With 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
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.
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
Although Tumblr does have official apps upon Blackberry, iPhone and Android, they have yet to release an official app for Windows Phone 7.
Unfortunately it looks like a third party developer (by the name of “sefirot”) has decided to cash in on Tumblr’s lack of official presence by naming their app after the micro blogging site.
Although technically the app is called “Tumblr.” (with a period at the end), it’s doubtful that Tumblr’s lawyers are going to let the app pass unchallenged lest users confuse it for the official app (which can easily damage Tumblr’s brand).
While Tumblr doesn’t seem to mind third party developers utilizing their name within an app (which Ad Astra Consulting did with WPTumblr), it is doubtful that they will be thrilled with the idea of someone using their corporate name which is trademarked.
Ironically something similar happened to Twitter last year (although the company quickly changed the name to TwitterKiss later on) and I would not be surprised if Tumblr’s lawyers contact Microsoft in order to have the app removed or renamed before the year is out.
Not desiring their brand to go the way of Xerox, Aspirin and Kleenex (which lost their trademark status in the US), the folks at Twitter wrote a post linking to not only their new logos, but also highlighting the rules when it comes to using “tweet” or “twitter” in a product or service.
We understand that you want your application or product that enhances the Twitter experience to be identifiable as part of the Twitter ecosystem. This is important to us too, but Twitter is also the name of our service and company, so we’re cautious about potential confusion. [...]
Use Tweet in the name of your application only if it is designed to be used exclusively with the Twitter platform. (Twitter Help Center)
If Twitter were to attempt to enforce their trademark rights today, they would not only have to go after TweetDeck, but also Twitter for Blackberry as both applications connect users to Twitter and Facebook (note: Twitter for Blackberry is supported by RIM, not Twitter). read more
After holding a monopoly upon one of the most recognized symbols of blogging, Automattic has finally transferred ownership of the WordPress trademark to the the WordPress foundation.
We are pleased to announce that Automattichas made a remarkable and generous donation by transferring ownership of the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation. We’re honored to accept this donation, and to preserve and protect the trademark in the years ahead as a keystone part of the Foundation’s mission to ensure that WordPress is around and thrives for generations to come.
It is highly unusual (to say the least) for a company to give away a trademark worth millions, and this move by Automattic is extremely generous and community-minded. (WordPress Foundation)
Securing the WordPress trademark will help ease some of the fears many had about Automattic, and may also give the WordPress Foundation some much needed authority.
It will also make it easier to enforce the rules regarding use of the trademark which currently forbid for profit companies from using “WordPress” within their respective name (with the exception being Automattic who is Grandfathered in).
While this news will probably not affect most bloggers (at least those who are not into the technicalities or legalities of business), it will probably help secure WordPress’s founder (Matt Mullenweg) legacy for years to come.
In their ever vigilant quest to protect Americans from terrorism, the US government is now requesting Congress to relieve them of the need to seek a judges permission before obtaining information from a web master.
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.
The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. (The Washington Post)
Although not as bad in some ways as the Disclose Act (which was thankfully defeated after reason entered the room), this requested measure may cause bloggers to become uneasy despite the fact that this proposed measure would only seek contact information (like email addresses you send and receive to) and not the content itself.
While it is understandable that the government’s interest here is security (especially in dealing with “ticking bomb” scenarios), having a judge authorize access helps ensure transparency within the legal system as well as protect privacy rights.
Hopefully Congress and the White House can find an alternative solution to this dilemma (note: perhaps have judges on standby 24/7?) without sacrificing the rights of users online.
Whether you love them or hate them, it looks as if Posterous has angered yet another company, albeit for the right reasons this time.
In their attempt to liberate the twitterverse from having their images permanently hosted upon TwitPic which they announced earlier today.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. Or 3 tweets, 2 blog posts and 4 status updates. Which is why it’s important to keep your photos in a place that truly belongs to you.
We’ve had numerous users ask us to help them find a new home for their photos, and today we are announcing new tools to help move your photos from TwitPic to Posterous.
With Posterous, not only can you customize the look and feel of your site, you can also manage all your comments in one place. (Official Posterous Blog)
Unlike Ning, Xanga, Vox and Tumblr who all for the most part publicly ignored Posterous’s public challenge, TwitPic fired back by blocking Posterous’s servers from importing any more images off of the once favored tweet picture site (at least it will be when news of this spreads). read more
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.