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Was Law Professor's Post Libelous?

In the court of public opinion, bloggers are presenting their arguments on whether a law professor committed libel on his blog when he characterized a lawsuit as a "shakedown."

The post in question came from Marquette law professor Eric Goldman. Writing about two companion lawsuits against Yahoo for so-called syndication fraud, Goldman said:

"I think these lawsuits are nothing more than a shakedown for cash. ... Extortion shouldn't pay, and I hope the plaintiffs find this out the hard way."

That prompted Paul McNamara, news editor at Network World, to question on his blog whether Goldman's post was libelous:

"I have no idea whether the lawsuit will prevail, but I do know a couple of things for certain: Goldman's characterization of the filing and those responsible for it would never have made it past any editor I know, as the words practically scream libel."

Responding to McNamara, Denise Howell at Between Lawyers suggests that Goldman's words were more hyperbole than libel. She writes:

"The moral, I suppose, is that if you're going to use an online medium to discuss others' potentially wrongful acts (and there's no getting around that a blog or podcast is an attractive place for commenting on disturbing conduct), a little attention to phrasing and characterization can wind up going a long way."

Today, Evan Schaeffer jumped into the fray, expressing skepticism that Goldman's remarks were libelous:

"Goldman's remarks are silly, perhaps, but not libelous. Professor Goldman was merely expressing his opinion. Though it's arguably an uninformed opinion, that doesn't change the libel formula much."

Glenn Reynolds also sees no libel here, but he invites anyone who wonders about the issue to read his article, Libel in the Blogosphere.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 17, 2006 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

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