Guest post: Do bloggers need to worry about defamation?

, posted: 7-Jun-2010 06:00

OPINION One of the benefits of blogging is the ability to swap information about good and bad products and services.  If your new HTPC setup works fantastically well, you can pass on that information to those who read your blog.  If something breaks down and the retailer or manufacturer provides hopeless repair service, you can quickly pass on that information too.

However, the more influential your blog becomes, the greater the risk that someone will be upset by your negative comments about their goods or services.  If your comments are damaging enough, they may look to legal action to require you to remove negative comments and to require you to compensate them for lost profits caused by your negative comments.  One legal action they might choose is defamation.

What is defamation?
In New Zealand, the basic rule is that you can't communicate defamatory statements about a person or company to any other person.  A statement may be defamatory if it (explicitly or implicitly):
  • may tend to lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.
  • is false and discredits the person.
  • it is made without justification and is calculated to injure the person's reputation.
Examples include calling someone a criminal, dishonest, a liar, a hypocrite, a coward, a cheat.  More relevantly it might be defamatory if you call someone incompetent, unskilled, unqualified or unprofessional at what they do.

To be defamation, the statement must be communicated to a third person.  Publication can be in spoken or written form.

Who is liable for defamatory statements?
Every time the statement is republished a separate act of defamation occurs.   In addition, every person involved in the publication is liable for the defamation.  If you have ever blogged negatively about someone else's goods or services, there is a good chance that what you said was defamatory.  If their sales suffer because of your statements, they may be able to sue you for defamation.  If you have quoted someone else's blog that commented negatively on someone else's goods or services, there is a good chance that what you did was defamatory.  If you allow comments, and someone comments on your blog post and that comment is defamatory you are probably also liable for any loss caused by that comment.

When can you make defamatory statements?
There are a number of defences you might be able to raise if someone accuses you of defamation.  The two most likely to be relevant to a blog post are truth and honest opinion.

If you can prove that the substance of what you said (including any innuendoes or possible inferences of what you said) is true then the defamation claim will fail.   The plaintiff is not required to prove that what you said is false.  You must prove that what you said is true.  Sometimes you may not have evidence to prove what you said even though it was true.  In that case, you could not use the defence of truth.

Another possible defence is that what you said expressed your honest opinion.  To rely on this defence you must show that what you said was presented as your opinion rather than a statement of fact.  The opinion must be your genuine opinion.  You must also show that the opinion you gave was based on facts that were stated in your blog post, and that those facts were true.  You cannot invent facts and then comment on them.  This means that in writing a negative blog post, as well as stating your negative opinion, you should be careful to accurately state the facts that you relied on to reach your negative opinion.

Blogs are an expression of freedom of speech in New Zealand, but increasingly they are also a source of income for the blogger.  The more commercialised blogging becomes, the more you need to consider writing in a way that avoids the risk of being sued.

Note:  This post gives only general information, and should only be used as a guide.  It should not be used or relied upon as a substitute for detailed advice. Special considerations apply to individual fact situations.

test Bio: Kris Morrison is an associate with Christchurch law firm Parry Field, whose work focuses on commercial/business law, property, trusts and intellectual property.

Putting the BP Oil spill in perspective

, posted: 31-May-2010 06:00

It's been all over the news.  A blown out oil well is causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history, in the Gulf of Mexico.  The map below shows the size of the oil spill:

On Saturday I saw a tweet for a website that allows you to overlay the oil spill with something more local.  It certainly helps you put this massive ecological disaster into perspective, when shown in front of Godzone:

Quite amazing.

Samsung’s 3D LED TVs

, posted: 27-May-2010 01:10

Q: Would you be interested in a Geekzone evening where you can see, in person, the 3D offerings from the three manufacturers featured in my blog? I may be able to organise such an event, please show your interest here (poll).

Continuing on my adventures in 3D land, last Thursday I was invited to Newton, Auckland to the launch of Samsung's 3D offerings.  Having already seen what Sony and Panasonic are bringing to the market, I have a good grasp on what the possibilities are in this space.

Most of the media in attendance were impressed with the 3D LED TV, however I wasn't as excited about this one.  To Samsung's credit, this TV is already available in retailers - to compare, at their demonstrations Sony were yet to have stock, and Panasonic only had one unit in the whole country!  Being an LED, the TV is very bright, and ridiculously thin, capable of easily hanging on a wall like a picture frame; the glasses are also small and light, though I'm not sure they would fit easily over prescription glasses.

This is where my praise of Samsung ends.  The viewing angle to see the 3D is not very wide or high, and picture is not that clear, and you can see a slight ghosting of the image as action in the movie speeds up.  It's not that it's bad 3D, it's just that there are better offerings out there.

A good effort from Samsung, however if I was to buy a 3D TV, I would go for a Panasonic.

Photos from the night are on my Flickr account.

Mighty Ape heads over the ditch

, posted: 27-Apr-2010 19:57

What happens when you take Simon Barton, the creator of Gameplanet, add a dash of Dylan Bland, the co-creator of Zillion and throw books, DVDs and toys into the mix? You end up with a monkey of a website.

I've always been a big fan of Simon and Dylan's take on online auctions with Zillion.  Instead of throwing together a TradeMe clone (as every other site was trying, and failing to), they sat down and worked on improving the auction process, streamlining many of the otherwise mundane tasks sellers were having to do to complete sales.  It was interesting to see the incumbent TradeMe implement features that Zillion already had; Zillion had changed from being the followers, to the followed.

Their success online has continued with MightyApe, an online store that sells just about anything your heart desires - books, DVDs, CDs, and other geek electronics.

MightyApeThe site is easy to use, beautifully designed, and from the buzz on Twitter, their delivery processes work like a well-oiled machine.  It was only a matter of time before they branched out into other countries, and last Friday they touched down in Australia.

I got in touch with Che Kamariera, the Marketing Gorilla at Mighty Ape and after bribing him with a few bananas, he answered my questions below.

When did you decide to go into Australia, and how will the site differ there?

We've been planning to launch in Australia since the beginning of the year. We offer our customers in NZ a world-class service and we want our Australian customers to have that same experience. The site is very much the same except with Australian branding. The main differences will be the Australian pricing obviously and the product categories currently differ a little - we do not currently offer toys, computers, or electronics in Australia at this stage.

What does Mighty Ape bring to the marketplace, over and above the incumbents?

This may sound cliche but we listen to our customers. Many of our customers like to communicate with us (or about us) on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. We have embraced social networking because of this. We conversate with our customers online and listen to what they are saying about us and our competitors. It provides us with valuable information, and also makes them feel appreciated. We had a one day sale recently called the Mighty Ape Marathon which evolved from a suggestion from one of our Twitter followers.

We also really pride ourselves on our customer service. We deliver on our promises, ie. if we say we are going to do something for our customers, we do it. Like I said these may sound cliche, but they are marketing basics that we feel are often overlooked.

Does the Australian market differ from NZ, and how will you overcome these challenges?

Kiwis have a lot in common with Australians, but we also have our own unique quirks too. Australian tastes will differ in some ways and I imagine we'll notice a bit of that in our DVD and music categories. For example Australia is very rock music oriented, genres such as hip hop and R&B that perform well in NZ aren't as prominent in Australia. And imagine trying to explain Billy T. James's humour to an Australian. Overcoming these challenges is a matter of anticipating and recognising the unique quirks and cultural differences between the two markets. Listening to feedback from our customers will help in this area. In fact we've already had someone comment on Twitter about Kiwi content on the new Australian store. We also have a staff member based in Australia who will help us to ensure that we are catering to Australian consumer tastes.

Does MA have a presence in Australia, or will everything be shipped from NZ?

We have a small office in Australia with one staff member who will look after returns and after-hour calls. All the orders from Mighty Ape Australia will be shipped from NZ. Australian customers will pay a flat-rate of $4.90 (AUD) for shipping anywhere in the country and our shipping times will be comparable to our Australian based competitors. Believe it or not, it is often faster to ship from NZ to Australia than to ship within Australia. We will open a distribution centre in Australia when we can be sure that we can provide faster shipping to our Australian customers than we currently do.

Any plans for launching in other countries?

At present there are no immediate plans to launch stores outside of New Zealand and Australia. If and when the time is right we would love to expand the business further.

If you've never used Mighty Ape, I highly recommend them, and if you're one of our convict Australian cousins, they are now local to you. Check out or follow @MightyApeAU on Twitter.

Long suffering with Telecom

, posted: 26-Apr-2010 09:00

It seems the discussion about issues with Telecom's BigTime broadband plan has achieved a record status here on Geekzone (from Mauricio's Twitter account):


Threads of this nature are common on Geekzone, and I'm not picking on Telecom as it happens to all the Internet Service Providers (ISP).  What continues to amaze me is the complaints that users will post, while still paying the ISP for service, and how long it takes for them to swap to another provider!

This doesn't seem to apply in any other facet of life: if a cafe gives you bad service, you find an alternative for your next caffeine fix; if a mechanic does a poor job servicing your car, you seek recommendations from friends as to who to use next time; if a rental car company gives you the run around you seek a better one.

The argument of term contracts isn't even valid.  Speed issues aren't seen on the other Telecom plans, and you are allowed to change your plan once a month for no charge.  Why is it that so many users have stuck with this plan, and not ended their suffering by changing plans/ISPs?

The mind boggles.

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New Zealand

I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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