Thursday, October 30, 2003

Don't Say I Didn't Warn Ya'

I've had this weblog for less than a year and I can already say "I warned ya'."

Specifically, in March I had a posting titled Hey, Let's Be Careful Out There! In the posting I discussed the theoretical possibility of a claim against a blogger for defamation and said:

Many, if not all, homeowner policies include within the definition of "personal injury," an injury caused by defamatory comments. Umbrella policies generally mirror that coverage. At the least, weblog authors should make certain that their homeowner's policies provide coverage. Additionally, since umbrella coverage is relatively cheap, they should consider acquiring an umbrella policy with significantly higher limits.

I added that if it could be argued that the blog were being used for business, there should also be appropriate coverage under a business insurance policy.

For those who don't follow the blogs that discuss politics, there is currently a furor on-going as a result of a threat of a slander lawsuit against well-know blogger Atrios by the lesser-know blogger Donald Luskin. Luskin blogs on the site of National Review Online. Mark Kleiman gives a thorough account of the dispute here.

The consensus opinion of bloggers who have commented on the affair seems to be that (i) Luskin is primarily attempting to publicly identify Atrios, who publishes under a nom de plume, (Luskin's attorney has written an e-mail to Atrios threatening to subpoena Blogger, which hosts the Atrios weblog, to force it to disclosed Atrios' identity) and (ii) that as a secondary goal, Luskin hopes to chill further commentary by Atrios and others by exposing them to burdensome defense costs.

If Atrios has a homeowner's policy, he can likely successfully frustrate the second goal. Moreover, if his insurance carrier comes to the rescue soon enough, Atrios may well even be able to block a subpoena directed to publicly identifying him. (Without going into the issue in any greater length, suffice it to say that Luskin's slander claim appears to be nothing more than a pretext to create a public ruckus with a widely-respected commentator in order to inflate his own pathetic public profile.)

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