Blogging and the Law: A New Column at the Blog Herald

Filed as Features on April 4, 2011 3:02 pm

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Hello. My name is Jonathan Bailey. I’m the new guy here at the Blog Herald, once again, and I’m starting up a new column that will be running every Friday targeting the law and blogging. We’ll be tackling some of the major legal issues that bloggers face as they run their sites.

Many of you may already know me from the various sites I have either written for or currently write at. This includes a previous stint here at The Blog Herald, my ongoing Blogging Pitfalls column at BloggingPro, my hosting-related column at WhoIsHostingThis and, of course, my home site of Plagiarism Today, where I talk about copyright and plagiarism issues on the Web.

To be clear, I am not an attorney and nothing in any of my columns should be considered legal advice, but I have studied the law as it applies to mass media for over 12 years, come from a journalism background and have been studying copyright especially closely for over ten.

My goal with this column is to include a variety of pieces including general information pieces about how the law, in particular U.S. law, applies to blogging, legal news and rulings that might affect bloggers and also answer some of your questions as time permits.

With that in mind, here are just a few of the topic areas that this column will cover moving forward:

1. Copyright

Every blogger both creates new content and interacts with existing work as part of making their blog. Understanding both how to protect your work and obey the law when using other’s work is crucial, but extremely daunting at times.

This column will talk about copyright law and will include information on tracking your content, enforcing your work, licensing content and respecting the law when using the works of others. Hopefully this column will help make you a more savvy copyright citizen and empower you to make smarter decisions related to it.

2. Trademark

Trademark is an often-misunderstood area of intellectual property law that, for bloggers, primarily applies to domains, logos and site names. Designed to protect businesses from competitors (and others) creating confusion in the marketplace over their business name, goods and services, many bloggers misunderstand trademark law, its goals and how it affects them.

Just as trademark law is separate but related to copyright, the two may be mentioned in the same column from time-to-time here as well. However, they will primarily be discussed as separate areas of intellectual property law.

3. Defamation

Defamation law coves both libel, which deals with written and broadcast information, and slander, which deals predominantly with spoken words, and is an area of law that deals with statements, presented as truth, that are false and damage the reputation of a person, business, group, etc.

Defamation is rapidly becoming one of the most important areas of law to understand on the Web as libel suits are becoming increasingly common online, including some very controversial uses of the law.

Knowing where the boundaries of defamation lie is crucial for bloggers who want to stay safe legally online, but can be very difficult to know, especially with the growing importance of international libel litigation.

4. Privacy

Privacy law includes a variety of potential legal issues that cover the rights of an individual to keep certain facts about themselves out of the public light. This impacts bloggers both as people who might have their private lives intruded upon and as people who might do the intruding.

Bloggers need to be aware of the nature of privacy law, including why it can be extremely difficult to make a determination about what is and is not private information and understand some of the general rules that govern this area of law.

5. Community Admin Responsibilities

As a blogger, you are doing more than posting your work online, you’re also the head of a community of commenters and, possibly, forum users. However, by allowing others to post to your site, you have rights and responsibilities that are separate from those you have as the creator of original works.

Understanding what the law says about your community is just as important as understanding what it says about you as you can, at times, be held accountable for the latter as well.

6. General Legal Process/Procedure

Certain elements of the law such as jurisdiction, incorporation, etc. are vital for bloggers to understand and impact virtually every other area of the law. For example, knowing what country or state a lawsuit may be brought in is affects, literally, all of the above areas of the law and more.

Every once in a while, we’ll take time out to discuss these, often much thornier, issues of the law and how they can impact you and your site.

Answering Your Questions

Finally, this column will be heavily focused on answering your questions and meeting your specific needs. As such, I invite you to ask any questions you may have about blogging in the law, either by leaving a comment below or, if you wish to remain private, submitting them via my contact form with the words “Blog Herald Question” in the subject.

Even if I can not answer your question in a column, I will do my best to write you directly and answer it that way if I can.

Once again though, please bear in mind that I am not a lawyer and nothing in this column or outside of it should be considered legal advice.

Bottom Line

As you can see, we have a lot of ground to cover in this column and I’m looking forward to getting started this Friday.

However, where we begin will largely depend on what you want to know about so feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line to let me know what you want to this column to focus on over the next few weeks.

My goal is to make this a column that responds to the needs of the bloggers who read this site and help them understand the legal issues that matter most to them. However, to do that, I need your feedback and your input so feel free to leave it below.

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