Vince writes about a bill that is of great interest to all us bloggers.
On Monday, the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill which will give Texas bloggers and citizen journalists some much-needed protections under Texas law.
The committee will take public testimony on House Bill 4237 by State Rep. Aaron Pena (D-Edinburg).
This bill gives bloggers and citizen journalists the same protections that the mainstream media has when it comes to covering matters of "public concern," such as legislative proceedings, school board meetings, and the actions of state officials.
Under current law, commonly known as the "Privileged Matters Clause" of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code (Sec. 73.002), coverage by the mainstream media of matters of "public concern" such as those listed above cannot be used as grounds for a libel action.
Texas bloggers and citizen journalists, however, do not have similar protections. In theory, if a politician or officeholder wanted to cause a blog a great deal of problems, he or she could file a libel or slander lawsuit over writings discussing a matter of "public concern." It would then be up to the court system-after, no doubt, significant expense for the blogger or citizen journalist-to determine whether or not the "Privileged Matters Clause" applies to bloggers.
Texas bloggers have been fortunate in that no one has been forced to be a test case for this yet. Rep. Pena's bill ensures that no Texas blogger or citizen journalist ever will. It gives us the same protections as the mainstream media in this regard.