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Federal court: blogs not liable for their commenter's libel

There's a hilarious case in Philadelphia that's managed to generate some important case law on blogs.

First, the backstory: Tucker Max runs a blog chronicling big parties, etc. Anthony DiMeo runs a party-planning business. DiMeo allegedly organized a New Year's Eve party that charged attendees $100 - but ran out of booze before midnight. Many of those angry attendees dropped by Tucker's website - and complained about DiMeo. DiMeo sues Tucker for libel.

Or, as the judge put it in the opening stanza of his decision:

"Tucker Max describes himself as an aspiring celebrity 'drunk' and [#$%hole] who uses his Web site, tuckermax.com, to 'share [his] adventures with the world.' Anthony DiMeo III, who says he is an heir and co-owner of a large New Jersey blueberry farm, threw a New Year's Eve party this past December that, apparently, ended in a shambles."

Now, the ruling. From Law.com:

Bloggers cannot be hit with libel suits on the basis of anonymous postings on their Web sites because federal law grants them immunity by explicitly stating that they cannot be treated as the "publisher" of such comments, a federal judge has ruled. ...

Now Dalzell has sided with the defense team and held that the CDA grants immunity to a blogger in such a case -- even if the blogger admits that he exercises some editorial control over the anonymous postings.

Dalzell found that Congress enacted Section 230 for two reasons -- to "promote the free exchange of information and ideas over the Internet," and to "encourage service providers to self-regulate the dissemination of offensive material over their services."

Dalzell concluded that the purpose of Section 203 was to provide immunity from libel suits for Internet providers -- including bloggers.

Of course, true to form, celebrity drunk Tucker Max hailed the decision:

"The judge's decision is awesome. It has all the great elements: It quotes hilarious posts from my message board about DiMeo, it mocks and derides DiMeo and his dumbass lawyer, and most importantly it completely and totally reaffirms basically all the tenets of free speech that DiMeo was challenging," Max wrote.

Apparently reading the decision as granting him a permanent license to continue ridiculing DiMeo, Max wrote: "I can't stop laughing imagining him stomping around his cheaply furnished apartment, one eye pointing south, the other one east, pouting and fuming over the fact that he didn't get his way, and now the mockery will never stop. It must not be very fun to suck so much that you feel like you have to sue people who mock you, because you can't find any other way to make them stop."

There's more at the Philadelphia Inquirer. And, of course, be sure to check out TuckerMax.com. The 23-page decision, which might be the funniest thing ever to come from a federal judge, is here.

Hat tip to Jack Bogdanski, law professor and blogger extraordinaire.