Is this legal?greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I have a Year 2000 newsletter which I would like to distribute to my neighbors anonymously. Is it illegal to distribute literature without identifying the author?
-- Amy Leone (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1998
As long as you don't put it in the mailbox you are OK, we get anon neo nazi stuff (a** holes) thrown on the driveway once a year or so, the sheriff says they aren't breaking any laws.
PS, 'here' is FL, call the sheriff where you live to be sure beyond any doubt. Also I beleive that Mark Twain was perhaps someone other than Mark Twain ;-)
-- Uncle Deedah (email@example.com), August 13, 1998.
Amy, I get political, religious and various types of flyers stuck in my door all the time. You can do it as long as you don't use the mail box. Might be a good idea to talk to your post office anyway.
-- Dave (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1998.
You'd better watch what you put in the newsletter. You can still be sued for libel even if you don't identify yourself.
-- anon (email@example.com), August 13, 1998.
I don't think Anon is correct in saying you can be sued for libel. What are you libel for? Slander? You have freedom of speech AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS! It's true that it is illegal to distribute anything in a mail box, but not on someone's door unless there is a sign that says "no trespassing." People have the same freedom of throwing it away as you do distributing it.
-- bardou (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 14, 1998.
Freedom of the press does not eliminate being subject to suit for libel. Newspapers and magazines are frequently sued for libel. While freedom of the press provides protections from advance censorship, it does not protect from the consequences of libel. Note that Sidney Blumenthal was recently suing Matt Drudge (the Drudge Report) for libel for stating that Sidney Blumenthal was guilty of spousal abuse. Matt Drudge's defense was not that he had freedom of the press (because that wasn't relevant) but that he believed the statement to be true at the time he published it, and that he publicly retracted the statement and apologized a couple of days later as soon as he found out it was not true. Another factor that enters into the liability has to do with whether the reporter made the statements with malicious intent. <<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>
-- Dan Hunt (email@example.com), August 14, 1998.
I checked with an attorney specializing in 1st Amendment issues, and she agreed with most of what has been said here. There is no law preventing you from stating opinions in either written or verbal form without stating your identity. However, you are still bound by all libel and slander statutes, and it really isn't all that hard to determine the true source of most anonymous works if someone should decide to sue. Basically, you can't make negative statements about another if you know those statements to be false. To be safe, you should always include information that is independently verifiable, at least as to source, when making any negative statements about people or organizations.
Furthermore, placing leaflets into mailboxes is indeed a federal crime, excepting of course that you affix proper postage and let the Postal Service deliver them for you. Also, she raised an interesting point about having newletters and leaflets just depositied on your doorstep or even tucked inside a screen door: There have been successful prosecutions of such efforts under anti-littering laws.
Her advice: mail them.
-- Paul Neuhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 14, 1998.