A federal court in South Carolina has made a landmark determination. Bloggers, whether they earn greenbacks or not, could be considered journalists. What are the ramifications for companies? There's good news and bad news. Let's start with the bad.
The plaintiff in the earlier mentioned case was eBay listing company BidZirk. Philip Smith had a few bones to pick with the company's owner, much to the owner's chagrin. So Smith did as any dutiful disillusioned ex-customer does these days -- he wrote a diatribe in his blog. Schmidt didn't take too kindly to the criticism, so he sued.
Now that you have the background, here's the meat and potatoes. Smith was hammered by the Plaintiff on three counts: 1. trademark dilution (he posted the company's logo on his blog) 2. defamation (he called Schmidt "yes man"), and 3. invasion of privacy (he linked to a picture Schmidt with his wife)... See where I'm going here? Unfortunately companies -- even if it be their proclivity to hire dozens of smart-as-a-whip lawyers -- may not have grounds to sue bitter bloggers for using fightin' words about the company on the web.
The good news, though, is if your company encourages employees to blog, then your employees may be protected by the same legal get-out-jail-free benefits that many card-carrying journalists have. According to the South Carolina case, it all depends on the content of the blog posting in question.
Blog Press Pass image by danhomerick [cc, 2.0]