Blog posts are not entitled to the same immunity from libel as are newspapers or other periodicals… at least in Texas. The issue was resolved in a district court case steming from posts made by a former patient of the University Behavioral Health of Denton (UBH), “a free standing psychiatric hospital specializing in mental health and chemical dependancy care.” Brenda Wells, a former patient of the hospital, among other things maintained a blog on which she posted defamatory comments that accused hospital staff of unprofessional and even criminal conduct. Wells tried to defend the claim arguing, that not only were the blogs not defamatory, but that her blogs were protected under a Texas Law, which prohibits libel claims against newspapers and periodicals. Wells argued that her blogs, which were published, were akin to the type of media receiving defamation immunity and therefore should be protected under the law. The U.S. Discrtice Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina disagreed, finding that because ” “[p]ostings on the blog are not published at regular intervals. They are not composed of articles, news items, or the like.”
The decision in the case, Ascend Health Corp. v. Wells (here), may make sense in this particular instances, but I can think of a lot of blogs that have the sophisticated and regular type of content of which many newspapers and periodicals boast. What about blogs that are maintained by newspaper reporters? Such blogs would not receive immunity under this case. This is one decision that I think should be revisited. Thoughts?