20 Legal Facts Every Blogger Should Know

Courthouse Image

Courthouse ImageWhen it comes to legal issues, most bloggers are either unaware or misinformed about the laws that they operate under. Unless you studied to be a journalist, publisher or a lawyer, you most likely didn’t get an overview of mass media law. That’s unfortunate because now, with blogging and social media, everyone is a journalist and/or a publisher, at least from a legal perspective.

With that in mind, there is simply way too much to ever cover in one article. However, here is a brief overview of some of the facts that you need to know in order to stay safe online. Obviously, this won’t be in-depth and, if you want more information you should consult an attorney (or at least do further research).

But this should give you an idea of what you should be looking for and what questions you should be asking.

Also, it’s worth noting that these facts are based on U.S. law, if you are outside the country, obviously the situation is going to change.

On that note, here’s a look at 20 legal facts every blogger needs to know: [Read more…]

5 Ways Your Site is Probably Breaking the Law Right Now

Handcuffs Image

Handcuffs ImageMost sites don’t try to break the law. Only a few actively make an effort to violate any kind of law and most of those are generally shut down fairly quickly, either by aggressive hosts or, in worst-case scenarios, law enforcement.

But this doesn’t mean everyone is perfect either. Most sites, at the very least, bend the law and sometimes outright break it.

This isn’t because they are run by bad people but because of the nature of the law itself. Sometimes it’s poorly-written law that is almost impossible to not break (at least technically) and sometimes it’s lack of knowledge about the law itself.

So what are some of the ways you’re probably breaking the law online? There are too many to choose from but here are five you should definitely take a look at. [Read more…]

Does Google Really Know What’s Best for Your Blog?

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Some blog owners will read Google’s guidelines and take anything the company says as the rule of the internet.  And while many of the policies Google sets forth are good practices for any website, does it mean that we really have to follow every little thing the search engine company says we should do.  There are many cases in which something Google says is taboo is actually a very good idea for your particular blog and it might even be beneficial to your readers as well.

For instance, Google has stated that it is “evil” for you to run a blog contest in which you ask other blog owners to link back to your site as part of the entry of your contest.  They see this is a way of manipulating the search results, but it’s also just good practice to get other sites to link to you so people can find you through other blogs.  Getting backlinks is not just a good practice for getting a better ranking in the search engines.  It’s also a great source of traffic for your blog and you should be trying to get as many other blogs out there to link to your pages.

Since Google is the largest search engine on earth many people also assume that any guidelines the company lays down must be the law.  But no search engine is the police force of the internet.  So it really begs the question that if Google says something is wrong for you to do on your blog, but that same thing is really beneficial to your readers, what side do you take?  Should you just listen to Google and rob your readers of what they want just so you can stay in the good graces of Google? [Read more…]

Blogging, Privacy and the New Facebook

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Over the course of this column, we’ve talked a great deal about privacy, both legally and ethically, and how it intersects with blogging. We’ve looked at the problems with anonymous blogging, privacy and email and even some of the false privacy-related legal threats a blogger might face.

However, privacy is a very thorny issue, even more so than most areas of law online. The reason is that much of what we think of as privacy law is actually decided on a state level, meaning in the U.S. alone there is effectively 50 interpretations of privacy law. This says nothing, obviously, about the international implications.

But privacy issue for bloggers is about to get a lot thornier than even that, or at least a lot more visible. At its F8 conference, Facebook announced a new API that is going to make it easier for people to share more things with their Facebook friends, including sharing things that they did not decide, at least on an individual level, to put out there.

Combine this with its already-promised new buttons for websites, including “read”. “watch”, etc. and it’s easy to see how the issue of privacy will likely be brought into focus again for bloggers.

So, no matter what you think of the new Facebook features and tools, it’s important to be aware of the potential legal and ethical implications of using them and, to that end, it’s worth taking another look at privacy. [Read more…]

Blogger Finally Gets Design Improvements, Better Editing System

Blogger Screenshot

Blogger Screenshot

Google on Wednesday revealed massive changes to their Blogger system, including a new design and a much improved editing system. The announcement marks the first time in years that the company has released a major update to their blogging system.

Users willing to try out the new system should receive a pop-up announcement starting today when they log into their blogger accounts.

According to the company the new system is meant to look more like Google’s current aesthetic, while providing a simplified post editor that offers more features to keep users posting on the rather archaic blog platform.

The company has also announced a new “Overview” section which allows users to view recent traffic and blog comments for their Blogger based accounts.

According to Blogger Product Manager Chang Kim: [Read more…]

Tumblr Surpasses 13 Million Monthly Unique Visitors In U.S.

Tumblr Visitors Graph

Tumblr ScreenshotBlogging service Tumblr on Tuesday announced a new record number of unique visitors for a single month. According to site officials Tumblr scored 13.4 million unique visitors in the U.S. during the month of July.

If those numbers are correct that would mean a 218% increase in site visitors based on the same period one year earlier.

Analytic information firm comScore also shows that Tumblr has seen their most massive increase since inception from April to July where visitor counts increased by more than 5 million monthly uniques. [Read more…]

5 Responsibilities You Have as a Community Admin

Image of Community

Image of CommunityAs a blogger, you are more than just an author and content creator, you are also a community administrator, managing and encouraging interaction between your readers and visitors.

Though much of this community interaction you can’t control, namely all of the conversation that happens off your site (Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.), a lot of it does take place directly under your purview, including comments on your site, conversation on your Facebook page and so forth.

To be a successful blogger, you need a good community to survive and thrive. However, running a community also comes with a series of responsibilities, both ethical and legal, that you need to be aware of.

Simply put, being a community admin is far more than having a comment box open on your site and letting others post. There’s actually a great deal more to it, especially if you want to have a community that is both productive and on the right side of the law. [Read more…]

What To Do If You Get a Legal Threat Online

Threat Poster

Threat PosterThe Internet, for better or worse, is the largest meeting place to have ever existed in history. It’s a place where millions of people, from all backgrounds, can get together and exchange ideas, news, artwork and pictures of cats.

However, it’s inevitable that, with so many people in one “place” that there are going to be disagreements and some of them are going to get quite heated. Just as you don’t always get along with your “real world” neighbors you probably won’t get along with some of your virtual ones either and, also like physical world problems, virtual world ones also, at times, disintegrate into legal disputes.

So, if you blog long enough, especially if you routinely discuss or use work from other people on your site, there’s a chance that you’re going to be the subject of a legal threat.

For the unprepared, this can be one of the most terrifying experiences one can have online. Such threats often come with fears big legal bills, huge settlements and more. It’s pretty easy to paint a worst-case scenario that is either unrealistic or completely impossible.

Still, these are matters that should be taken seriously and knowing what to do is important. Though I’m not a lawyer and certainly can’t provide legal advice, there are steps that most attorneys advise you to take and I’ve outlined them below. [Read more…]

Why Blogging Can Relieve Stress

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I have always loved to read. This was because as a kid my grandmother would read me a fairytale every night. This was a nightly ritual that had to be followed or else I wouldn’t go to sleep. Whenever my family would go to the mall my mother would take me to the bookstore. With my love affair for books it’s no wonder I learned to love writing as well. In high school I used to keep a journal. At the end of each day I would narrate what happened on it. But I usually kept my entries short. As much as I enjoyed writing, doing it by hand can be tiring.

It was in college when I discovered the art of blogging. I was surfing online when I stumbled across a food blog. I realized it was something that I could do as well. So I decided to try it. I blogged for a month and I loved it! Blogging is not only fun it’s a great stress reliever as well.

Here are 3 reasons why blogging can relieve stress. [Read more…]

The Difference Between Law & Ethics in Blogging

Dogs on Leash Law

Dogs on Leash LawSocieties generally have two ways that they try to encourage “positive” or “good” behavior on its members, laws and ethics.

But while both are similar in that they are ways to punish or discourage unwanted behavior, they are radically different in both what they are and how they operate.

As a blogger, you find yourself operating in a variety of societies. This includes traditional ones such as your local community, your country and the world as a whole as well as digital ones such as the blogging community and the Internet community.

This has some fairly profound implications for the laws and ethics you have to wrangle with as you’re not only caught between the duality of the two elements themselves, but in the layers of often conflicting standards of all the societies you reach and are a part of.

To unravel this mess, we have to first take a look at the differences between law and ethics and understand how they each impact bloggers in slightly different, but very powerful, ways. [Read more…]