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Media & Communications Law

Bloggers Get Libel Protection; Sonnenschein Staffs Hotline

Posted Oct 20, 2008 3:31 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Libel suits against individual bloggers are on the rise, prompting one group to offer up insurance for those who post inflammatory remarks and Monday-morning-quarterback opinions.

The not-for-profit Media Bloggers Association is offering an insurance policy meant to protect bloggers who are threatened with litigation, copyright claims and invasion of privacy complaints.

"How do we have this idea of citizen media—which we think is this transformative and good for society—survive and thrive in the face of a hostile legal environment?" the MBA's president, Robert Cox, told the Associated Press.

Axis Insurance is underwriting the policies, which start at $500 and go up depending on risk factors. The Axis policy, similar to one in Canada called CyberLiability, includes a hefty $2,500 deductible but covers up to $100,000 per claim, the AP reports.

Insured bloggers will also have access to a new legal hotline, which is currently being tested and staffed by lawyers Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, according to the MBA's announcement.

Canada already has its share of notable libel suits involving bloggers. But according to the Citizen Media Law Project, the number of U.S. cases is on the rise.

In 1997, there were four lawsuits against bloggers and online publishers. Last year? The number was 89, the Kansas City Star reports.

The Star notes that, to date, there have been 280 legal actions recorded against online writers, including a Florida defamation verdict in which a woman was ordered to pay $11.3 million for disparaging remarks she posted about the head of an organization she hired.

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