Sunday, April 24, 2005

Is Blogging A Liberal Art?

I once had a Greek landlord, a few decades ago, one who had a penchant for suing people. His litigiousness, in fact, knew few if any bounds. He never sued me because I was usually far enough in arrears on my rent as to be useful on an ongoing basis as an unremunerated property manager, occasional paper server and blue moon propagandist. My extended exposure to the liberal arts had revived feudal notions of noblesse oblige that added value to my worth as a mere tenant.

One of the parties sued during my vassalage was a law firm, whose fee for a suit my landlord won was more than twice the amount of the settlement. He lost the suit against the law firm that had represented him, but appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and won, claiming that the state's consumer protection act could and should be applied to the practice of the state's legal profession.

I mention the suit here because the case established a legal precedent and I'm inclined to wonder if the basis on which it was argued might not have some implications for bloggers to the extent that blogging may be construed as a "liberal art or learned profession". The state supreme court asserted exemption from consumer protection provisions on the basis of the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act as a "learned profession" with the prerogative of establishing and maintaining standards and discipline for its own practitioners, but it held that certain aspects of legal practice, particularly advertising, consist in the sale of services that do constitute "trade or commerce" and may require consumer protection when issues of "public interest" are at stake.

I'm certainly no lawyer, but as bloggers everyday are becoming more and more viable in purveying information that does impact the public interest and, to the extent that it is consumed by the public, one must wonder, do consumer protection rules apply and do those bloggers fortunate enough to make blogging their livelihood need Sherman Anti-Trust protections if consumers can demonstrate they've been misled?

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