Welcome to the website of the Digital Media Law Project. The DMLP was a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2007 to 2014. Due to popular demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated. Please check any information you find here for accuracy and completeness.
Following up on our posting yesterday about WordPress in Turkey, the MidEast Youth project has launched a petition calling on the Turkish government to invalidate the judicial decision to block the entire WordPress blog-hosting service in that country. The petition states:
Reports (here, here) indicate that WordPress.com, in its entirety, has been blocked in Turkey. People trying to visit the website get the following message: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance." The founding developer of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, began writing about the situation last week on his personal blog, and he received a letter on Saturday night from a Turkish attorney representing Mr. Adnan Oktar, who apparently is a Turkish national and the author of books written under the pen name Harun Yahya. Mr. Oktar's attorney claims that another Turkish national, Edip Yuksel, started a number of WordPress blogs dedicated to defaming his client. The attorney says that he sent a number of letters complaining about the alleged defamatory statements to the WordPress legal department and apparently to Matt personally. According to the letter, he then brought the matter before a Turkish court, which granted Mr. Oktar's request to block access to WordPress.com in Turkey. The letter demands that WordPress "remove and prohibit any blogs in [its] site that contain my client's name Adnan Oktar or his pen name Harun Yahya or various combinations of these 4 names."
Kuensel Online, the electronic version of Bhutan's English-language national newspaper, reported last week that a man who posted comments on its discussion forums was convicted of criminal libel:
On July 16 the Paro district court sentenced an employee of the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) to one year in prison, with an option to pay thrimthue, in the first ever online defamation case in Bhutan. The thrimthue of Nu. 36,000, in lieu of one year imprisonment, has to be paid within 10 days.
Defendant Yeshey Lotay was ordered to pay compensatory damages of Nu. 36,000 each to a couple, both forest rangers, within one month of the judgment. Pema Dorji and Ugyen, both civil servants in Paro dzongkhag, had filed the case against Yeshey Lotay for defamation in a kuenselonline discussion forum in August, 2006.
According to Kuensel Online, the defendant "pleaded guilty" in his opening statement and admitted that he acted with malice and had no proof to substantiate his allegations of bribery, corruption, and misuse of power.
Although it doesn't appear that Kuensel Online or the defendant's ISP were implicated in the case, the article quotes the court as stating that regulatory authorities and Internet Service Providers share equal responsibility to regulate Internet related crime:
"The websites that solicits online discussion forums must also be equally responsible to protect from the vices of any internet related crimes and the principle of vicarious liability impugn that it is just not good enough to say that the webmaster or editors are not responsible of the content with a disclaimer clause," said the Paro drangpon.
Eugene Volokh has reposted a very useful analysis of whether homeowner's insurance policies cover libel lawsuits, entitled Blogger -- You Might Have Already Had Libel Insurance. Volokh concludes -- in my opinion, correctly -- that homeowner's insurance policies, and possibly some renter's insurance policies, generally cover libel lawsuits. While these policies don't cover punitive damages (almost all policies exclude intentional or willful conduct), they do cover compensatory damages and attorney's fees.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Avvo's attorney rating system draws fire. Setting up an online rating system that attempts to rank the best and worst attorneys, is kind of like dipping your toes in shark-infested waters. Sooner or later, you are bound to get bitten. That's the situation facing Avvo, the heavily funded Seattle startup that just four days ago unveiled a controversial Internet site that ranks lawyers on a scale of one ("extreme caution") to 10 ("superb").
Yesterday Massachusetts' highest court rejected the Boston Herald's motion to reconsider its decision in a defamation case brought by Judge Ernest Murphy. A month ago the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had voted unanimously to affirm a $2.1 million jury verdict against the Boston Herald for its publication of a story in which it quoted Superior Court Judge Ernes
Poynter Online has a useful article up on assessing the legal risks faced by sites that publish user comments. The piece, while focused on traditional media organizations, provides some useful guidelines for anyone who runs a site that includes user submitted material.
According to attorney Robb Harvey, who is interviewed for the article,
The Boston Globe reported today that a pediatrician settled a medical malpractice case in the middle of trial when opposing counsel revealed that she had discovered the doctor's anonymous blog in which he had provided "unvarnished" commentary on the lawyers, jurors, and defense strategy of his case.
The Islamic Society of Boston has dropped its lawsuit against 16 defendants - including The Boston Herald and Fox 25-TV - for allegedly defaming the organization by linking it to terrorist groups. According to the Boston Globe:
We are looking for contributing authors with expertise in media law, intellectual property, First Amendment, and other related fields to join us as guest bloggers. If you are interested, please contact us for more details.