In Box

Not-So-Cheap Talk

The Internet is increasingly the first place people turn for information. Health-related Web sites, for example, are now the third most popular online destination. But what if information found on the Internet causes harm? Is someone held responsible? Not under current U.S. product liability laws. They don’t classify information as a "product." Some experts believe ...

The Internet is increasingly the first place people turn for information. Health-related Web sites, for example, are now the third most popular online destination. But what if information found on the Internet causes harm? Is someone held responsible?

Not under current U.S. product liability laws. They don’t classify information as a "product." Some experts believe that’s about to change. "Our society is totally dependent on information," says doctor turned author-filmmaker Michael Crichton. Soon, he predicts, "we’re going to have product liability for information."

Others agree with Crichton’s prediction. "The law is already having to adjust," says Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain. "In a world of bloggers… it’s much easier for unfiltered individual views, advice, and claims to find their way to millions of people. The only thing that hasn’t created serious legal whiplash yet is that individuals usually aren’t worth suing." But blogging and other Web sites offering advice are fast becoming big business — meaning Internet talk may not always be so cheap.

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