What Is The CDA And How Can It Help You And Your Company Avoid Liability?

BY OLIVER HERZFELD, FORBES IP COUNSEL, NOVEMBER 20, 2012 - In general, publishers of books, newspapers and magazines are legally liable for the content of the materials they publish, while book stores, newsstands and other distributors of publications are immune from liability for such content. The rationale behind the legal principle is that publishers can research, review and edit the content they publish whereas distributors often cannot easily do so for the content they distribute. With the advent of the Internet, however, the line between publisher and distributor became blurred. For example, if a company encourages users to submit content to its website, comments to its Facebook page or videos to its YouTube channel, is it deemed to be a publisher or a distributor? Early court decisions in this area arrived at unintuitive results. In particular, a company that made no effort to filter defamatory content submitted by its users was held to be an immune distributor, but another company that actively filtered and edited defamatory content in good faith was held liable as a publisher for failing to screen and remove all such unlawful content.