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Court ruling added a boost to online news media by expanding the old law in 1931

October 16, 2015

There was a time when bloggers like myself weren’t considered journalists. Thanks to the new ruling from a California court protecting on line media, that was about to change, very slowly of course. Now that bloggers were considered journalists, online magazines, newsletters, and the like were protected also, even my former employer, the Examiner.

It was about time digital media had the same rights as its printed counterpart. This time, an update in the written law was all it took.

The statute has now been updated to include digital news publications to that protection, by changing the wording: “the correction statute applies to weekly and online publications, performing the same news-disseminating function as a daily newspaper.”

Here was a footnote that initiated the change:

1 The amendment to Section 48a responded to a challenge issued by a California Court of Appeal in Thieriot v. The Wrapnews Inc., 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2690 (Cal. Ct. App. April 15, 2014). There, the appellate court held that California’s correction statute did not apply to allegedly defamatory statements published on a website. The court explained that, “[b]y its plain language, [the correction statute] applies only when the defamatory material is published in a ‘newspaper’ or a ‘radio broadcast.’” Id. at *38. “At the time the statute was enacted in 1931, or amended in 1945, a ‘newspaper’ was understood to mean a publication that was printed on inexpensive paper, often daily.” Id. “Had the Legislature intended the statute to apply to defamatory material published on an online website,” the court reasoned, “it could have amended the statute to say so, or add[ed] a statute to include such websites within the definition of ‘newspaper[.]’” Id. at *39.

In addition to this, it also protected online publications from nonsensical litigation, otherwise known as frivolious lawsuits. This blogger enjoyed posting and writing reactions to articles posted in The Huffington Post, Re/Code, etc, on my news site, Yoboogle.. Lawsuits were common, but let’s keep them above ridiculous ok? Limit the complaints to things like copyright infringment defamation of character, and libel. This blogger even knew a few people that tried suing themselves. Come on, guys! Get a grip!

That wasn’t the case for The/Wrap ,in which a dispute arose with one of the stories written about the Mayans. Not only did the judge throw out the case, it didn’t have standing with respect to a law passed in 1931 that clarified what a newspaper was:

“a publication that was printed on inexpensive paper, often daily.”

Keep in mind that computers and other electronic devices that aided in online publications did not exist as they did today. Like crime, the news didn’t start at sunrise or end at dark. The law that just passed expanded the old law and helped legitimize on line publications. It was about time!

Further Reading from The/Wrap

  1. Mayan Mystery: Doc Financier Accused of Fleeing With Film Footage (Exclusive)
  2. Judge Throws Out Thieriot Mayan Lawsuit Against The Wrap
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