Volokh on Blogs, Libel, and Insurance
Over at the VC, Eugene Volokh has a very thoughtful post about blogs, libel, and insurance. He notes: “It turns out that homeowner’s insurance policies, and possibly also some renter’s insurance policies, generally cover libel lawsuits.” The “policies generally don’t cover punitive damages, but they do cover both compensatory damages and litigation defense costs.” However, Volokh notes:
[T]hese policies generally explicitly exclude liability related to “business pursuits.” The exclusion and the definition of “business pursuits” may vary from policy to policy, so check yours (and again check both the homeowners’ insurance and your umbrella policy, if you have it). Still, I’m told that most policies just say “business pursuits,” and sometimes define them as referring to a “trade, occupation, or profession.”
If your blog is entirely noncommercial — you neither have ads nor solicit donations for a tip jar, and you don’t systematically use your blog as primarily promotion for your business — then you should be covered for libel lawsuits arising out of your blog posts, because the blogging wouldn’t be a business pursuit. (Possible exception: If your primary occupation is a professor or a journalist, then even noncommercial posting on topics related to your specialty may conceivably be seen as part of your main occupational “business pursuit”; I know of no precedents one way or the other about this.)
But if you make some money out of it, even a small amount, then in many states you probably won’t be covered.
Check out the entire post for useful advice on blogger liability issues.