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Netting More Lawsuits

Judge Judy, get ready. A recent survey suggests that the Internet will cause more libel lawsuits in the near future.

The survey, developed by The Affiliates, a legal staffing company, found that 68 percent of the attorneys surveyed anticipate that as a result of increased Internet usage, the rate of libel actions will rise over the next three years.

Two-hundred attorneys with the nation's 1,200 largest law firms were asked, "In the next three years, how do you think the Internet will affect the rate of libel lawsuits filed?" Eleven percent responded that lawsuits will increase significantly, 57 percent said they will increase somewhat, 14 percent predicted no change, and 18 percent didn't know. None of the participants expected the number to decrease, the survey also found.

"While the Internet has become a major communications channel for both business and personal use, it is still in its infancy with regard to formalized regulation," said Kathleen Call, executive director of The Affiliates. "More libel actions continue to be filed as the courts determine how existing legislation and First Amendment issues apply to the online world."

Call added that this trend will likely continue into the new millennium, which is underscored by the fact that none of the attorneys surveyed anticipate Internet use to result in a reduced number of libel actions.

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