Before you give your hard-earned money to Gary Groth and Kim Thompson for their recently announced Fantagraphics Legal Defense Fund, you should know a few facts about publishing companies and their insurance obligations. Fact #1: It is highly unlikely that a company the size of Fantagraphics isn’t covered by a standard publishers insurance policy for lawsuits precisely like the one they now find themselves entangled in with author Harlan Ellison.
While it is rare when a publisher is found liable for incitement or negligent publication, there have been certain well-publicized instances where publishers have been forced to pay damages resulting from the content contained in their publications. For instance, the publisher of Soldier of Fortune was held liable for the death caused by a "hit man" following the magazine’s publication of an advertisement for a professional mercenary. Speech may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t give you the right to yell, "Poker game!" in the middle of a crowded firehouse. For instance, speech designed to incite lawlessness isn’t protected by the First Amendment. Neither is slander. When slander is written, that’s called libel.