Big Media Liability for Consumer Generated Media – I am not a lawyer

To Steve’s question “is big media liable for hosted CGM?” – The first step is to acknowledge that hosted CGM is still a business transaction.  While no money may be changing hands, brand impressions are being made and influence definitely IS changing hands.  Any transaction of value needs rules and therefore has consequences (liability).

As a solution, perhaps an author-sponsorship-model using partnership agreements?  Somewhere between a limited liability corporation partnership agreement and a creative commons license.  IANAL so the actual structure of the document can be paraphrased as:

1) Media tries to remain objective so they can’t fully “endorse” a blogger, but they can and should provide a logo reflecting status to create social pressure for professionalism of the authored content.
2) Media provides some training, perhaps just an FAQ or guidelines on contributions. 
3) Authors acknowledge they have a point of view, but contribute in a professional manner and accept responsibility to check the facts.  Disclaim where they can’t check (pretty much the case now anyway).
4) Social network solution to evaluate the content contributions based on both the content itself and on peer review of the content.  Slashdot does this although that method may be too geeky for main stream bloggers.   

None of the above fully covers the liability issue, but it does go towards the “safe harbor” type training that companies conduct for HR issues.  If someone is guilty of sexual harassment, you are going to be fined, but if you have conducted safe harbor sexual harassment training for everyone in the company your fine is likely to be far less.  Your liability is less because you did educate everyone on what the rules are.  So MSM is probably liable to specify some standard for content shown on their branded site.

Either way it is just a matter of time before a published trackback post because a liability issue.  Do you feel lucky?