Matt O’Neil of Activ-Media offers a corporation’s concerns on allowing comments to their blog. Matt posts about his discussions with London Solicitor Justin Patten and Sun Microsystems’ General Counsel Michael Dillon regarding the legal issues of comments.
Justin commenting, from UK legal standpoint, on a case where a company is suing a blogger for comments left on the company’s blog:
The blog may be able to avoid responsibility on the basis that it can show that it is not the author of the statement and that it took reasonable care with respect to publication. It can use a safe harbour defence of unintentional publication from section 1 of Defamation Act 1996.
However,if say X company complains to GM and says remove that comment and GM keeps it, then I think GM is vulnerable to a claim.
A paradox is with comment moderation. If there is comment moderation and GM approves the comment, then the position of GM may be weaker than if they had no comment moderation and comments just fly in.
By the way, I do advocate comment moderation!
…I have been advised by others to disable the comments field. The advice was based not on the possibility of liable, but rather that someone would say something negative about Sun, me or …. lawyers :)
My personal view is that part of the reason you blog is to create a wider network – to make connections (witness our email exchange). While it might be safer to disable the comment field, I think it would reduce the value of the blog.
While there might be some possibility of a claim arising under the facts you pose, I think it is minimal. If you read the bottom of our web site (http://blogs.sun.com/) you will see a statement that Sun does not necessarily agree with the contents of the blogs. Whether that would be a sufficient disclaimer in litigation will vary depending on the jurisdiction. Thus, we think it is important to educate our bloggers so they draft appropriately. At the bottom of the page, you will see 2 links to our policies that might help you further.
For lawyers looking to see if blogs work, Justen is a relatively young solicitor being quoted along side the General Counsel of Sun Microsystems. That ain’t chopped liver.