Dog Bites Man, Not News

by Lee Gesmer on November 15, 2005

[Update: this case was affirmed by the First Circuit in 2007; link here]

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports, on the front page of its October 31, 2005 issue, that Federal District Court Judge Robert Keeton has dismissed, under the Communications Decency Act, claims that Lycos was responsible for third-party defamatory postings on Lycos’ Raging Bull website. The case is Universal Communications Systems, Inc. v. Lycos, Inc. Apparently there is no written decision from Judge Keeton.

The idea that a web site is not liable for defamatory postings is not, I repeat not, news. The Communications Decency Act provides:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Translation: A web hosting service that permits third parties to post on its site is not the publisher or speaker of that information, and therefore cannot be liable for defamation posted by the third party.

This may be the first decision applying this law in Massachusetts, but it’s old news everywhere else. Cases across the country have uniformly interpreted the CDA to immunize ISPs and web hosts accused of defamation posted on their sites by third parties.

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