Monday, March 02, 2009

Web Sites Not Liable for Third Party User Content (for the most part)

Posted by Katie Noonan

Web sites are not responsible for user commentary, according to recent court rulings relating to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, Ragan guest blogger, Bruce E.H. Johnson, said today in his blog Are you responsible for content generated by readers?

Here are a few highlights from Johnson's blog:

  • Web sites do still need to air on the side of caution to avoid potential libel suits. For example, companies may be help liable for comments made by their employees on their Web site, as employee comments do not fall under the category of third party content.
  • Online news outlets are protected from libel suits for comments posted by readers in response to articles.
  • Web site administrators need be careful when they edit user comments as that may make them more vulnerable to a libel suit.
  • According to Johnson, Web sites are also protected from user posts that violate intellectual property rights "provided that you follow the instructions set forth in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)."

It would seem that the courts give Web sites a bit of leeway when it comes to holding them liable for third party content on their site. The PRLawyer would still recommend airing on the side of caution to avoid a PR headache or legal hassle.

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