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Bloggers Immune From Suits Against Commenters

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the common-carrier dept.

The Courts 142

An anonymous reader writes "Suppose a commenter posts a libelous comment here at Slashdot. Can Slashdot and its owners be sued for defamation? A federal appeals court just held that no, they cannot. The court noted that a federal law was designed to ensure that 'within broad limits, message board operators would not be held responsible for the postings made by others on that board,' adding that, were the law otherwise, it would have an 'obvious chilling effect' on blogger speech."

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142 comments

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Let's test it out.... (4, Funny)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160382)

Microsoft sells your soul to satan!

*runs*

Re:Let's test it out.... (5, Insightful)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160468)

It said message board operators are not liable. They could still sue individual users on the site.

Re:Let's test it out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160526)

Microsoft sells your soul to Satan, who then turns around and resells it to Haliburton so Cheney can have a nice little snack before bedtime.

Re:Let's test it out.... (5, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160614)

They can't sue GP. It's got to be FALSE information.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163056)

That why our heroes are Anonymous Cowards. Only they can speak freely. Word to the wise, cover your tracks.

Re:Let's test it out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160528)

Mikachu (972457) writes:
> Microsoft sells your soul to satan!

In Soviet Russia, Steve Ballmer chooses you...
(for electric chair throw attack).

Re:Let's test it out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160534)

Everytime someone buys Vista, Linus Torvald strangles a kitten.

*ducks*

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Funny)

monopole (44023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160802)

There's going to be a problem with cat overpopulation then.

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Interesting)

Romancer (19668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161018)

Slashdot should script in the submit form: "My opinion is:" before each post in very tiny print.

To ensure that posters don't get sued since opinions can't be lible.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161130)

There's something about this "immunity" that bothers me.

I've seen certain sites, like freerepublic or little green footballs, where the articles are secondary to the comments, and the comments have become a "reason-free-zone" where the worst of racism, homophobia and hate speech are given free reign. I'm not sure that the turds who run those sites should be allowed to skate completely free from responsibility for the repositories of ugliness that their comments sections have become, when they clearly encourage the basest instincts of their most twisted readers.

It's one thing for a commenter at Slashdot to call someone an idiot. It's another thing when some freeper or someone at LGF says a certain congressman deserves "two in the back of the head" or fantasizes about the immolation of muslim women and children.

Re:Let's test it out.... (3, Funny)

QRDeNameland (873957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161292)

I wholeheartedly agree that to say that "a certain congressman deserves 'two in the back of the head'" is offensive.

They ALL deserve two in the back of the head.

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161596)

There is a difference between racism, homophobia and hate speech, and inciting someone to violence.

I don't really care if I live in a world where people with ugly thoughts refrain from expressing them because of the rules. I see no(little?) virtue in meeting the basic requirements of society. It always wacks me out when people show offense at 'sinners'; I can see showing concern for a sinner, but why the hell would you take it as a personal offense that someone else is scum?

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Funny)

Skreems (598317) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162594)

If you don't act offended at the behavior of others, how are you going to get that warm fuzzy feeling of superiority?

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Insightful)

general_re (8883) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161598)

I'm not sure that the turds who run those sites should be allowed to skate completely free from responsibility for the repositories of ugliness that their comments sections have become, when they clearly encourage the basest instincts of their most twisted readers.
Since such liability wouldn't likely be limited solely to board operators you happen to dislike, I guess the only question is who gets to the courthouse first - the people suing Free Republic and LGF, or the people suing DKos and Democratic Underground. If we really put our minds to it, we can eliminate interactive message boards altogether.

Re:Let's test it out.... (3, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161640)

One of the fundamental points of free speech is that, while they are not censored, we are all free to dismiss such bozos as the gaggle of nuts that they are, and spread word of this far and wide.

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Insightful)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161758)

No, no it's not. It's speech, and it's clearly offensive to you (and me, from your description). You've got this wonderful ability not to expose yourself to it.

Now, if they posters are actively encouraging people to shoot one another (not just saying some people deserve to be shot), or making threats that they'll do so, that's something else altogther.

Ugly is ugly, but it ain't up to us to decide what's too ugly. You have every right to be racist, homophobic and hateful. Just don't expect an invitation to dinner at my place or try to date my daughter.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

Romancer (19668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162900)

That's where it crosses the line into conspiracy to commit. That's what it's there for, to let people have free speech but hold them accountable for what they do. Free speech comes with responsibilities.
1. To protect your own right to free speech you must protect your opponents rights as well. and
2. You are responsible for what you say. People may quote it back to you some day. In court.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162800)

I've seen certain sites...where the articles are secondary to the comments, and the comments have become a "reason-free-zone"...

Hmm... I know I've seen a site like that somewhere, but I can't remember exactly what it was...

Re:Let's test it out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162972)

The owner of free republic constantly removes from his site anything he doesn't like, or disagrees with.

So, as long as you think like he does they all call it 'free speech' (really, more like 'FEE speech' - if you donate regularly to his bank account your speech is more-free than the next guy's) and profess how open-minded and tolerant they are; otherwise your account disappears.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163022)

"It's one thing for a commenter at Slashdot to call someone an idiot. It's another thing when some freeper or someone at LGF says a certain congressman deserves "two in the back of the head" or fantasizes about the immolation of muslim women and children."

Fantasize all you want! If you advocate illegal actions you can be held responsible for that advocation. If you provoke someone to illegal actions by your words, you may well be held responsible. That's a very gray line. You choose the luck of your draw with the judge and jury.

I would never advocate "illegal" actions...unless our government requires an overthrow due to their inability to follow our constitution. We aren't quite there yet...in my opinion. Others have disagreed due to; views of violation of our constitutional rights, abortion rights, homosexual rights...whatever.

True patriots look at the whole US as a function of the US Constitution. There is a tipping point for the general populace. We obviously aren't there yet, although the huge gains by the Democratic party point to a significant unhappiness.

Because of free speech we have the ability to promote change. We can hope that our next president will better represent the public...though I feel the one best able to win funds will be elected. But even if the worst candidate wins, the naysayers will be heard. If they are shut down by the new administration, revolution is possible. That's the American way. Hell, that's the way of the world.

Re:Let's test it out.... (2, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161878)

To ensure that posters don't get sued since opinions can't be lible.

What makes you think that? It depends on your jurisdiction, of course, since defamation laws can vary quite a lot, but at least with regard to federal defamation law, opinions can indeed be libelous. Also, merely using a preface like 'my opinion is' is not a magic incantation that is going to protect you no matter what follows it; simply saying that something is an opinion doesn't make it an opinion, and no court is stupid enough to be tricked in that manner.

You should read a very on-point Supreme Court case: Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co. [cornell.edu] , in which the Court clearly stated that as a matter of First Amendment law, there is no categorical opinion defense.

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

Diablo1399 (859422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162040)

Ahaha, common law kicks ass. The judges quoted Shakespeare's Othello in their ruling of that case.

Damnit Damn it Damn it Man I want to be sued (2, Funny)

ImitationEnergy (993881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162946)

Looky here dude, I want to be sued. I've went to great lengths now for 4 straight YEARS trying to get sued. You can't take my Right to be Sued away from me. You think I'm KIDDING? You haven't read some of my posts and web pages > http://www.newpath4.com/sitemap.htm [newpath4.com] . I want the people to sue me so it pulls my arguments against them before a dang Judge and Jury. That's why they don't sue me, they know and are sore afraid. The Department of Energy knows it has worked 4 long years to suppress people hearing my air + steam engine really does work, really does produce its own power "on the fly" using gravity power to re-compress the air, with compressors replacing the car's springs & shocks. It isn't Perpetual Motion, it's Smart Motion using an Outside Power Source >>> GRAVITY-INERTIA. And the D.O.E. will not grant me my day in Court for Love or Money. Read my posts how I faxed the information straight to President Bush's White House fax machine, to him & Cheney and both their wives! That was back in the Fall of 2003, before I knew the White House was owned by Big Oil and Halliburton. I fought them in the NY Times trenches for two years over damn Global Warming, knowing all along paid bloggers were fighting with me to discredit me and my zero emissions powerhouse engines. That's Right. I have two such engines, two different systems.

And you don't hear about them outside my posts and web pages because the White House has control of the News Media by the b^lls. Neither Bush or Cheney nor all the King's Men want me testifying in a Court of Law or a Senate Hearing facing them and they damn well know it. I got News for SlashDotters and SlashDot. I can make the flying car engine with a few changes to my Millenial Dawn engine, and while the military fiddle farts around getting to the Moon by 2020 we can be there sipping tea.

And the White House knows that too. I didn't stutter... but apologies for the French. I've spent so much time time typing I actually got carpal tunnel in my left elbow so I'm a little ticked off. I can't do bench presses or any presses. I was already on disability so now I'm disabled all over again, again. Have a nice day but don't take my day in Court. It will come. I built it and it will come. Bush admitted Global Warming, and my day is coming. He knows he actively tried to suppress Public Knowledge about my engines. Not only is my day coming Mr. Bush, yours is coming also. Put that in your memoirs my friend. Riley step, Riley step, Riley step.

A better test (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161118)

All Scientologists are crazy, whackos who will take all of your money, brainwash you, and give you nothing in return.

Re:A better test (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161342)

Duh!

Re:A better test (1)

Keiseth (1064792) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162768)

You make L. Ron Hubbard cry. And probably more then a few Thetans.

Satan: Sell your soul to me, not Microsoft (2, Funny)

Cope57 (752357) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161678)

Microsoft sells your soul to satan!

*runs*
A article I blogged from Humorix.org

Fake news written by James Baughn @ Humorix.org
from the where-do-you-want-to-go-today? dept.

HADES -- Faced with growing competition from Microsoft in the lucrative soul-buying market, the Prince of Darkness today unveiled a new advertising campaign hoping to lure in more customers and turn the tables on Bill Gates.

"The Novell-Microsoft deal was the final straw," Satan said during a press conference at his underground lair. "Novell should have sold their souls to me, not Microsoft. I can offer much greater rewards than some phony-baloney we-promise-not-to-sue covenant. Just look at The SCO Group: they sold their souls to Microsoft and what do they have to show for it now?"

The last few years have been very tough for Satan. "When I look at all of the suckers that have partnered with Microsoft, only to be stabbed in the back repeatedly, I can only shrug my horns," he lamented. "Those should be *my* customers! Between Microsoft and the Republican Party, the competition is eating me alive!"

During the last three quarters, earnings for Hades have plummeted 45%, causing one stock analyst to downgrade Hades (ticker symbol: HELL) from "Strong Buy" to "Exorcise From Your Portfolio Immediately." The added competition from Microsoft and others has caused the futures market for souls to skyrocket, cutting profit margins severely for Hades.

"Fire and brimstone ain't cheap," Satan growled. "I need cheap souls to perform the grunt work that keeps this place going."

Nevertheless, the Prince of Darkness hopes that the situation will improve thanks to an advertising blitz highlighting the advantages of selling out.

"Need cash now?" asks one TV commercial. "Don't mess with high-interest loans... we've got the solution to your money problems right here. In just fifteen minutes and with your signature in blood, you can have all of the money you need!"

Another spot proclaims, "You only have one soul -- sell it wisely. There's a reason The Devil has been the market leader for the last two millennia. We offer much better rewards than the competition. Don't delay, call Hades today! Minions are standing by."

Industry observers expressed mixed reactions at the news. "I'm glad that we're seeing such viable competition," said an analyst for the Blartner Group. "For centuries, mortals have faced the unpleasant challenge of trying to sell their souls in a buyer's market. All of that has changed now that Satan no longer has a stranglehold."

However, a rival pundit said, "This is terrible. It's bad enough that Satan represents pure evil, but now we have a corporation that is even worse! When will the insanity end?"

A slave... er, spokesperson for Microsoft was unavailable for comment at press time.

Sell Your Soul? [wordpress.com]

Re:Let's test it out.... (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162050)

> Suppose a commenter posts a libelous comment here at Slashdot. Can Slashdot and its owners be sued for defamation?
Slashdot have nothing to worry about. After all, we all know that every poster on slashdot is an angel with only the best intentions at heart! :)

Re:Let's test it out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162270)

Suggest: New /. moderation tag, Libelous.

If they can't be sued, they might as well apply it to karma and browse filters!

will they then (2, Insightful)

Neuropol (665537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160384)

try and follow suit against the comment poster?

Re:will they then (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160508)

Let me be the first to say that this so-called "An anonymous reader" is a nobody and a has-been.

Re:will they then (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160542)

Wasn't this all fought out 20 years ago over BBSs?

Re:will they then (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160566)

Who is "they"? If the comment is linked to a [possible] crime, then sure, they will go after the poster. Which involves your access logs, your ISP's access logs, and possibly your database (if it will be helpful.)

If someone should post copyrighted material in a comment, then the first thing they do is send you a takedown notice. Then they can come after you if you are not responsive.

P.S. "file suit", not "follow suit".

Re:will they then (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162020)

Who is "they"?

You know... them. Those giant mutant ants from the 50's.

Re:will they then (4, Interesting)

ivanmarsh (634711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160612)

I guess that depends on whether you're stating opinion or fact. Everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how stupid it is.

None of these cases will ever go anywhere.

"I never made any claim that my blogg is a lagitimate source of factual material" case dismissed.
If it works for Fox news it should certainly work for a blog.

Re:will they then (2, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161026)

I guess that depends on whether you're stating opinion or fact. Everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how stupid it is.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but they are not necessarily entitled to write it down and publish it for the whole world to read. If I say "I think George W. Bush looks like a child molester. In fact think he is a child molester" and then I go on for the next few paragraphs to talk about George W. Bush as if he molests children, speculating on the times and places where he might have had access to children to molest them, then I am begging for a lawsuit. I'd be a fool to believe that "but I told you up front that it was just my opinion" was going to save me. In the United States, the Supreme Court has pretty much rejected the "fair comment" defense for libel cases.

Re:will they then (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161396)

PCM2, I absolutely agree, except for your last sentence. I think SCOTUS has been overly hard on slander and libel suits when the plaintiff is a "public figure", allowing a level of ugliness in discourse that exceeds the worst in our history. Even in the most divisive days of our Civil War, when public figures would say stuff that caused them to fight duels to the death, you didn't hear the kind of stuff you hear today (I'm something of a political history hobbyist, and I've checked). You can read certain blogs or tune into talk radio any evening to hear a lot worst than "GW Bush is a child molester". Recently, it has become common to hear the loudmouths on the Salem Radio outlet here in Chicago refer to members of congress as "drug addicted communist traitors who should to be hung" (note, not "deserve to be hung", but "should be hung"). In fact, yesterday the afternoon guy was talking about how Bill Clinton was a serial rapist and murderer. His callers ran with that thought into an area that went way, way past slander. And by the way, he wasn't talking about "murder" in the sense of "sent soldiers to their death in a needless war" or "left hurricane victims to die", but in the sense that he personally killed someone with his own hands. This stuff goes on every single day on thousands of AM radio stations across the US. The network (SRN)that carries this stuff likes to run promos about how "Your Opinion Counts". mm hmm. Then they'll cry about how their political adversaries are so full of "anger and hate".

And it gets lots, lots worse, with no suits brought because Federal judges would throw them out since it was about a "public figure" and "protected, political speech". It seems that there's a concerted effort to make the level of discourse so outrageous that no serious issue could ever be discussed, allowing election results to be dictated further by the fun-house mirrors of our "personality" media.

Re:will they then (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162870)

..."drug addicted communist traitors who should to be hung"

Well, it was slanderous up to the "traitors" bit, but I think they actually meant "should be hanged". "Hung" is something else... and it would only be slanderous if they meant "they should be hung, but they're actually muy pequeno."

Re:will they then (2, Interesting)

FLEB (312391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161726)

Simply saying something is an opinion doesn't make it so. An accusation of child molestation, presented as a straight statement without metaphor, is a provable right-or-wrong statement of fact.

Now, the first statement would fly-- you can legitimately think he looks like a child molester (that's something wholly dependent upon your personal perception), but you put yourself into a statement of fact when you say that he is a child molester. Granted, the "I think" tempers it a bit, but it's still shaky ground if someone were to take you up on it.

(By my own measure-- I don't know the legal opinions on the subject.)

Re:will they then (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161946)

Meh. I think you'd win. It's not believable, and if no one reasonably believes you, then his reputation can't be harmed, which is what the law is really about. But you're right in that 'opinion' is not necessarily a magic word. OTOH, libel laws vary a lot in different jurisdictions, and the Supreme Court only has the final say as to one of them. IIRC, there are some states where there is a strong fair comment defense, in excess of the minimum required by the First Amendment.

Re:will they then (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162894)

...if no one reasonably believes you, then his reputation can't be harmed, which is what the law is really about.

That's an important point. It's the difference between some loony calling in to a radio show and saying "George Bush rapes donkeys!" and the radio host saying "You're right. He does rape donkeys."

Re:will they then (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162538)

I'd have to say that the legal climate looks otherwise. If you claim that Bill Clinton has himself directly ordered the political murder of many people, and post "facts" that supposedly support this, absolutely nothing will happen. I've seen many websites that say this, and much "worse".

They don't present this as an opinion at all. Straight "fact". And they're still there. On US webservers, un-obfuscated URLs, etc. Surely if it were so easy to remove this, it would have been.

It's hard to pursue slander or libel charges (in the USA - in much of Europe truth is no defense). If the person honestly believes something crazy, that's a defense. If they were mistaken, it's a defense. If they present a hypothetical and don't appear to be grind an axe, that's a defense. Not an ultimate one, but good enough usually.

Re:will they then (1)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161060)

Thats true, now Slashdot cannot be sued if I call George W Bush has sex with his Dad

Re:will they then (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161922)

No, that's not really how it works. A lot depends on how people perceive what you say, and how you meant it. You seem to think that 'opinion' is a magic word that will protect you, but it very well may not.

Sueing the posters? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160660)

Being as this is a "news" site, can Taco refuse to give info on his sources, aka posters? And if he does refuse to fork over his logs etc under such an exemption can that be interpreted as Slashdot now being liable?

Re:Sueing the posters? (1)

Columcille (88542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160952)

I would tend to think this wouldn't work. Slashdot is not an independent news source but refers people to other sources, many of which are not themselves news sources but are personal blogs.

Re:Sueing the posters? (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161532)

Well, I don't believe any useful information is gathered from AC's, so you should be safe from libel lawsuits whilst AC.

I would like to take a moment then (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160388)

to defame Slashdot by saying

YOU ALL CAN KISS MY ASS YOU BUNCH OF UNCLE FUCKERS

Shut your fucking face uncle fucka
You're the one that fucked your uncle, uncle fucka
You dont eat or sleep or mow the lawn,
You just fuck your uncle all day long

Cool! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160392)

Now I can clue everyone in that Taco uses Windows! :)

It's a bad thing! (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160456)

We need more chilling effects! Haven't you guys ever heard of global warming?

sue the makers of Pens (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160512)

I once wrote a slanderous piece about someone and they, knowing that I had no money, determined that the brand of pen that I wrote the document with (pre-computer) was Bic, then filed a lawsuit agains Bic corporation for supplying me with the tool I used for my slanderous remarks.

Note: The above did not really happen. It just served to make a (ball) point.

So Hypothetically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160556)

Hypothetically, if I were to say that the Church of Scientology is nuts, then Slashdot couldn't be sued? YAAAAA!.

Oh, and Church of Scientology followers: You should consider the 'nuts' description to be a compliment.

Re:sue the makers of Pens (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160946)

Strange, when you put it like that everyone would think your crazy but if someone were to suggest suing firearms manufacturers for things done with their products many people would have no problem with that.

Re:sue the makers of Pens (1)

cultrhetor (961872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161008)

This could never happen. The only instances in which someone has actually sued (and won) the reseller/corporation supplying an instrument are related to assault and battery.

Re:sue the makers of Pens (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161460)

Which was the point. ;)

Re:sue the makers of Pens (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161882)

Umm... tobacco? (Specifically the second-hand smoke thing)

Re:sue the makers of Pens (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162884)

I think the lawsuits against tobacco companies had more to do with them lying about the health dangers of smoking, adding chemicals to make them more addictive, and other such dishonest stuff. It would be a better comparison if Bic made pens that sneak out in the middle of the night and write slanderous material on telephone polls, the whole time claiming that their pens did no such thing.

Re:sue the makers of Pens (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161984)

Pft. What do you think Napster and Grokster were sued for? Secondary liability shows up in plenty of places in the law, in fact.

Re:sue the makers of Pens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161200)

If you wrote it, that would be libel not slander.

mod 0p (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160532)

an operatin6 syStem

SlashdotFS (1, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160540)

This is great. What we need now is something to post binary data as a slashdot post and a filesystem to use it!

Re:SlashdotFS (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161098)

Like uuencode http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uuencode [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:SlashdotFS (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161370)

UUEncode has long been superceded by yEnc... at least that is what goes on on Usenet

Re:SlashdotFS (1)

alphamugwump (918799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162772)

The trouble would be working around the lameness filter. I don't know how the filter works, but I suspect you'd have to encode stuff as dictionary words. It might be a real challenge to get a full, read-write filesystem working with symlinks and directories and all that. You could use buffering to avoid "slow down, cowboy", but if your posts got marked down, you wouldn't be able to write for a while. Probably, the best thing would be to use journals.

Of course, why anyone would want to do a retarded thing like that is beyond me.

Hall of fame story (3, Insightful)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160568)

So would this ruling have prevented this story [slashdot.org] (from the slashdot hall of fame) from having happened?

Re:Hall of fame story (3, Informative)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160832)

No, this suit does not change the scientology on slashdot issue.

The scientology text in question was copyrighted, and to copy without permission is a violation of copyright law. In TFA, the situation is different. The plantif alledges that several people ( mostly John Does ) bought options to sell the stock at a certain price, defamed it on the forum, then after the price dropped, cashed their options for a profit. Apparently some people did defame it, and some people did profit from the drop in vale. But the court found that the plantiff was unable to prove that any of them were the same people. So, now law was proven to have been broken.

Re:Hall of fame story (2, Informative)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160862)

I think it still would have happened. From the story you linked to (emphasis mine):

Last Saturday a comment was posted here by an anonymous reader that contained text that was copyrighted by the Church of Scientology. They have since followed the DMCA and demanded that we remove the comment. While Slashdot is an open forum and we encourage free discussion and sharing of ideas, our lawyers have advised us that, considering all the details of this case, the comment should come down. Read on to understand what this means.

This is the first time since we instituted our moderation system that a comment has had to be removed because of its content, and believe me nobody is more broken hearted about it than me. It's a bad precedent, and a blow for the freedom of speech that we all share in this forum. But this simply doesn't look like a case we can win. Our lawyers tell us that it appears to be a violation of Copyright law, and under the terms of the DMCA, we must remove it. Else we risk legal action that would at best be expensive, and potentially cause Slashdot to go down temporarily or even permanently. At the worst, court orders could jeporadize your privacy, and we would be helpless to stop it.

So in that case, the issue was copyright infringement and issuance of the DMCA. Nothing about defamation, which is what this new case is about (note: I cannot RTFA, because it is slashdotted. But going by the summary, I believe this is correct.)

What about.. (2, Interesting)

SillySnake (727102) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160570)

Didn't the church of Scientology threaten to sue once about stuff that was posted in the comment section? Obviously it has nothing to do with libel.. but might the same hold true based on the "within broad limits, message board operators would not be held responsible for the postings made by others on that board" ?

That was DMCA Takedown (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161672)

Scientology (technically, the RTC, one of the many official Scientology corporations) used a DMCA Takedown notice to force Slashdot to remove some copies of their OT ("Operating Thetan") materials. I believe it might have been OT3. Fortunately, they're widely available online [xenu.net] if you really want to read that crap.

In my biased opinion, they're a rather insidious bunch. From what I've read of them online, it appears that they slowly isolate and condition people psychologically (which is why they hate psychologists--such people would recognize what they're doing). Once they get people to the point where they have pretty much everything they own invested in the organization, only then do they let them see the space opera stuff so they can complete their self-delusion. That is, unless they're the cynical type who was only pretending the whole time, who is willing to lie about having psychic powers and... Well, let's just say they might become someone rather like L. Ron Hubbard :-)

How About Other Content? (2, Informative)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160622)

Having previously hosted Think Secret's message boards for a few years, I'm no stranger to having companies like Adobe and Apple threatening to sue over content a user posted into a thread. In many instances where this occurred the content in question (usually pictures, screenshots or diagrams) were not even hosted on our site or any of our servers, but were linked from external sites where the content had originated. In addition, I was sometimes even threatened over mere links to other sites that were displaying the objectionable content in question. (Though, in those cases, I was able to simply refuse to remove the links on the grounds that I could not be held responsible for content hosted on third party websites.)

So, would this imply that a site is protected from such harrassments should a user post a trade secret into the forums without the knowledge of the forum owner?

What about graffiti? (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160664)

I suggest that suing a Blogger for hosting a comment is a bit like suing New York City because it hosts the graffiti written on building walls.

Re:What about graffiti? (2, Insightful)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160818)

But only a bit. The blogger can quite easily delete the offending post within a few clicks. NYC has to send a guy with not only a bucket of paint and brushes, but also an armed escort, to remove the offending graffiti. Much more difficult and much more expensive. Furthermore, NYC is a public entity, a blogger is a private entity.

Well in that case (1)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160652)

I'll just begin my copy and paste of articles from whitesupremacy.com to message boards for storage.

Re:Well in that case (1)

smorken (990019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161250)

you forgot to click the "Post Anonymously" checkbox

Re:Well in that case (1)

digitalgimpus (468277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161958)

It's .org you insensitive clod

Scientology (2, Funny)

JamDonut (1068924) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160662)

Seeing as there is no reference to this previously, I vote that we reinstate the comments from this thread. [slashdot.org]

These people really get on my chimes. Our text is ours!

Re:Scientology (2, Informative)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161024)

First, there is a previous reference. Second, this doesn't affect the scientology case in any way. The text posted in the scientology thread is copyrighted, and the Church of Scientology sued under the DMCA, which this ruling does not affect.

This case just affects libel, in which you falsely allege wrongdoing against someone for the purpose of destroying their reputation.

More questions to answer? (2, Interesting)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160686)

What if the poster is someone that is known to be affiliated with /.? Like cowboyneal or taco. Which one started this thing anyway? Well, if the one who didn't start it or own it makes some libelous claims would /. still be off the hook?

And what's the fine line between a blog and something like Wikipedia?

Maybe TFM will have the answers. Oh wait, TFM is dotted.

Re:More questions to answer? (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160824)

TFA, I meant TFA. And no, TFA does not have the answers, it's hardly longer than the summary.

Common sense (1)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160696)

It's just common sense. If I pick up a megaphone, get up on a soap box downtown, and yell a string of slanderous statements, Fanon Megaphones isn't going to get sued. Shoot the messenger and all.

Re:Common sense (2, Funny)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160798)

It's just common sense.
But it is also politics. The two are seen together about as often as whales are seen in deserts.

Re:Common sense (1)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161104)

And, since the interior of a politician is not a naturally tenable place for Common Sense, the Common Sense didn't have much time to come to terms with its existance being Common Sense before it had to come to terms with not being Common Sense any more.

Re:Common sense (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161802)

That's because the one is common, the other isn't, and the names don't make it clear which is which.

Does this apply to forum posts too? (1)

BrowserCapsGuy (872795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160712)

The site where TFA is hosted appears to have been /.ed already so I can't see it. Is there anything in the decision that might possibly relate to forum comments? Thanks.

ruling doesn't mention "blog" anywhere... (3, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160756)

were the law otherwise, it would have an 'obvious chilling effect' on blogger speech.

The actual lawsuit has little to do with bloggers, which is nicely glossed over by (surprise) the blogger "reporting" on this. In fact, the word "blog" doesn't appear anywhere in the entire PDF, and the assertation that this "Reaffirms Immunity of Bloggers from Suits Brought Against Commenters" is almost complete hyperbole on the part of the blogger. The court's opinion seems aimed at mailing lists and web boards, and could also apply to cases like Myspace's big "Oops" with their spyware-laden advertising friends. Good luck arguing the finer points of who's the content provider of what with that one. Anyway....

Some Devil's Advocate comments:

If a reporter writes, "Bill Smith bonks goats" and the paper prints it (and doesn't retract it), how is that different from some goofball writing "Bill Smith bonks goats" and the website owner not taking it down when informed of the error? Granted, one is an employee (sometimes), but in both situations, the owner/operator has the technical capability to edit, fact check, etc. Volume isn't really an excuse; newspapers could easily say the same thing. "Gee, we have so many reporters, we can't be expected to keep tabs on each one."

Another example: a streaker runs past a TV camera that's live. Guess what? The streaker gets arrested, but the TV station could be fined by the FCC; the FCC can't say "well, shucks, we can't really stop people from doing that sort of thing, it's live!"; the FCC turns around and says "We don't care, make sure it doesn't happen again"; data, most TV isn't live; it's run off a delay loop, and someone's got their hand over a Big Red Button that cuts the feed. This became very popular after a California TV station "accidentally" broadcast a guy blowing his brains out (I believe after a highway chase).

I'm tired of all this. Bloggers seem like the little naive children of the media; chiefly, they seem shocked and amazed that you can't ignore centuries of common law: you say something and it damages another party, you could be held liable in a civil suit for said damages. Anonymity isn't anything new or special; in fact, in the 1700's anonymously published papers were part of our nation's founding.

Re:ruling doesn't mention "blog" anywhere... (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160922)

I wasn't particularly interested in replying to the rest of your comment, however I felt the need to point out that most bloggers won't do things anonymously because their entire blogging intent is 20% inform the public (which seems to be, in turn, about 1% of the blogs out there, since there's so much rehashing), and 80% trying to make a living off of their blog. Of course, this in turn requires people to know you, and anonymous publishing kinda kills that idea.

Re:ruling doesn't mention "blog" anywhere... (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160956)

their entire blogging intent is 20% inform the public (which seems to be, in turn, about 1% of the blogs out there, since there's so much rehashing), and 80% trying to make a living off of their blog

Uh, I think 20% is inflated even as an estimate of the number of people *trying* to make *any* money off their blog.

The number of people who successfully *live* off their blog is probably in the realm of a single-digit percentage, if that.

Re:ruling doesn't mention "blog" anywhere... (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161136)

The GP isn't trying to say that 20% of bloggers are living off of their blogs. The GP is saying that 20% of a blogger's intention is to inform the public, with the remaining 80% of their reason for blogging being to make money. If 80% of the reason for your actions was to make money, you wouldn't want to be anonymous. Which was the GP's point.

Re:ruling doesn't mention "blog" anywhere... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161132)

I'm tired of all this. Bloggers seem like the little naive children of the media; chiefly, they seem shocked and amazed that you can't ignore centuries of common law: you say something and it damages another party, you could be held liable in a civil suit for said damages.
You are reading something into the original article that is not there. Or rather, you are not reading almost half of the headline: "...Immunity of Bloggers from Suits Brought Against Commenters". The article is not saying that bloggers are immune for anything they say, merely that they cannot be held responsible for comments made by others on their blogs. There may be an additional assumption here: that bloggers take down comments upon request.

Well, no... (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160858)

"...were the law otherwise, it would have an 'obvious chilling effect' on blogger speech."

It would have an obvious chilling effect on anonymous coward speech. It's not that hard to disable comments on most blogging engines.

So, don't object to the inevitable.... (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161178)

There was some noise being made about forcing ISPs to keep records for a set amount of time. That would be a responsible complementary law to this freedom. Otherwise, you will end up with a situation where sites cannot be held responsible, and intentionally do not keep any records to prevent their users from being held responsible for their speech.

Free speech must still be used within limits, and I'm all for it. I'm also for, when someone willfully and grossly exceeds those limits, to pay the piper and take responsibility.

I'm picturing any number of sites, like youtube and many others, breathing a heavy sigh of relief that a different precedent wasn't set.

Re:So, don't object to the inevitable.... (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162326)

Free speech must still be used within limits

Limits and free don't usually make sense when used to describe the same subject.

Well, there goes my business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161290)

I was going to do the following:
1) Anonymously post slanderous lies about myself to slashdot
2) Sue slashdot for defamation of character
3) Profit!

Now there goes that business model down the toilet... how am I going to get rich now?

I'm suing (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161296)

Slashdot stole my comments and I want them back!

In that case, I'd like to say ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161440)

Well since we've established we can't get Slashdot in trouble, could I take this opportunity to say that President GW Bush has been and still is one of the biggest dangers to the USA ? Can I also say that Steve Ballmer should be sued for libel for anti-competitive comments against the Linux community? (I.e. making repeated claims to scare people from using open source systems without sufficiently backing them up in court). Can I also say that my next door neighbour whaling drunken harridan who should be locked up so I don't have to play them "I wonder what's landed in my back garden this morning?" game? Can I also say that the General Motors should be disbanded for killing the electric car years ago, and consequently contributed to sea level rise? Can I also say that Osama Bin Laden actually doesn't give a shit about Muslim people, he just wants to rule over them? Can I also say that Microsoft is to computer users what Osama Bin Laden is (in my opinion, see above) to Muslim people? Can I also say that James Cameron MUST BE using some sort of illegal substance ?

Re:In that case, I'd like to say ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161668)

Err....I think the point was that you had to make stuff up? I don't think repeating commonly known facts will get you into trouble.

Re:In that case, I'd like to say ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18161780)

With the exception of your neighbor comment, none of that could be mistaken for a fact, they are very obviously opinions.

Granted, they're the opinions of the typical 'the linux' idiot, so they're pretty much worthless anyway.

Re:In that case, I'd like to say ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162034)

I don't know what a "The Linux idiot" is. I'm just a guy who's sick of the "evil" way MS do business. If wasn't because of that, I'd keep using Windows for convenience. Although Microsoft act as they do, so they're loosing my custom to Linux.

Germany didn't get so lucky (1)

freedumb2000 (966222) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162054)

Great to hear common sense was in action here. In Germany there was a ruling recently stating the exact opposit. The reasoning was something like if you don't have the resourses to monitor your message boards 100%, don't run one. Which should, if it playes out worst-case, eleminate most boards at some point. Next stop: cashing.

Effectively removes libel as a legal prohibition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162686)

1. Start a blog

2. Post a slightly stinging criticism of Linus Torvalds, yet one that is within the law. Sprinkle liberally with keywords.

3. Activate anonymizing software

4. Post an extensive comment detailing mr. Torvald's habitual paedophilia

5. Don't get sued or asked to take down what is posted

I foresee a rapid spike in the prevalance of anonymous comments with seemingly controversial information.

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