Friday, March 16, 2018

Homeowner's insurance may cover Internet libel, but is this a good idea for everyone?



On March 14, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh wrote about the incidental coverage of libel (and other torts like invasion of privacy) insurance on personal blogs or social media that comes from homeowner’s insurance, sometimes.  This opportunity may also apply to some renters’ policies.
  
Volokh warns that the coverage might not apply if the blogger earns any ad revenue at all from the blog, as from Adsense or Amazon associates, or other networks.  Expanding on this, it would seem not to apply if the blogging is itself a “career’ or a form of self-employment that supplements a business or is a business in its own right – an opportunity that “Blogtyrant” has often promoted (and that I have covered here before).  That would be true of me, who has made news blogging and some fiction as a “second career” at age 74 now.
  
This coverage is more likely to come with an umbrella policy.  I’ve noted before that some auto insurance policies will not give maximum coverage even for auto accident liability without offering umbrella coverage, a nexus or coupling that seems illogical.  Intellectual property risk is very different (and harder to underwrite) than is property or medical risk as usually experienced in the past (especially pre-Internet).  I’ve also discussed “media perils” insurance here before (like back in 2008).
   
Volokh mentions the variability of state law. Politicians in various states could be wary of requiring umbrella-like coverage on ordinary property insurance policies, because such a requirement could have unintended consequences, of cancellation or declination of ordinary property or even auto insurance to consumers who blog – something that might not even come up until applying for an auto loan or mortgage. It’s not a good idea for the law to connect unrelated ideas just out of misplaced generosity to voters. Some good libertarian thought.

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