While my own case winds slowly through the judicial process, being opposed now by two recently appointed barristers, we can now see that other jurisdictions are catching up with developments in the media world.
In a court in Florida, in a similar case to my own, the court has found that a blogger and their blog can be and are considered to be media, and as a result can be considered a legitimate media property.
A few years ago, weÂ wrote aboutÂ the bizarre and quixotic effort by Florida businessman Christopher Comins to find any possible way to sue University of Florida student and blogger Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis forÂ his blog postÂ concerning a widely publicized event in which CominsÂ shot two dogsÂ in a field (video link). The story made lots of news at the time, but Comins didn’t go after any of the major media — instead targeting VanVoorhis for a defamation suit. The original blog post is “novelistic” but it’s difficult to see how it’s defamatory. Either way, Comins’ case wasÂ shot downÂ on fairly specific procedural grounds: namely that Florida defamation law requires specific notice be given to media properties at least 5 days before a lawsuit is launched. Specifically, the law says:
Before any civil action is brought for publication or broadcast, in a newspaper, periodical, or other medium, of a libel or slander, the plaintiff shall, at least 5 days before instituting such action, serve notice in writing on the defendant, specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein which he or she alleges to be false and defamatory.
Comins’ lawsuit was dumped because he failed to give such notice. Comins argues that he did give such a notice (though the letter he sent did not meet the requirements of such notice under the law) and (more importantly for this discussion) that VanVoorhis’ blog did not count as a media publication, and thus the law did not apply. The original court ruling rejected that pretty quickly, and now on appeal, a state appeals court hasÂ not just rejected Comins’ anti-blog claim more thoroughly, but also highlightedÂ the importance of blogs to our media landscape. Â Read more »