More lawsuits trip up bloggers on Internet

Local blogger Dan Ryan has never been sued for his postings, although one commenter whose anti-Semitic ravings he deleted accused him of slander and threatened "to own my house."

Even so, Ryan, whose daily musings about politics, homemade beer and whatever else strikes his fancy appear at, said he was not overly concerned about getting sued.

"I have the benefit of being fundamentally judgment-proof — like most bloggers," he joked, referring to his relative lack of wealth. Also, he said, "I try to avoid anything slanderous or anything that would be actionable."

Ryan's caution may stem from his training as an attorney. Most bloggers, though, are less attuned to the niceties of the law. An increasing number are finding themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

The Citizen Media Law Project has tallied 280 legal actions against bloggers and other online publishers nationwide. Compared with the millions of blogs out there, that might not seem like a lot. But the numbers have been trending steadily upward, from a mere four lawsuits in 1997 to 89 last year.

Although only a handful of cases have resulted in verdicts or settlements, a few have been eye-popping enough to give even the average basement- residing poster pause.

The largest was an $11.3 million defamation verdict in Florida against a woman who, on various Internet bulletin boards, disparaged the head of an organization she hired to remove her son from a Costa Rica boarding school as a "crook," "con artist" and "fraud."

Read the complete story at