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Bloggers: Don’t Get Sued

A couple of weeks ago I attended an Own-IT event all about the legal side to blogging. I was introduced to the event by Improbulus and a huge thanks there as it turned out to be a very educational evening.

It started with a presentation from Dan at MindCandy and then moved on to a chap called Robert Lands from legal firm Finers Stephens Innocent LLP . (Incidentally Robert, the invitation to speak at the London Bloggers Meetup still stands. If you’re interested do please let me know when you’re available).

I found Robert’s presentation very engaging and his relaxed style made it easy listening. No disrespect to the legal profession, but they are not known for their humour..

So what are the top 10 tips I took away from Robert’s presentation**

2. Yes you can get fired if you blog about your job, employer or other employees, even if you change the names involved. If it’s possible for readers to interpret what you’ve written as being about your employer, you’ve had it.. and there are plenty of examples of this.

3. As a blogger you are seen by the law as a professional journalist and publisher. Therefore anything you write about a person or company in a defamatory way leaves you open to being sued for libel (this is more relevant in the UK than the US as apparently we have tighter controls on freedom of speech).

4. If your server is in India how can I be sued by someone in the US? Well it seems you can, the law of the land where your media is consumed is most important. So in the understanding that nobody knows the laws of every land, you might want to add a ‘terms of use’ page to your site stating something like ‘if you read this blog you agree to be bound by the laws of (your home country)…..’ or words to that effect. Contact your local legal beagle for advice on this, or if you’re in the UK contact Finers Stephens Innocent LLP.http://www.fsilaw.com/.

5. If someone takes a disliking to the content on your blog / web 2.0 site, probably the first you will know about it is when you get a letter asking you to take down the content. It might help to have a page on your site with “Notice and Take Down Policies” i.e. telling people how you will deal with any complaint.

6. With copyright, you can get done for linking to a site that infringes someone else’s copyright. Incredible if you ask me, but I don’t set the rules. So be careful what content and blogs you link to as they may be putting you at risk. It’s called ‘making available’.

7. Don’t ever blog about the intellectual property you are generating at work e.g. technology you are developing for your employer, or content you are writing. This will land you in hot water as they will own all this content and you giving it away is not a good thing. Equally, make sure your own employees know your policy here.

8. If you are publishing content written by others, either who you have paid or not, make it clear who owns the content. Get it down on paper with each writer to avoid any problems later on with intellectual property rights.

9. If you write about a company don’t be tempted to include a copy of their logo in your post (I’ve done this a lot). If the company doesn’t like your content you could be done for things like Dilution of the brand, or incorrect usage of a Trade Mark.

10. remember, you are seen by the law as a professional journalist, so you should be prepared to be treated as one. Get some legal advice or do some research so you understand your legal position, before it’s too late.

So there you go. If you haven’t realised why I started on point 2, it’s because point 1. is below. Hope all that was helpful.

** disclaimer. These comments do not constitute legal advice and you should consult a qualified legal practitioner before using any of this advice (point number 1. do not offer advice you are not qualified to give..)

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    Comments (46)

    1. Guillermo

      February 9, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      This is a brilliant article.

      I do know a guy at my company that was indeed sacked and sued for posting pictures of the company’s facilities and blogging about parts of his job he shouldn’t be blogging about…

      It’s just common sense…

    2. sharron scriven

      January 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Really that is very good topic for blogging. Thanks.

    3. simply.food

      January 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      This is indeed A VERY informative post and I will DEFINITELY take advise about some of the points you have raised. Thanks for the meetup yesterday, it was my first but will surely attend others.

    4. mikeh

      December 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      I like #8. I see this happening all of the time. Good job writing his article!!!

    5. Julius Veres

      August 24, 2010 at 8:10 am

      Superb. It’s the same here in Washington. Can be extremely amusing, but that’s how it is in this day and age.

    6. Contact Form

      August 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm

      I am just making a blog related to this. If you agree, I would like to use some of your content. And with full refernce of course. Thanks in advance.

      - Andre

    7. Canada Pardons

      January 7, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      Yes i would agree that #2 & #7 should be common sense.

      But many of these offenders probably thought that “oh, no one reads my blog anyway, so I’m OK”

    8. Tyrel Hough

      September 22, 2009 at 5:48 am

      Pretty crazy that there is a whole new set of rules now that social media and blogging is now main stream. Came pretty quick but it’s amazing how it all has caught on!

    9. Free Acne Information

      August 31, 2009 at 6:27 am

      There’s always been a gray cloud looming over my head in respect to legalities. What I do know is that online crimes have largely gone unpunished, primarily domain theft. I think we finally had our first arrest for domain theft a few weeks ago actually.

    10. Scary Videos

      August 17, 2009 at 2:18 am

      If they ever start enforcing the laws in connection with #6, there will be a tidal wave of lawsuits…please…in the states linking to websites that abuse copyright is common place. Just take YouTube for example. Youtube would have a serious problem on their hands. I guess Google’s war chest of cash is enough to intimidate even the US Justice Department…

    11. john

      August 12, 2009 at 4:06 am

      Anyone can easily stolen online information but you have given away good legal info.

    12. Cathy @ 3 at 1 Copying

      July 29, 2009 at 5:30 am

      Well I have certainly learn’t something here, I had no idea that one can get sued for being a blogger even if you are in a different country, I did know that one can get fired if you complain about your boss and work via a blog or even on Face Book, this happened somewhere in England where a woman was off sick and she when on face book and co workers saw her status and her bad mouthing the company she was then fired.

    13. Zen Quotes

      June 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

      I am new to blogging and this stuff sounds scary, its great though i came accross this post, because its very important information.

      Thanks

    14. Gareth

      June 5, 2009 at 8:32 am

      You don’t seem to understand. You can credit the author as much as you like, but if you don’t have permission it is still wrong. Why should someone who has done no work get rewards from high Google rankings and visitors, and consequently affiliate/adsense revenue from what is effectively stolen material? It shouldn’t be good for him, because if its good for him as well as you, it would be better for you if it wasn’t good for him.

    15. Rohit

      April 15, 2009 at 11:55 am

      HI,
      I want to say people share their view by blogging as they do not have time to arrange a meeting and share about that. And blogging is also time effective. U can easily write something with in 1 hour… and if u will ask about copying the content..I’ll say if others are getting benefited from that then why to worry. Bloggers main motive is to to get name,fame and people should appreciate the work. If some one is copying ur writing and saying that he had referred from ur site then it is good for u as well for him also. If u say Logo copying then I’ll say company is getting benefited from this…

      here u see there is place to comment why?? to share our view…then why a blogger or commenter should be sued.

    16. Wireless Network Setup Guy

      March 8, 2009 at 9:54 pm

      These are very useful points for those who write their own blogs and are not familiar with all the intellectual property laws. I personally didn’t know about possibility of getting sued and company images on the web pages before today.

    17. workers compensation audit

      February 18, 2009 at 3:07 am

      So now we’ve created another niche for lawsuits. If the big boys don’t like us they can just shut us down with some legal action. Ridiculous.

    18. Kirsten Mason

      February 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm

      Most of the points are just common sense. Give credit where it is due. #6 was very surprising to me. Great information for a new blogger like myself.

    19. Jason

      January 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

      Wow…thats actually pretty scary. It is amazing how easily you can be sued these days. I am always careful not to attack people in my posts, it can come back to haunt you.

    20. Toronto personal injury

      January 6, 2009 at 7:16 am

      ill disclaim point no 1 at the end.

    21. Washington DC Attorney

      December 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm

      A must read for any serious blogger. Copyright infringement is a serious crime – be careful.

    22. chris

      November 24, 2008 at 8:39 pm

      To clarify my above comment I was contacted by lawyers representing ROLEX.

    23. chris

      November 19, 2008 at 10:52 pm

      Don’t forget about purchasing domains that are protected by trademark law. This happened to me a few times and it was really annoying to find that I had absolutely no legal footing to stand on at all. I had a site called rolexnow.info and I was contacted by the lawers, Rabinovich, Rabinovic and Rabinovich!!!

      No way in hell I was going to take on three jewish lawyers from NY!!

    24. Clearwater Florida Divorce

      November 7, 2008 at 4:51 pm

      Interesting information. Never knew about this. Thanks for sharing. Blogs are a taking over the internet – it’s important to know the ins and outs.

    25. bob

      October 19, 2008 at 12:29 am

      May I also add if you don’t know whether or not what you are doing is legal you should always seek the advice of others. Whether it is a knowledgeable friend, read lawyer or forum like http://www.internetlawforums.com to ask your question. Beats getting sued over something stupid.

    26. law man

      September 15, 2008 at 2:32 am

      Lol I like the disclaimer for point #1 at the end. Real good advice here and a must read for any blogger.

    27. Guinness Gifts

      September 14, 2008 at 3:49 pm

      I can’t believe you can get done for linking to someone elses infringement. Surely the copyright owner should be going after whoever is putting the content online instead of the people who are linking to it.

      Is this the same in the UK?

    28. Monavie

      August 24, 2008 at 5:05 pm

      Been looking for a long time for information like this. Copywrite laws scare the you know what out of me.

    29. Billy Bangkok

      August 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm

      Martin,

      What do you define as common sense? I know of people blogging in Thailand who are scared to write about certain subjects like corruption for fear of not only what might happen to them legally but what might happen to them physically.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Thailand for all it’s messed up stuff as much as the next guy but it is not a open press sort of place. Even Thai Visa forums will remove anything that is too negative about Thailand for fear that the gov will shut them down.

      BBKK

    30. Martin in Thailand

      August 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm

      I seem to be so lucky to sit in Thailand, with my server in Thailand too. As long as I don’t put any dirty pics online, or get involved in local politics, and apply some common sense, I think I’m out of danger here.

      However #9 seems to be an issue here too, if local big companies are involved.

    31. Injury Claims

      July 29, 2008 at 2:41 pm

      I like what you did with comment number 1, you had me as I was about to leave a sarky comment saying “hey you missed out number 1″

    32. Monavie

      July 25, 2008 at 9:31 pm

      Those are all things I wouldn’t think about, like using someones logo in a post where you mention them. I would have thought that would be nice, but I’ll be careful in the future. I think the numbers 2 and 7 should be a no brainer for most people. I would hope so anyway!

    33. Blogging Tips And Tricks

      June 2, 2008 at 2:26 am

      So many rules, so little time :(

    34. George Lindemann Jr

      April 4, 2008 at 4:00 am

      http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/wsas/departments/journalism/faculty/rosenberg.html – CUNY Prof. Geanne Rosenberg has put up an online course for bloggers and media practitioners with the http://www.kcnn.org/legal_risk – 10 things you need to know to stay out of court.

    35. James Blake

      March 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

      I am trying to find some interesting information about cool blogs and blogs owners and here I find first of my looking :) May be and the second :)

    36. Toronto Dedicated Servers

      March 13, 2008 at 6:12 am

      We are still in the early stages of the web and each case is different. I can see many of these laws being set in stone for the entire world to follow.

    37. brackets

      March 1, 2008 at 11:40 pm

      I am new to blogging, and I have to admit reading the rules which will keep me out of trouble make it all seem confusing. Many of the rules seem to be broken by bloggers on a regular basis. I guess I don’t worry too much about it, I just keep blogging.

    38. Expat

      March 1, 2008 at 9:03 am

      Hmm.. I’m in a puzzle. There are so many points for blogger which should not be done.. Linking with some site or posting about something is becoming so hard.

      Blogging is becoming so hard.

    39. Phil the Plumbing Expert

      February 26, 2008 at 6:55 am

      Online information can be easily stolen. I think of us should be responsible to deal with this. But is there a law as of the present in terms of stealing for online properties? :)

    40. christian

      February 26, 2008 at 3:56 am

      I can never understand legal matters. I took many computer science and logic classes in College, and always excelled in them. However I also had to take a few legal courses. I barely passed both of them with a D. To me, once you get into complex legal matters, the laws don’t seem to make much sense.

      It seems to me that laws often favor companies, as opposed to individuals. Copyright and Intellectual Property laws are an example of this. Sure, individuals can have these things, but it is much harder for individuals to obtain these things, and also protect them because of the amount of money that lawsuits cost.

    41. Welland Apartments

      February 25, 2008 at 4:33 am

      In Canada, we are allowed to download as much music as we want, it is completely legal. However, it is illegal to upload music and share it with others, which is perfectly fine by everyone here. We take and don’t share.

      As far as linking goes, I believe most lawyers will contact you with a notice to remove the infringing material first before any lawsuit. As long as you remove it immediately and it’s not something you do often, I don’t ever see it going to court.

    42. Andy Bargery

      February 24, 2008 at 6:01 am

      Some interesting stuff hey. I was as surprised as you three when I heard that you could get done for linking to someone who has infringed copyright.

      I guess an analogy would be if you have a friend who makes his entire music back catalogue available on LimeWire and you broadcast this to the world. Not only are you telling everyone he’s doing it and therefore promoting it for him, but you also make money from it for example through Google ads on your blog…

    43. Handyblogger

      February 23, 2008 at 5:43 pm

      it’s already publicly available to anyone with a browser I’m puzzled as to how linking to it is a legal issue. I’ll have to read some more about it, scary.

    44. promos

      February 23, 2008 at 3:15 am

      6 is the strangest one of the bunch. If it’s already publicly available to anyone with a browser I’m puzzled as to how linking to it is a legal issue. I’ll have to read some more about it, scary.
      8 holds true for any agreement but is good information here. 9 should also be common sense but I see lots of blogs using logos – probably without permissions. Same goes for pictures.

      Disconcerting but excellent article – I appreciate all your hard work.

    45. Niagara Falls Blog

      February 22, 2008 at 11:36 pm

      I have read in the past about people being sued for embedding YouTube videos that break copyright laws. I found this quite odd that the blogger could be held liable when after all, embedding is only a link.

      We are still in the early stages of the web and each case is different. I can see many of these laws being set in stone for the entire world to follow.

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