"A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages.
...Standards set by a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., apply to everyone, not just journalists.
"It's not a special right to the news media," he said. "So it's a good thing for bloggers and citizen journalists and others."
Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., now living in Port Townshend, Wash., was sued for defamation by Bend attorney Kevin Padrick and his company, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, after she made posts on several websites she created accusing them of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and other illegal activities...
..."Because Cox's blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz is limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find Cox liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently," judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote. "We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages."
The appeals court upheld rulings by the District Court that other posts by Cox were constitutionally protected opinion.
..."It makes clear that bloggers have the same First Amendment rights as professional journalists,"
"There had been similar precedents before concerning advocacy groups, other writers and book authors. This follows a fairly well established chain of precedents. I believe it is the first federal appeals court level ruling that applies to bloggers."