This presentation examines some of the new laws that affect the liability risks faced by online service providers that rely in part or in whole on information posted or otherwise provided by third parties, both with respect to issues associated with liability for defamatory information and to infringement issues.
In this presentation we are going to consider first the most important areas of liability for distribution of third party content. These laws pre-date the Internet and continue in force. We will then consider liability for third party content under the most important of those laws. Finally, we will consider how two relatively new federal laws, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) change the law of liability for third party content, and will also examine a European counterpart. Along the way we will consider the risks intermediaries run and how practically both under the old law and the current law they may seek to reduce them.
Few, if any, of the specific legal issues information service providers face in providing information on the Internet are new. Most are old issues that have assumed new or different importance because the Internet has changed the quantity, speed and geographic scope of information distribution. A few examples of how the Internet has changed things quickly come to mind. Public information that was available only when looked up in a courthouse is now much more public when it can be consulted online. Republication of articles, which was a common practice in early 19th century magazines, takes on a whole different scope when the number of articles republished goes from dozens to millions. International distribution which before the Internet was unusual is now the rule.