Professor Ludington on Loosening Jurisdictional Hurdles Against Bloggers

Headshot of Sarah H Ludington

Professor Ludington (Photo: Campbell U.)

Professor Sarah H. Ludington of Campbell University has just published Aiming at the Wrong Target: The ‘Audience Targeting’ Test for Personal Jurisdiction in Internet Defamation Cases in the Ohio State Law Journal (73 Ohio State L.J. 541). She takes issue with a blogger-friendly Fourth Circuit case that said someone publishing on the internet can’t be sued for defamation outside of their state unless they specifically targeted an audience in that state. Professor Ludington would prefer for bloggers to be able to be sued away from their home so long as they have “minimum contacts” with jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is being brought.

Here’s the abstract:

In Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2002), the Fourth Circuit crafted a jurisdictional test for Internet defamation that requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant specifically targeted an audience in the forum state for the state to exercise jurisdiction. This test relies on the presumption that the Internet — which is accessible everywhere — is targeted nowhere; it strongly protects foreign libel defendants who have published on the Internet from being sued outside of their home states. Other courts, including the North Carolina Court of Appeals, have since adopted or applied the test. The jurisdictional safe harbor (ironically) provided by the veryn ubiquity of the Internet is no doubt welcomed by media defendants and frequent Internet publishers (e.g., bloggers) whose use of the Internet exposes them to potentially nationwide jurisdiction for defamation. But it may go too far in protecting libel defendants from facing the consequences of their false and injurious statements. For every libel defendant insulated from jurisdiction in a remote location, there is also a libel plaintiff who has potentially been denied an effective remedy in a convenient location. This article argues that the jurisdictional test created in Young is flawed and particularly should not be applied to libel defendants. It concludes with a simple suggestion: that the appropriate test for personal jurisdiction over libel defendants in cases of Internet defamation is the standard minimum contacts analysis.

Ha’p Media Law Prof Blog.

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