Legal Blog Watch points us to an interesting development:

A project spearheaded by the Media Bloggers Association will provide bloggers access to first-of-its-kind liability insurance along with free training in media law. The insurance program, called BlogInsure, will provide coverage for claims against bloggers involving defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. According to the MBA’s announcement, its members will be eligible to purchase liability insurance at a "significant discount." Offered through Media/Professional Insurance, a division of AXIS Insurance, the policy will cover costs and damages for claims against bloggers and will parallel coverage offered to tradition media organizations.

In conjunction with this announcement, the MBA has partnered with The Poynter Institute’s News University and the Berkman Center’s Citizen Media Law Project to create a free e-learning course on media law designed specifically for bloggers and other online publishers. Bloggers wishing to join the MBA and take advantage of its insurance program will be required to take this course and take a test on what they learn (and pay an MBA membership fee of $25). But the course is open to anyone to take, free of charge, by registering at News University.

It is usually good for everyone involved when previously uninsured parties become both insured and educated in how not to to cause damage in the first place.

Of course, there is a flip side: there will likely be a substantial increase in the number of defamation suits filed against bloggers.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? No. Given how truth is an absolute defense to defamation, and the burden rests with the plaintiff to prove falsity, defamation suits are by and large only filed in the most egregious cases, when a defendant knowingly lies about someone else and refuses to correct the mistake. As such, defamation suits serve an important counterbalance to the ease with which rumor and innuendo can spread in the modern age.

I think the real impact of this policy will be to provide costs of defense for generally honest bloggers, thereby protecting them from meritless suits filed solely to intimidate them into silence, suits which could crush (or at least distract) those without insurance coverage. And that’s a good thing.