As long as news sites don’t severely edit comments, they’re not liable for comments on their sites, according to a collaboration of media lawyers and editors.

Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) Section 230:  “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” and  “No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any state or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”

Cubby v. CompuServe, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. 1991) – CompuServe sued for republishing user’s comment that a competing business is a “start-up scam” – Question: Is Cubby liable as a “republisher”? • Is Cubby a newspaper or a library? – Court finds that Cubby is a mere distributor, with no liability • No role in creating content • No opportunity to review content

Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995) – Anonymous user of Prodigy’s “Money Talk” bulletin board says a securities firm was a “cult of brokers who either lie for a living or get fired.” – Same result as Cubby? – Court finds this case is different, because Prodigy “held itself out to the public … as controlling the content of its computer bulletin boards.”

The natural lesson to be drawn from Cubby and Stratton-Oakmont?  If you control content, you will be liable.

Read more here: http://www.slideshare.net/jbenton/rob-bertsche-on-the-digital-millennium-copyright-act-and-reader-comments