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Has anyone ever been sued over a wordpress.com blog?

  1. internetpopular
    Member

    I was having a discussion with a friend of mine tonight and we were wondering if anyone has ever been sued over a blog that was hosted on wordpress.com? He's interested in starting a blog but is afraid that the topics he blogs about could get him into trouble.

    I told him to not worry about it but then I started doing a little research and it seems that it's becoming much more common for people to seek legal action over things that have been stated on a blog.

    Anyone know what wordpress' policy is on this?

  2. That sounds like a great project to pursue by use of search engines. Obviously you wouldn't want answers off the top of our heads as one must practice due diligence prior to making any statements at all about legal suits. Happy hunting. :)

  3. I'm not aware of any blogging platform, let alone a free one, that offers complete freedom from prosecution or lawsuits. WordPress is not a legal-services corporation, it just supplies and operates the software. If a blogger puts something on their blog that lands them in court, they are pretty much on their own.

    That's not a WordPress issue; that's a publishing issue. It's the guy who wrote and printed it that's responsible, not the guy who built or rented out the printing press.

  4. wordwatchtowers
    Member

  5. ...a New York court recently forced Google / Blogger, as part of a defamation lawsuit, to identify an anonymous blogger. So there is some legal liability to the blogging platform.

    ...if you're asking what topics will get you sued it basically comes down to libel and slander. Don't make stuff up and present it as fact. There are also things which are illegal in most countries, like child pornography and death threats, so, you know, those are no-noes as well.

  6. Sort of related:
    http://kperch.blogspot.com/2010/01/ugc-ruling-comfort-for-bloggers.html
    though we operate under US law.

    Sued here? No idea because we'd not be involved.

    1. Someone - usually a lawyer - sends me a PDF which demands lots of things.
    2. I ask for more details because they write a lot but say little.
    3. If they want our details or if I am not sure I give them our company address and advise them that without a Court Order we reveal nothing.
    4. At that point it goes to Toni. I believe that we would then have to reveal
    the name used on registering the blog
    the email address used on the blog
    I'm honestly not sure about the IP address

    If the blog is factually wrong, cites anonymous sources for allegations or is actually defamatory, or reveals confidential information then the blog would either be suspended or editing would be needed. The burden of proof would almost certainly be on the blogger because they are the ones writing it.

    So if you are careful with words you will be fine.

    That help?

    I know of one blog which continued to publish information despite being asked not to and despite being told to be careful with their language. They lost their blog.
    I know of a fair number of blogs which have had legal notices sent to us and we think they are okay so they stay. They can say what they want so logn as they stay inside the law and many find that quite easy.

  7. Anyone can sue anyone else for pretty much anything (I'm told the classic example given to law students is suing someone for having greener grass).

    So, almost certainly yes. Whether or not the lawsuit was successful or even went anywhere is another matter.

    99% of the time the purpose isn't to win a lawsuit, it's to shut down the blog.

  8. Your friend should do some press and the law research for the country he lives in. Often people are so unaware of the rules they either get their butts sued or - just as bad - they fail to publish perfectly acceptable material that the public has a right to know of.
    .
    At the end of the day the best way to go is: Publish and be damned! Just be aware of how much damnation you're willing to bear should it come to that.

  9. wordwatchtowers
    Member

    'Publish and be damned' is dangerous advice if you cannot prove that what you are saying about someone is true and it:
    Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contempt
    or
    Causes them to be shunned or avoided
    or
    Discredits them in their trade, business or profession
    or
    Generally lowers them in the eyes of right thinking members of society
    (UK law)
    You may be willing to bear 'damnation' - but a court order to cough up some compensation may be a little more tricky...

  10. It's dangerous to advise people to abide by laws which do not apply to them.

    WordPress.com blogs are bound by US law. They may also be bound by the law of the country in which the blogger resides. Letters does not reside in the UK, nor do most people, so that's something that we don't have to worry about.

    He is a journalist. He knows what he's talking about.

  11. wordwatchtowers
    Member

    Hi raincoaster - I'm not advising people to abide by laws which do not apply to them. I made no suggestion about anyone not knowing what they're talking about - I wouldn't dream of doing so. I was just highlighting what the UK law is (I did say it was UK law). I'm not sure what you're telling me off about?

  12. Your post implies that what you said applies everywhere. If you wanted to specify that it only applies to the UK, either preface it with that remark or ask if anyone posting here is, in fact, from the UK, otherwise the information is irrelevant and misleading.

  13. wordwatchtowers
    Member

    Hi raincoaster - In fact it is possible that blogs originated outside the UK could still be subject to legal action under UK laws. This proposition is currently being tested in the case of the Chinese, but US-based gaming company, Evony, which is currently suing a UK-based blogger for libel in the Australian courts (Evony could have just as easily selected the UK courts to pursue their case which place a similar onus of responsibility onto the person accused of libel to prove that they are telling the truth or that their statements are reasonable). http://www.bruceongames.com/2009/08/26/why-use-warren-mckeon-dickson-to-threaten-me/
    As Bruce Everiss (the blogger being sued) says:

    "You might be wondering why a Chinese company is threatening a British blog using an Australian solicitor. They can do this because the libel is supposedly committed anywhere that the blog is read. And that is pretty much everywhere on earth."

    I just think it's a good idea to be careful and to be aware of what's going on in the world of internet libel.

  14. Hi dbennison,
    Dangerous advice? Only in the hands of the stupid. Publish and be damned is an old journalism adage. It presumes you are already abiding by the rules governing the press in the country the article is to appear.

  15. @internetpopular
    Here's a useful link:
    100 Essential Legal and Privacy Guides for Bloggers
    Here's another one http://www.eff.org/

  16. WordPress.com blogs are bound by US law. They may also be bound by the law of the country in which the blogger resides. Letters does not reside in the UK, nor do most people, so that's something that we don't have to worry about.

    Blogs aren't bound to follow any laws except physics. People are bound by laws. WordPress.com staff are generally bound by California law, and we can't host blogs that would place us in violation of the law there. Individual bloggers are bound by whatever laws apply in the location where they're blogging.

    Torts and civil suits are a little different. Anyone can be sued for anything anywhere, but that doesn't necessarily mean the lawsuit has any bearing on you. If someone sues me in China, I'll shrug and add their subpoena to my collection of lawyergrams.

  17. First, to Mark: thanks very much for your brief email that I just picked up tonight.So far so good.

    To 'raincoaster', 'tellyworth' and 'timethief': please have a look at my blog which is http://draaiorgelfan.wordpress.com, and look at 'Dateline - July 2006'. The fellow described on that page has threatened a lawsuit against me over the content and photos. He's claiming a Privacy violation. Well, the photos are publicly viewable on other websites and BOTH photos are 'Save as..'-able.

    The fellow is the creator/maintainer of http://thegolddiggers.wordpress.com, one of the most outstanding works in all of WordPress. I have high praise for his work, and I'll say so when I continue expanding my blog's 'YG and Links' page. Behind the scenes, tho, he was disrespectful of several individuals including myself. His offenses are not a public matter so I won't list them here or on my blog, but he'll stay out in the open until he makes amends. Old West American Indian discipline, simple as that.

    Thanks from Ralph. Happy New Year to all!

  18. On a related note, if you are unaware of the predators laying in wait out there to sue your ass off, they do exist:

    http://lettershometoyou.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/every-ecosystem-has-its-predators-and-bottom-feeders/

    Just a story of some German couple who run a website that has thousands of photos on it. They bury their copyright notice. When a blogger unwittingly uses one of the photos, they sick their lawyers on them. Scummy way to make a living.

  19. What Tellyworth mentioned brings out one issue that I have already mentioned before. We have to understand the real issue behind legal frameworks whereby normal lawyers won't.

    Each state may impose upon the entities within itself a law. But the problem is, when one sees it from an international point of view, each state doesn't have the exact power to interfere in international activities. I have mentioned many times whereby activities not drafted and AGREED upon by states (including those stated in Laws of Seas) in the open seas cannot be legally liable.

    But many bloggers and lawyers in respective states while on one hand can comprehend the above case, but they usually don't get it when it comes to open cyberspace.

    Raincoaster is wrong to assert that the laws only implies on the people. Basically, laws are simply rules and when it comes to IT, it conforms to standards. Which mean servers, if the blogger and the server and the host and everything can be physically computed into a legal framework, all of them WILL be liable to the particular state's legal framework.

    But... just as gambling in the open seas, if there is no agreement signed among all the states, it's not possible to be an offence.

    In international relations however, it is hence whether your state is sleeping and forcefully assumed that it is itself is legitimate to impose a full justice on assessment of cross-state or cross-sovereignty case... It is like international laws stated that a criminal in the States shall have thise recourse, but the States... being powerful, simply go ahead and ignore UN agreements and execute that criminal.

    This is hence the Laws.

    Bloggers must understand that IN FACT, no single state can impose upon bloggers' online activities since there is NO international treaties (eg) under the UN to do so. All laws must be based on such black and white. So people must understand the REAL concept of international laws here.

    In fact, with extradiction for certain 'offences', you are a bankrupt in Carlifornia, you may be a rich man in Cuba... LOL~ By law...

    If you are not sure, we can discuss this again in my blog.

  20. Mark,

    Hi there! I am not saying you are wrong, but it may be nice to take note that there is REALLY no internet laws on blogging. I mean, would you think Singapore laws or troublemakers should be listened to or Canadian folks when you are physically living in California?

    While there is no real laws internationally for this community here but wordpress' 'laws' to operation within this host, all of us must also understand that doesn't mean we can just anyohow blog... because when *'in reality'* if the police side with a powerful asshole, even if you blog nothing or eat a banana, you'd still be 'liable'.

    It's just a fact of life.

    The strict use of publication laws, for eg, in Singapore is that it doesn't really applies to blogging. But courts may still resort to a single state's legal framework to fall back on... which is not legitimate because the basis of justice system cannot be fall back on partial basis... since Mark's servers are in three countries, and as the old publishing industry whereby journalists have their articles sent to (eg) Superman Newpapers to be published, they will hold both journalists and publisher liable. Which mean, USA may have a law protecting server operators from publishing tons of blogs, but that's about as nothing... because USA is USA laws. If Mark is marked by China for allowing Falun Gung publication and the China leaders are sooooo gung-ho, when Mark visits China, they can still shoot him dead... LOL~

    Mark, my humble view is... when you are preparing to host all of us here, WordPress must be prepared to cover for all of us as best as possible. There will always be bullies citing whatever laws, what we need is an understanding host who knows that in real, there is NO laws here.

    People, for instance, if USA bans Mark's host, Mark can still operate in Canada... WordPress will still be around. There's the basic issue about blogging legality.

  21. lettershometoyou,

    Copyright laws are international somehow. So I have also made it clear in my blog that 'NO MEDIA or whomever should carry MY CGPs and articles elsewhere WITHOUT my permission'. And someone did at this hardwarezone forum.

    I could have sued them, but... is there really a need?

    Nowadays, the court has become a tool for the devils because no one reasons anymore.

    But people must understand that while your original blogging of articles are not international legislated, hence no single state actually has the right to hold you liable, the copyright laws is internationally coherent (sort of), which makes it an international basis to make a legal case valid. Which is, you people must be very very careful on copyright issues. I have discussed this before here and in my blog.

    I know many bloggers ain't aware about legal issues from an international point of view... Don't be ashame because even in Singapore, our courts may not understand as well.

    Just remember, a case needing a judgement must be based on legitimate concern, and this legitimacy in contents of which basis be formed when stretched beyond a soverignty will render a court powerless in making sense with justice.

    In Singapore, chewing gums is ILLGEGAL. In USA... is chewing gum illegal? Can you promote chewing gums via internet in Singapore? You are promoting an offence in Singapore... but that doesn't mean you can't promote chewing gums via internet, BECAUSE other sovereign states have chewing gum legalised! Got it?

    So... still, anyone has any unclear issue here can come to my blog and discuss.

  22. Umm.. we're already discussing it here, right?

  23. Anyone who doesn't know how copyright law can apply internationally should look up the word "treaty" in google.

  24. @Mark
    "If the blog is factually wrong, cites anonymous sources for allegations or is actually defamatory, or reveals confidential information then the blog would either be suspended or editing would be needed. The burden of proof would almost certainly be on the blogger because they are the ones writing it."

    Shouldn't the burden of proof be on the accuser? Innocent until proven guilty, and all that. . .

  25. Is that a moral question or a legal one? It would depend on whether it were a civil suit, a criminal charge, or a request to take down the blog.

  26. Free speech is fine.
    Breaking the law or if we are unsure then legal advice is needed.

    Yes the burden of proof should be on the blogger.
    Yes the burden of proof should be on the accuser.

    Example:
    Go blog today that I have a secret child with another woman. Tell people you know this for a fact, you have several sources and you'd say so in court.
    Now you can tell Support here this is true, I can say it is not.
    Who do we believe?
    And no we can't be asking for documets - that would be silly.
    Now change that to financial issues, political track records, company employment, reputation, family disputes and it gets far more complex. It is not our place to decide the law. I see what I do in part as being what is clearly NOT law, as trying to a limited extent to get people to sort it out amicably.

    No internet laws on blogging. Judge that by country, they are catching up fast. There is probably nothing illegal in some countries for uploading images of scantily clad ladies. We don't mind but if people in their country find out then laws or no laws they will be punished. Right now we have one blog generating a very large number of complaints. It will not be shut down because it does not break the Terms of Service but if the blogger were discovered in their country (because we would say nothing) then I have no doubt they would be severely punished.

    We have people here who use the Terms of Service because the blog they complain about is against the law where they live yet they also want to publish their words here because it's inside the Terms of Service. Can't have it both ways surely?

    In the end you cannot use the Terms of Service to hide from the law.

    We have 10 million+ blogs and a very tiny number of complaints that are found valid. Please don't get this out of proportion.

  27. Raincoaster,

    No. All it needs is a bully with a small-people dirty undertable attitude. What moral has it got to do with another's blogging?

    Mark,

    I am not sure which blog you are refering to, and as everyone'd, hopefully it's not my blog.

    But strictly adhering to the principles of laws, no single state does have the legitimate sovereign concern to claim full legitimacy of cyberspace, hence blogging... That includes China. I don't expect Obama will surrender to China if any of his aides get too hawkish and China wants them shot.

    In real, there is really no laws for internet, since no one, not even UN has a claim on this 'open seas'. The offence is always on the activities, not on the people. In proper legal procedings, aka evidence... which is in cybersapce. As gambling and not the gambler is in the open seas.

    I understand what you are saying. Since I studied International Relations, it's still realistically speaking, the 'authorities' who got what powers. All I am saying is in real there is no laws for cyberspace as copyright laws would internationally, and especially when everyone of us bloggers don't unite together and get the message through to the people around the world.

    I am in Singapore, and China, and Malaysia, but as a blogger, I am in cyberspace... since any merit or offence would be a 'vice' or celebration online.

    As I have said, the USA 'can' ignore the UN charters, but <b>that doesn't mean they are legitimate</b> in executing that foreigner or in just invading another sovereign states. I don't mean to agitate any Bush's supporters here, but... we have to put things in perspective.

    There are many 'imps' around cyberspace but... we have to be professional here.

    I think it's not hiding away from the laws, but hiding away from those bullies who thought they can muscle their way in WordPress. Really, what laws can be applicable? So it ends up in Singapore that lawyers are resorting to publication laws... of Singapore to deal possibly deal with bloggers. Especially now, many crooked operators who have given problems to consumers, they are trying to silence those consumers even by legal threats.

    It's really fortunate that Mark's the one behind WordPress.

    But the... for the case of simply bullyings, it's never amicable. We have cases in Malaysia, and how would those politicians be intending to be 'amicable' to those bloggers who'd expose those issues? The point is, in Southeast Asia, we all know about 'force' of the authorities, inspite of also knowing the real legitimacy of legislation, especially for those in Singapore.

    In China, laws are like this... just come up with some 'offences' then you send in the police and tear down people's houses for profits... ... This is how these counties are 'catching up' on laws. Situation in the USA may be drastic, but... at least with the massive varieties of groups to fight for values, there will be movement groups to count on.

    Frankly speaking, we are not really talking about laws here since there is really no laws to begin with. Because even without laws, if you blog and someone powerful is unhappy, you can still go to jail for your blogging perhaps because you 'pee on the streets'.

    Ronsrealm,

    There is nothing factually right or wrong in blogging, lest you are operating a online tabloid or official site for official business.

    My 2cts, folks.

    And toasts to all those troublemakers of our blogs.

  28. Lettershometoyou,

    The issue is, I am not always here. So if anyone has anything to reasonably discuss on this issue, my blog is always open.

    It's real nice to be part of this wonderful community.

    Laws... There is little need for laws if those keepers are demons. All the more why I studied those silly laws. It's no wonder Robin Hood was celebrated for being a nasty outlaw. LOL~

    If so, let us be the Merry Men of WordPress.com. LOLLL~

  29. "In real, there is really no laws for internet, since no one, not even UN has a claim on this 'open seas'. "
    The claim is based on where the servers are. Even The Pirate Bay fell victim to that.

    "Laws... There is little need for laws if those keepers are demons. "
    Who decides who are the keepers and who decides they are demons and why?
    I'm not starting a discussion, just illustrating that each side will say they are right - and lawyers can decide that. If someone then has a problem with who the lawyers are I'd suggest that they either (1) move country or (2) get a grip on reality.

  30. Bottom line is keep your nose clean, protect your works with copyright, make it visible and easy to locate for any readers, and do not incorporate libel or slander in anything you do. There is no reason you should ever get sued if you are following the basic laws.
    IMO people delve too far into this kind of subject when the solution to any and all problems would be an easy one... this one, to cover your six and give credit where it's due and not where it's not...

    :)

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