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May 13, 2011

5 Things to Check When Reading a Terms of Service

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With TwitPic recently finding itself in hot water over a terms of service change that prevented its users from reselling photographs they had uploaded using the service (their TOS has since been changed to slightly less controversial terms), there’s been a great deal of interest lately the terms we agree to when registering new accounts at various site and the time bombs that could be buried in there.

The truth is that very few people take the time to as much as skim the TOS before clicking “accept” and are completely unaware of what is in the legally binding contract they just “signed”. This has the potential to create major headaches down the road when and if these services decide to exploit their rights to their fullest.

So, if you’re motivated to be a little more careful with the terms you agree to, here is a quick primer on five critical things you want to check when accepting a new TOS. While, obviously, this isn’t a complete list, these are probably the things you probably want to look for first in order to best understand what it is you’re signing and what it might mean moving forward. read more

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April 29, 2011

The 3 Most Common Copyright Mistakes Bloggers Make

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Do OverCopyright is a notoriously confusing and complicated area of law, but one that also impacts nearly every part of our daily lives. As such, it is pretty much inevitable that well-intended people are going to make mistakes.

However, with copyright law, blunders can be very costly. In addition to the threat of a lawsuit, one can have their site shut down, access to some of their favorite services revoked and lose a lot of credibility. Even if none of those things comes to pass, a copyright dispute is still a major headache and one that most, if given the choice, would prefer to avoid.

As such, it’s important for bloggers to be aware of some of the more common copyright pitfalls that come from blogging and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

With that in mind, here are three of the most common copyright blunders bloggers make and what can be done to prevent yourself from falling into them. Fortunately, all are easy mistakes to see and avoid, if you know to look for them. read more

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April 22, 2011

What Bloggers Need to Know About Trademark Law

There are three major types of intellectual property law: Copyright, Patent and Trademark.

The distinction between the three can often be confusing and gray, but in general copyright protects artistic expressions (literature, movies, photos, music, etc.), patents protect ideas and inventions and trademark protects any “mark” associated with a business.

However, trademark is very different from other areas of intellectual property. You don’t run afoul of the law simply by copying the mark itself but, as a tradeoff, trademarks can protect a much wider variety of things that would not fall under any other area of protection.

Yet, at the same time, trademark often overlaps with copyright, especially when dealing with some logos, and there is a great deal of confusion between copyright and trademark in discussions online.

All in all, trademark is a thorny and often misunderstood area of intellectual property law that demands a closer look, especially if you routinely write about companies or use trademarks in your post.

So what do you need to know about trademarks? The basics are below.

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April 14, 2011

YouTube Launches “Copyright School” To Educate Offenders

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YouTube Copyright Center Cartoon CharacterYouTube has long had to deal with Copyright infringing members, however they are now taking a more proactive measure to educate those users about copyright infringement, launching what they call the “YouTube Copyright School.”

The program, a four and a half minute video in the style of a cartoon based PSA has now become required viewing for any site user who receives a copyright infringement notice from the world’s largest social video sharing website.

Watching the video (shown at the bottom of this post), you’ll quickly realized that it features characters from Happy Tree Friends, a popular YouTube video series. The video gives a quick rundown of copyright law and must be viewed before an infringing user can once again begin uploading videos to the site. After watching the video users are then required to take a short quiz about the content they just watched.

Along with the new video, YouTube has amended how they control copyright offenses. In the past users had a “permanent record” of violations, while users can now have one offense fully removed from their record by watching the video. Consider the new policy a “defensive driving class” type solution to copyright rule breaking.

YouTube is also launching a Copyright FAQ section, shown below: read more

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April 8, 2011

5 Copyright Facts Every Blogger Should Know

Copyright SymbolWhen it comes to blogging and the law, there is one area of the law that you pretty much can not avoid: Copyright.

Though you can avoid libel by never talking about anyone else, the same goes for privacy, and you can largely avoid trademark by being careful with your domain and not creating a business, it is impossible to blog and avoid copyright.

The reason is simple, every time you hit “Safe Draft” in WordPress, post a comment on another blog or take a photo for your site, you’ve created a copyrighted work and with that comes a set of rights and responsibilities you need to be aware of.

However, the issue of copyright is far too broad and far too complex to cover in any kind of depth in one column. So, in order to help bloggers who might not understand the law get some basic information, here are five copyright facts that you need to be aware of, all of which we will likely go into in future columns.

Bear in mind that these facts are based on U.S. law and, in some cases, may vary in your country. You can also read more about these facts, and other basic copyright information, on the U.S. Copyright Office website. read more

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April 4, 2011

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

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: read more

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December 14, 2009

5 Legal Issues to Watch in 2010

The blogging legal climate is one of constant change. Though certain issues will always be of critical importance to bloggers, as they will to anyone who is a part of mass media, there is always a great deal that’s in flux.

This is especially true for bloggers as legislators and judges are just beginning to take on many of the complicated issues that blogging and democratized media brings with it. But where 2009 was a busy year for bloggers on the legal front, 2010 promises to be even more so.

In many ways, 2009 was a set up year for what is going to happen in 2010. In fact, the easiest way to decide what will likely be some of the hottest legal topics in the new year is to look back over the past one and see where the dominoes are likely to fall.

With that in mind, here are five legal areas bloggers should be paying attention to in the new year as they have the potential to be major forces in the blogging world. read more

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November 16, 2009

5 Copyright Hazards to Avoid

Most bloggers understand the importance and the value in creating original content. Most would be at least somewhat upset to their own writing used on other sites without permission or attribution and many actively track their work for misuse.

However, there is more to being a good copyright citizen than just writing your own content, quoting only what you need to in your entries and attributing your sources. Your blog is much more than just text and there are many copyright “hazards” that even well-intended bloggers can step in.

That’s why last year, almost to the day, I wrote an article about holiday copyright hazards for bloggers to avoid, But while the holidays are an especially dangerous time for copyright issues, they are a potential thorn in the side year around.

So with that in mind, here are five copyright hazards to avoid, regardless of the time of year. read more

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October 12, 2009

5 Smart Legal Steps for Your Blog

Rapidly the “Wild West” days of blogging are coming to an end legally. As blogging becomes more mainstream as a form of media, so does the legal issues that confronts it. No longer an outlier, blogs are actively competing with newspapers and even television in terms of journalism, audience and trendsetting.

But this has brought with it a slew of new legal headaches. Blogging has become the target for copyright holders, celebrities and even the FTC. There are very real and very serious legal risks associated with blogging and it is important to be aware of them.

So what are some steps you can take to avoid legal headaches with your blog? There are actually too many to list and much of it just comes down to operating in good faith. However, there are a handful of very simple things that you can do to improve your legal position and lessen the likelihood that you’ll be on the wrong end of a lawsuit and also strengthen your own rights.

Just some of the basics are below. read more

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September 14, 2009

UK Media Still Fails To Attribute Sources

skysportsFor bloggers it can be a long and difficult road to reach success and occasionally come close to your subjects and conduct an interview with them. It was great to see that UK Manchester United blog Red Rants had the opportunity to run an exclusive interview with world star Nemanja Vidic. This would be the ultimate dream for many a sports blogger but things aren’t always as nice as they seem. Content theft often is an issue, especially when exclusive entries, interviews are scored.

Red Rants was no exception to this rule. Only some later, today, two main stream UK media outlets used the interview without attribution. Both published quotes of the interview without referring to the source. The Skysports article consist of more than 50% quotes. Surprisingly Skysports Terms and Conditions do NOT allow reproduction and even don’t mention Fair Use. read more

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