May 5, 2006

MAINE BLOG LIBEL SUIT UPDATE: “Moments ago, lawyers for the advertising agency suing MBA Member Lance Dutson filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal in U.S. District Court in Maine.”

The Media Bloggers Association has sent out a statement:

The decision to withdraw the lawsuit comes on the heels of a withering media campaign orchestrated by the Media Bloggers Association on behalf of MBA Member Lance Dutson. Hundreds of bloggers responded to the MBA’s call to arms and were joined by media outlets around the world in highlighting the heavy-handed tactics of the state contractor.

“As it should be, the story of ‘Warren Kremer Paino and the Maine Blogger’ is now a cautionary tale”, said MBA President Robert Cox, “future potential plaintiffs would do well to consider WKP’s experience in attempting to silence a blog critic through the Federal courts. Our message is simple: ‘Don’t Mess with the Bloggers'”

A big round of thanks is in order for the lawyers who volunteered their time on Lance’s behalf including MBA General Counsel, Ronald Coleman of the Coleman Law Firm, Greg Herbert of Greenberg Traurig and private attorney Jon Stanley.

“This demonstrates precisely what we have said all along,” said Coleman, “Suits like this are premised solely on the anticpation that there will be no push back from the little guy. Here, there was.”

Yeah, it’s like the little guys have been empowered, or something. Anyway, this is pretty much the dynamic I predicted in my article on blogs and libel for the Harvard blog conference last week.

UPDATE: Ed Cone has it right:

Let’s be serious: There will be successful suits against bloggers who violate copyright laws, or commit libel, or do other bad things. Being a blogger doesn’t give you magic protection powers.

And as Seth Finkelstein pointed out in a comment here not too long ago, no individual blogger out of the millions who publish can count on the MBA or a national blogstorm coming to their rescue in a given instance.

But the lesson is still clear: bully bloggers at your own risk. They have rights, and they are networked, and the big media pay attention to them.

Find a better way of dealing with them, and maybe a better way of doing business.

Yes, being a blogger doesn’t immunize you against libel suits. But on the other hand, the bullying approach doesn’t work very well.

MORE: I guess the coming legal superstorm against bloggers hasn’t arrived yet. But don’t get cocky, kids.

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