I'm trying to snap out of my funk...
Here's an interesting case. I guess we'd better take John Ashcroft's advice more seriously, especially in a blog: "WATCH WHAT YOU SAY!" There has always been a difference between criticism spoken vs criticism written. At the end of the article below is an interesting link compiling many lawsuits against bloggers.
Blogger jailed for contempt in Smith case
May 27, 2009
A Houstonian who’s being sued by the mother of the late Anna Nicole Smith spent the holiday weekend in jail, making her the latest gossip blogger to pay a steep price for her hobby.
Lyndal Harrington, a 53-year-old real estate agent, was jailed for contempt of court Friday by state District Judge Tony Lindsay.
The judge said Harrington lied about what happened to a computer she says was stolen in a burglary less than a week after the judge ordered the machine be produced to be combed for evidence in a defamation and conspiracy case against Harrington and others.
Harrington, sitting in bright orange Harris County Jail garb and handcuffs in court Tuesday morning, appeared to be crying when Lindsay released her from jail with orders to hand over the computer by July.
“I can’t turn over something I don’t have,” Harrington said Tuesday night after being released from jail.
She said it was a humiliating and degrading experience she never expected to have in her life.
Harrington said she doesn’t have enough money to keep paying a lawyer, and she said she just did what hundreds of others did — and are still doing — in writing her thoughts about Smith’s mother.
“I think in voicing your opinion you can make a difference,” she said. But she said others have now written falsehoods about her on the Internet.
Harrington’s case is highly unusual in that a judge used civil laws to place someone, especially a non-lawyer, in jail.
But the case is not unusual in that a blogger is one of the people Virgie Arthur, Smith’s mother, sued for defamation.
Groups that watch Internet law say bloggers are increasingly being sued for defamation, copyright infringement and privacy invasion. One blogging group now offers insurance against these lawsuits.
Attorney Neil McCabe represents Arthur and asked that Harrington be jailed.
He said the lawsuit isn’t about blogging, it’s about a conspiracy to defame his client around the time of custody hearings for Smith’s infant daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit an $88 million fortune.
“This was pretty vicious stuff,” said McCabe. “You can’t flaunt a court order by destroying evidence. I don’t like putting someone in jail, but she put herself in jail.”
In the defamation and conspiracy lawsuit, Arthur also accused another blogger; lawyer Howard K. Stern; Stern’s sister; Dannielynn’s father, Larry Birkhead; TMZ Productions Inc.; TMZ’s Harvey Levin; and others.
Harrington blogged and moderated discussions about Arthur on a Web site called “Rose Speaks” but said she didn’t conspire with anyone.
According to the lawsuit, the falsehoods that were spread included allegations that Arthur allowed her daughter to be abused as a child and that Arthur married her stepbrother.
Robert Cox, president of the Media Blogger Association, a 2,000-member group based in New York, said lawsuits such as this are more common.
His group offers members legal insurance starting at about $540 a year for $100,000 coverage per incident.
“Bloggers have a tendency to believe myths — like that they are judgment-proof,” Cox said.
He said lawsuits against bloggers have more than doubled every year for the past five years, with most lawsuits over defamation. Other suits are over copyright infringement and privacy invasion.
Dave Heller, of the New York City-based Media Law Resource Center, said many bloggers are surprised to be sued.
“They are surprised they can be held responsible for the loose, hyperbolic language often used in private speech that they post on a public platform,” he said.
His group’s Web site features a growing list of lawsuits against bloggers.
The original, with pictures, is here.