your first ammendment area
Originally uploaded by agenthandy.
In the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about the risks of blogging. Should bloggers take care about what they say and make sure it is true? You bet! But, part of blogging is also speaking your mind, so what happens when speaking your mind lands you in a legal bind?
Warren Kremer Paino, an advertising agency for the Maine Department of Tourism has served a lawsuit (pdf) against blogger Lance Dustin.
I don’t know too much about Dustin or his situation, but he he has taken issue with the Maine Department of Tourism for bidding up Google AdWords, and taken exception to the use of Maine state funds to shut out the “little guy.” You can read more about his side of the story in his “Pay-Per-Gate” category on his blog.
Scott Johnson of the Fuzzy blog has a very fair post in which he talked to Tom McCartin at Warren Kremer Paino and concluded there were good arguments on each side, but sided with Dustin and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constituion, offering to give a contribution to any defense fund that might start.
And that is the point, as Shel Israel said in his post about the issue, “On one side we have this small, independent online design guy. On the other, we have a bevy of lawyers and politicians. I'm not in a position to say who's right, but I do know who I'm rooting for.”
First Amendment rights aside, opinions forcefully made can garner a lawsuit, and if you are a small independent company, such as Dustin, it could bankrupt you.
But apparently there is some help out there. The Media Bloggers Association provides its members with first-line defense against such lawsuits pro bono, luckily, they are helping Dustin.
The of course you have to get your own lawyer too, and Dustin has retained Greg Herbert of Greenberg Traurig, a specialist in media law and First Amendment/defamation litigation and private attorney Jon Stanley.
All I can say, is when situations like this arise, it is very good to have friends. In the public relations community, B.L. Ochman, who also posted on this issue, is a member, as is Scott Baradell. There may be more, but those were the ones I saw as I quickly scanned the list.
Any chance I can get a nomination to join? It sounds like the MBA (not to be confused with the Mortgage Brokers Association) is something for those that aren’t backed by employers with deep pockets to seriously consider.
Alice Marshall also posted about this case and there is a story in Advertising Age that gives recommendations from Steve Rubel about dealing with a “blogger that you think might be negatively affecting your brand image.”