Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bloggers, beware of legal implications

It is not only plagiarism that bloggers have to be careful about. A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India headed by the Chief Justice has ruled that bloggers could be liable for libel or even criminal charges for the content they publish in their web logs. (The Times of India, Chennai, February 24, 2009.) I think Contempt of Court is also a possible risk.

The reported case relates to a 19 year-old from Kerala who started a discussion group on the Internet against the Shiv Sena activities. A Maharashtra Court issued summons against him on the basis of a criminal case filed by a Sena functionary.

The blogger obtained anticipatory bail from the Kerala High Court and then approached the SC to have the criminal complaint quashed. The SC said no; even comments published on a blog could attract legal action.

I suppose this position will also be applicable to the persons who send in the comments. One cannot escape the mischief of law by posting them under the ‘Anonymous’ label. The IP of the computer from which they are sent can be traced.

Every citizen, whether blogger or not, has the right to express himself. In certain States of the US, I understand, bloggers claim the status of journalists. (This has to be verified.) This does not mean one can ignore other applicable laws which include provisions against hurting public sentiment. Claiming that the views expressed are purely personal is no defense.

In the United States lawsuits against bloggers are on the increase. They involve millions of dollars. Details of legal actions against bloggers in that country can be seen at

In a report dated July 20, 2008 Huma Yusuf states that around the world 64 bloggers were arrested since 2003 according to a publication by the University of Washington. More than half these took place in Egypt, China and Iran.

Some bloggers’ associations, it seems, run awareness programs for their members. There were also reports that insurance against lawsuits were planned in the US for the benefit of bloggers. The cheapest policy was to cost $540 per year. It is not clear whether the scheme is put on hold because of the financial meltdown.

According to an estimate, two new blogs are created every second! In an article posted on USA TODAY. Com (October 2, 2006), Laura Parker says, ‘The blogosphere also is the Internet's Wild West, a rapidly expanding frontier town with no sheriff.’

That is an apt description. And, that is all the more reason why bloggers should apply restraint in what the write and the comments they allow to be posted on their blogs. We can’t have ‘Injuns and cowboys’ shoot at each other in the 21st century.

Also see:

How I write Blog posts

Contempt of Court - comment and response


Kariyachan said...

Dear AT Sir;

You have made an extremely valid point here in this post.

I myself is a victim of libel via blogging, and at this stage I am pursuing legal action against an individual [most probably a malayali] , who is trying to defame me and our organisation via a blog.

We traced the individual's logon from Hyderabad and in SA recently, and are in the process of obtaining a court order to identify the individual from India and SA.

I think this ruling from Supreme Court is in the best interest of a lot of individuals and organisations who were subjected to blackmail and character assasinations , by means of blogging 'Anonymous’ and or using fake Identity.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kariyachan, thank you. I tried to send you an email but the 'jyotish' ID I have does not seem to be functioning. Can you send me a mail so that I can have your active email ID.

Nebu said...

This is news previously unaware of. Thanks for the information. Will be careful.

Deepa said...

Well worded post.
There is "free speech".. and then there is "free"speech - which is more often "I dont care and i give a damn "speech... in which case i can somehow come to terms with the SC judgement.

On the otherhand, branding bloggers in a buch.. is not palatable to me.

Well.. lets see how things move from here on.


Murali RamaVarma said...

A real eye opener! Thank you AT sir for this informative post which shall guide all the bloggers especially our younger lot.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Deepa, thank you for the comment.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Murali, I am glad you found the post useful.