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February 25, 2013

The Biggest Legal Verdicts of 2012

The top legal verdicts of 2012 ranging from the much talked about Samsung patent infringement on Apple’s mobile products and the payout of almost $1 billion that they were forced to pay and the US chip maker Marvell Technology having to pay an even larger sum to local university Carnegie Mellon in a record case.

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October 28, 2011

5 Legal Nightmares to Scare you on Halloween

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Trick of TreatWith Halloween rapidly approaching, almost everyone is in the mood for a good ghost, zombie or vampire story. But while there’s always a good chill to be had from a scary tale or movie, some of the most frightening things aren’t works of fiction or stories at all, they’re simple facts.

Of those types of scary things, there is little more frightening than the law itself and how it can impact our daily lives.

As bloggers, we’re even more vulnerable than most when it comes to legal issues because, in addition to the usual spate of laws one has to follow day-to-day, we have the responsibilities of dealing with mass media law as well. Something, previously, few outside of the TV, radio, print and related industries had to deal with.

So, if you want some scary thoughts to give you something to ponder, here are five of the scariest legal realities and what they mean for you. read more

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October 21, 2011

20 Legal Facts Every Blogger Should Know

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

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October 14, 2011

6 Reasons to Register Your Site with the U.S. Copyright Office

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US Copyright Office LogoIf you’ve been reading my column here on the Blog Herald, then you already know that copyright is placed into a work the moment that it is created. This means that you don’t need to do anything at all in order to ensure that your work is protected and that others who misuse it are breaking the law.

But while that’s definitely true, it’s also not quite the full story. In the U.S., though copyright is granted in a work the moment its fixed into a tangible medium of expression, one does not have all of the tools needed to enforce that copyright until they take an additional step.

That additional step is timely registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) and for many bloggers, both in the U.S. and abroad, it’s a both a good idea and an important step you can take to protect your work.

If you’re wondering why you should register, there are actually many but here are six of the big reasons to get you started (PDF). read more

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October 7, 2011

5 Ways Your Site is Probably Breaking the Law Right Now

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

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August 19, 2011

What To Do If You Get a Legal Threat Online

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

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August 5, 2011

5 Legal Guides Every Blogger Should Read

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Image of Law BooksAs we’ve discussed previously on this site, being a blogger can be very risky legally. With a slew of potential legal issues including copyright, defamation, trademark, privacy and much more, there are many ways a well-meaning blogger can find themselves being sued.

To make matters worse, there’s a great deal of conflicting and confusing information on the Web and what good information there is, generally, is scattered across multiple pages and sites. This makes learning about the law difficult and means you can spend a great deal of time just trying to keep yourself out of court.

Fortunately, several bloggers and blogging-related organizations have worked hard to produce legal guides that give you a good breadth of information in a simple, single work that you can easily read or search through.

With that in mind, here are five of the best of those guides, what’s in them and how they can be useful in helping you protect yourself and your rights. read more

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July 22, 2011

The Difference Between Law & Ethics in Blogging

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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

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June 24, 2011

The 5 Groups Most Likely To Legally Threaten Your Blog

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No Parking Image

We’ve talked a lot in this column about the various activities that might get you and your site in legal hot water, including some of the false legal threats you may face.

But that begs the question, who is likely to do either make the threat or file the lawsuit? While the answer could easily be just about anyone as lawsuits online are as varied as thy are in the bricks and mortar world, there are definiely some groups that have been far more litigious than your average netizen.

However, actual data in this area is very difficult, if not impossible, to come by. Not only does one have to factor in the courts of over 50 states and nearly 200 countries, but many of the most important legal threats never actually make it to court.

So, unfortunately, a lot of guesswork is involved but it doesn’t take much research to see some trends forming. With that in mind, if you’re worried about being sued for your blogging activities, here are some groups that you probably want to avoid or at least be wary of messing with. read more

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June 20, 2011

5 False Legal Threats Bloggers Routinely Face

Legally, blogging can be a very scary activity. Since few bloggers are acquainted with media law before setting up their first site, they are dealing with issues of trademark, copyright, libel, privacy, etc. when they have little understanding of the law itself.

This, often times, creates problems where a blogger oversteps a legal boundary and finds themselves either being sued or threatened with legal action. However, it also can create the reverse problem, one where the blogger is threatened with legal action when they haven’t done anything against the law.

To be clear, in the U.S., anyone can sue anyone for any reason at any time. If your sole purpose is to avoid a lawsuit, being within the law is, unfortunately, no protection. There’s always a chance you could have to spend the time and money to defend yourself in court.

However, if you have a more practical goal of not being hit with a lawsuit that has a chance of success, you still don’t want to give in needlessly to false legal threats. With that in mind, here are five of the more common false legal threats that bloggers face and why they carry no weight. read more

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