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Ruling Protects Electronic Services

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ruling Protects Electronic Services

Article excerpt

Ruling protects electronic services

A federal judge decided CompuServe Inc. was not liable for damaging statements on an electronic bulletin board in its computer database.

U.S. District Judge Peter Leisure in New York ruled that databases cannot be held liable for information they carry unless they know in advance it is false.

"The inconsistent application of a lower standard of liability to an electronic news distributor such as CompuServe to that which is applied to a public library, bookstore, or newstand would impose an undue burden on the free flow of information," Leisure wrote.

Lawyers hailed the decision as a milestone in setting legal protection for distributors of electronic information.

Leisure dismissed a suit filed by Cubby Inc. and Robert Blanchard, developers of an electronic gossip service called Skuttlebut. They claimed they were defamed by statements carried on CompuServe's Journalism Forum, an electronic bulletin board used by journalists to exchange information.

A Journalism Forum feature called Rumorville carried remarks referring to Skuttlebut as a "start-up scam."

CompuServe, a subsidiary of H&R Block Inc., does not monitor what appears on bulletin boards. …

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