Last August I linked to a post where a blogger was being sued over comments left on his blog. I have no idea of the outcome (and can’t be bothered to search right now) but I was pondering what it would take for a UK blogger to be sued.
Example: If I worked for The Times, and I managed to get published a paragraph which stated that Jeffrey Archer has had sex with an inmate while banged up for his crimes, then the paper – and possibly myself – would be sued for libel. (Note: IF I said that. I didn’t. It was an example. Pretend.). So Mr Archer sues for libel. What he is suing for would be – I believe – a lie being published. A mistruth. A falsehood. (Mr Archer knows all about these too). What he is NOT suing about is the actual method of conveying that lie to the masses. He could argue that The Times had a circulation of X thousand which had caused him XXXXX embarrassment, but it’s the lie that counts.
What if I said it ?
I ping pingoat which pings other sites which means the potential readership of something I write is at least comparable. (Potential, not actual) (Though in fact, me doing it is worse. I can be more easily linked to.) So what if I said the same thing about Mr
Perjury Archer ? Why not sue me ? The argument “Mark is skint so why bother” is – while very true – a wrong one because leaving the lie here amounts to permission to publish that lie elsewhere doesn’t it ? Example: I publish a lie in this post about Mr Archer. Whether or not he sees it is immaterial – it exists. In 6 months time, The Times also publishes that precise lie (does the source matter ?). Archer says he will sue and starts proceeding against The Times. At some point before judgement, my post comes to light. What happens then ? If he continues to sue The Times he would also have to sue me because my lie is equally a lie. Or does he sue them and then they sue me ? (but for what ? we both lied).
Is there – or will there be – a defence of “It was blogged before” because at the root of a libel is the lie – not the money (apparently). If there could be – because like all things it would need to be tested – then why don’t journos and the likes start blogging lies as a cover ? Is a blog sueable ? Or are some blogs more equal than others ? Example: If I wander around my village tomorrow handing out leaflets claiming the above about Mr Archer, someone involved in politics would hand it on, make a noise and something would happen. That sort of “something will happen” is what stops most of us from doing things – the unknown of the law in such cases. But something would happen I am sure. But what if I publish it online and take the url around to that person’s house ? If they passed it on, what would happen ? I suspect nothing would.
Because this is just a blog. So why sue a little blog over a lie ?
But if a lie is a lie is a lie then not suing is either admitting that the lie is a truth OR that the lie is not worth bothering with. But if it’s not worth bothering with when I say it, why is it worth suing a newspaper ? Money. Not the lie. Money.
Which means I am unsueable doesn’t it ?