Blogger Can’t Sue for Defamation on His Own Site

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings

In a fun bit of irony, a blogger has been hoisted on his own petard. This was a UK case, but the common law principles would likely yield the same result here.

First a little defamation law. Defamation is based on one’s loss of reputation, so you can never defame someone to them self  In other words, if you send a letter to Joe telling him what a liar he is, Joe can’t claim defamation because it is not possible that your letter caused him to lose reputation. (If it makes him realize what a liar he is, that’s just too bad.)

Further, if Joe then shows the letter to someone, you still can’t be held liable because it was Joe that published the statement to a third party.

In the UK case, the plaintiff had created a blog to tell about how he was molested by a Catholic priest. To make the story more interesting, the priest also happened to be son of writer JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings. The defendant posted a comment on the plaintiff’s blog, claiming plaintiff had created the story in order to extort money from the Catholic Church. Plaintiff brought legal action for defamation.

“No can do,” said the court. Since the blogger had the ability to screen comments (whether he had chosen to do so or not), he was responsible for publishing the content. Under common law defamation, the situation was no different than Joe showing the defamatory letter to a third party.

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Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP

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View Aaron Morris, Trial Attorney and Partner at Morris & Stone, with emphasis on Free Speech and Defamation Law.

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