Following my first post on this topic, I have seen much discussion on the new blogging insurance product. At least one reader has questioned the “need” for this product, so I thought it useful to identify more recent articles and opinions on whether to buy. Dan Margolies, in an Austrialian article from the Sydney Morning Herald, cites some relevant numbers. According to the article, there have been 280 lawsuits against bloggers and other online publishers, climbing steadily from 4 in 1997. While most have resulted in no verdict, there has been at least one of note: a $11.3 million verdict against a woman who defamed on various internet bulletin boards the head of an organization she had hired to assist her.
The coverage will be written with Axis Insurance. Policy premiums will range from $540 to $3,370 per year. Standard coverage limits are $100,000 per triggering event (not sure how the insuring language is worded), with a $300,000 aggregate (the maximum amount paid over the course of a year on all claims) with a $2,500 deductible. Nice selling points include access to a “legal hotline” manned by Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago, a top media defense firm, and access to an on-line media law course.
How serious are the risks? A well-worded disclaimer can mitigate, somewhat, the legal malpractice risk unique to law bloggers. The likelihood of defamation liability (notice I didn’t say “suits”) is wholly dependent upon the proactive conduct of the blogger. The other significant area of blogger risk appears to be copyright infringment. As noted by Margolies:
Although the posting of links poses no copyright risks, many bloggers wrongly believe material on the internet is not covered by copyright and can be used with impunity. “It’s a risk that bloggers don’t fully appreciate because they’re not in an institutional setting where there’s training,” Mr Dodell says.
Doug Malan at the Connecticut Law Tribune relates the opinions of legal bloggers about the attractiveness of the insurance product. Ryan McKeen, attorney and head blogger at aconnecticutlawblog.com, thinks the insurance is a good idea. McKeen writes with liability in mind and would consider omitting the step of filtering comments and would expand the scope of the blog if the insurance was in place.
Attorney Sergei Lemberg, author of lemonjustice.com, is not convinced. His blog discusses lemon law issues and targets automobile manufacturers. He believes that good blog practice and care, including judicious use of disclaimers, will go far in protecting him from libel and other potential liabilities.
So, does one buy it? It is not inexpensive. The calculus comes down to personal risk analysis and an examination of the on-line activity in question. If a blogger is regularly skirting the line of legality in the targeting and harvesting of subject matter, then perhaps blogging insurance makes sense.