?

How did the newspapers and other organisations start?

Did they all of a sudden pop into existence or was it one or two people starting a business?

Just because one was on paper and the other is electronic why does it matter?

Seems to me that this judge may have been getting extra benefits from this ruling!

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Shouldn't have represented herself!

That law is bullshit and I assume a decent council would have pulled the other side to pieces but by representing herself she made an easy target!

The judge also sounds like an utter bellend!

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Go

Actually the law makes sense on one level..

Think about it: If every 'blogger' (easily extended to include anyone who posts anything online at all) counts as a journalist in the eyes of the law, then you might as well scrap defamation laws completely, since you could say anything you like about any person or organisation, and when they sue you for libel, you just argue that the piece was factually accurate and that you have a source who you're entitled to not reveal..

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Ru
Holmes

Wrong

Because you can trivially set yourself up as a media company; pay a few bucks, fill in a form and you're done. Incidentally, a person familiar with the matter told "haroldo is a big gay bear media llc" that haroldo was, in fact, a big gay bear. Naturally, HIABGBM will not be revealing their source.

The reporter's shield and general freedom of speech that's so often trumpeted by the yanks only goes so far in protecting you from the consequences of your actions.

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The had better get on with the law that states all reports / media types should be registered then. Otherwise anything any of them print is not protected either.

Why is it news if a red top prints it but defamation if it comes from another source?

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The usual challenge to "factually accurate" is to in fact prove that the "factually accurate" is factually inaccurate in some sense as part of the libel suit. But apparently Mr Bigwig COULDN'T prove that any of the things blogged about were materially wrong, and was therefore required to fall back on intimidation and "deep pockets" attacks.

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This is why Wikileaks was created. No problems then.

No wait...

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Anonymous Coward

Presumably

... she could have marked the piece as 'opinion' rather than fact and got away with it. Or is that too simplistic.

Defending yourself never seems to work out well, unless you happen to be a lawyer. Even then, a dispassionate set of eyes on a case is rarely a bad idea.

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I would think that if she can demonstrate any kind of history of publishing that she could obtain protection.

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Either ...

... web pages are "published", or they are not.

Methinks hizzonner screwed the pooch on this one.

(Please note I'm not commenting on the published article ...)

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Anonymous Coward

I lived in Oregon

And that was not a very Oregonian decision.

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As if hacks didn't have an overblown sense of their own importance as it is (present company excepted, obviously).

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Anonymous Coward

Saw a video of Ms Cox once

It was Mexican and had donkeys on it.

Source? Can't tell you.

Ps: I have a blog, also known as "get out of defamation suit free" card.

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Anonymous Coward

Let me get this right

If not for for this legal inconvenience, I could defamate anyone or anything I wished (or maybe even get paid to) - with no real proof - and then just claim to be protected as a blogger?

Sorry to say but I kind of see how the court has a point...

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