Lawsuit stirs up blog fog

Durst files suit against Web sites for posting a hacked video

Not long after dismissing the possibility of snarky gossip site Gawker.com being the target of a lawsuit, Gawker founder Nick Denton is facing just that: an $80 million suit from Limp Bizkit crooner Fred Durst.

Durst’s suit, filed two weeks ago, claims that Gawker — along with nine other sites — posted a video hacked from Durst’s computer that shows him and his ex-girlfriend having sex.

Since it was founded in 2002, Gawker has taken full advantage of its no-accountability status as a blog, taking swipes at Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson and fashionista Anna Wintour without facing the legal repercussions that more traditionalmedia outlets do.

After all, it’s just a blog, the argument goes.

The Durst suit is the first sign that blog standards might be less blurry than Denton, et al., would like to think. And that blogs like Gawker — which operates on a shoestring budget compared to Durst’s deep-pocketed threat — could be wiped out in court.

Recently, Slate‘s Mickey Kaus forecast this issue in one of his Kausfile blogs, “Whistling Past the Libel Graveyard,” in which he warned: “Potential exposure to libel suits is a bigger, long-range problem for sites like Wonkette (a Gawker-owned site) and Kausfile than we like to let on.”

Kaus’ comment was in response to a New York Times article in which Denton shrugged off the notion that Gawker was fodder for libel, arguing it would be difficult for injured parties to prove malice of intent.

Meanwhile, Gawker seems to be evolving beyond its scruffy blog status: Denton recently hired a managing editor and is beefing up his New York staff.

With Durst firing a first legal salvo at the blog site, Denton might also want to consider bringing an attorney onboard.

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