Friday, February 04, 2011

Sports owner against a local free newspaper in a test of libel law; who are David and Goliath here?

Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder has sued the Washington City Paper for defamation and libel regarding some articles dating to last fall. ABC affiliate WJLA has a video interview (not embeddable) (website url) here  (By the way, WJLA, as "TBD", seems to invite neighborhood reporting by bloggers.)

The City Paper has a web link for its own Defense Fund here. The story series had been called "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder". The appeal reads "We think the value of our paper will survive this lawsuit." It's scary that the paper thinks it has to say that. 

The suit does highlight the risks of smaller publications and probably blogs when they go out on a limb. In this case, it seems that there are real questions as to how the “Opinion Rule” could apply as a defense. In the US, factual truth is an absolute defense to libel (less so in Britain, inviting the problem of libel tourism, which the British Parliament is said to be addressing).

Here’s Huffington Post’s account (link). Snyder at one point said he just wanted an “apology”. 

The City Paper says, Snyder doesn’t  get to pick his own sports reporters (like Mubarak does in Egypt). And he doesn’t get to pick his bloggers.

It’s pretty hard to envision mass litigation with libel. 

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