The Supreme Court of New Jersey is set to give lawyers a field day by declaring that bloggers are not journalists and can't claim the same level of legal protection.
The Supremes said that a blogger sued for defamation over comments posted on an Internet message board is not entitled to the same protections as a journalist, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
According to Reuters, Shellee Hale penned a criticism of software outfit Too Much Media on a porn industry bulletin board.
Hale had accused the outfit, which provides software to adult entertainment sites, of profiting from a 2007 security breach that exposed customers' personal information.
The outfit's owners had threatened the lives of people who questioned their conduct and her posts appeared on the message board of Oprano, reportedly.
Hale claimed that her posts were part of a broader expose of the online pornography industry that she intended to publish on her website, Pornafia.
However the licensed private dick and former Vole created the site as an "information exchange" intended to expose criminal activity in the adult entertainment industry. Unfortunately the site never got off the ground.
The Supremes said that laws were intended to to give absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards.
They said that anyone in the great unwashed could claim the journalist privilege and pen garbage on Facebook.
Online message boards are little more than unscreened reader comment pages or public forums for discussion, they said.
Hale's lawyer, Jeffrey Pollock, said the ruling meant the court had taken a turn against the nontraditional journalist and people writing on the web. He claimed that anyone writing for alternative media had a second class of protection.
Pollock had argued that the court should consider Hale's intent to later disseminate the news to the public but said that was rubbish.
Joel Kreizman, a lawyer for Too Much Media, said the shield issue was important because it prevented him from asking Hale questions about the identity of her sources.
He claims she was a sock-puppet for someone else.