April 24, 2009
Stand Up To Help Bloggers Get Needed Protections Under Texas Law

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.

I'm just a hobbyist. I don't sell ads, I'm not trying to make a living from this. What Vince describes is a situation that would cause me a lot of hardship. I think in 2009, the definition of "journalism" and "journalist" are fluid enough to include people like me and what I do. I support the passages of HB4237, and I hope you will as well. Click over to Vince's site for a lot more details about this, including how you can register your opinion at Monday's hearing. Thanks very much.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 24, 2009 to That's our Lege

The problem is some of the "internet journalists" have a problem staying within that framework of "public concern" and venture into "private concerns" that of course do become libelous. As does the "mainstream" media. You are not among them. But you are an exception to the majority.

A federal court by the way just issued a ruling that may impact the matter by basically stating that most reasonable people do not lend credence to the "talk show hosts" and therefore it is not libel since their comments are not credible to begin with.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on April 25, 2009 12:31 PM
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