Dozier Internet Law is constantly battling the scofflaws of the web. On the one hand, the Internet as a whole opens up the world to everyone. On the other hand, it opens up the world to, well…to everyone. Defamation laws and related judicial interpretations evolved historically at a time, and in an environment, in which there were inherent protections that served as a filter of sorts. Today those protections are lost to the ability to distribute attacks to millions overnight. Want to physically picket a business? You have to invest time and disclose your identity if you are going to coordinate and show up at a business. Want to print and distribute flyers, or take out an advertisement or run a commercial? Expensive, of course. And newspapers and television wouldn’t print, even as ads or commercials, alot of the outrageous claims and statements being readily distributed online.
Once in a while, Dozier Internet Law sees comments encouraging such illegality from what might seem to be credible sources. But the application and interpretation of laws dealing with disparagement and defamation and other lawlessness will eventually catch up with the online scofflaws, and defending misconduct by claiming you saw a blog by a lawyer saying it was legal is not a defense.
On October 15, 2008 the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida just rejected an appeal from the Defendant and confirmed a JURY judgment on behalf of Susan Scheff in the sum of $11.3 Million, of which $5 Million was for punitive damages (on behalf of Susan Scheff and her very small business), against an individual who took it upon herself to publish allegedly defamatory statements online. Read the plaintiff’s comments by Sue Scheff about “free speech”.
Online defamation and product disparagement is a huge issue, of course, and businesses are under attack. This judgment is just another example of the legal system catching up with online misconduct. And instead of a real attempt to establish standards and self police and self regulate, one blogger organization has started selling insurance to bloggers. It strikes me that insurance coverage is a wonderful thing for the businesses under attack. At Dozier Internet Law we hear from dozens of victims of online blog attacks each week, it seems. The possibility of insurance coverage is great. Online defamation promises to be a growth industry for trial lawyers. Another example, I surmise, of an unanticipated and unintended consequence…but this time of mammoth proportions.