Web site and mailing list operators cannot be held responsible for libelous or defamatory comments they republish, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gives a strong boost to Internet publishers who the court said are immunized from most defamation lawsuits by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The case dealt with Ton Cremers, who edits the Museum Security mailing list and who was sued for libel after he republished e-mail alleging that a California resident owned artwork stolen from the Jews during the Holocaust. A majority of the panel concluded that Cremers' newsletter qualified for the Telecommunications Act's liability exemption for "interactive computer services," which other courts previously to Internet service providers.