A Million Terms, A Million Contracts

The Facebook TOS debacle last week shined a rare light on the subject of rights we give away when we sign up to use site or service.

Though Facebook’s new TOS, which removed the clause that lets users end their license granted to Facebook by deleting their work, was both of poor judgment and very worrisome, it was likely much ado about. Not only was the TOS rescinded shortly after the controversy began, but even with the new TOS, Facebook’s rights were still limited by the user’s privacy settings.

What has gotten significantly less attention is the sheer number of TOS’ that most Web users sign just as part of being on the Web. In an age where almost every site is also a “service”, it seems we’re creating more accounts than ever and, with every sign up, signing away more and more of our rights.

Most of us have lost track of all the sites we have registered for, the agreements we have signed and few of us actually take the time to even skim the terms that we do accept. Our rights to our online lives are in millions of pieces, scattered across countless companies and sites.

Piecing them back together, if it became necessary, could be nearly impossible. Worse still, as many of these companies continue to expand and grow the rights they give themselves via their TOS,

It has come time to question our love affair for new services and the terms they force us to agree to and seek ways to streamline and simplify this very messy process. [Read more…]

Joining the Media Bloggers Association

According to the Citizen’s Media Law Project, there were over 250 lawsuits filed against bloggers for defamation and another 150 lawsuits filed dealing with copyright issues. Though the number of lawsuits is still fairly small compared to the number of people blogging, there has definitely been an upward trend in recent years (link PDF).

At the same time, bloggers have been striving to gain equal footing with mainstream media representatives in obtaining access to both people and events. However, they have typically had an uphill struggle in obtaining such access for reasons that are not always clear.

Though bloggers have begun to act more and more in the same capacity as the mainstream media, they have typically not had the legal training and information nor the access of journalists. Few come from mass media or law backgrounds and thus often struggle with the legal issues surrounding blogging and even fewer have the connections and knowledge to obtain critical access to important events.

This is where the Media Bloggers Association steps in. It seeks to help grow citizen journalism by providing it with some of the same training and access that journalists in newspapers or television have. The goal is to promote blogging and citizen journalism as its own form of media and give bloggers equal footing, both in the courts and on the streets, to other journalists. [Read more…]

Blog Scams: Look Before You Click

As part of my research into blog scams, I ran across a new video by Consumer Reports WebWatch called “Look Before You Click”.

Consumer Reports WebWatch – Look Before You Click

The WebWatch’s ‘Look Before You Click’ Campaign was created with a grant from the New York State Office of Attorney General and uses a cartoon animation and satrical musical verse to educate Internet users about Internet fraud that comes in through email, blogs, and websites. [Read more…]

Freedom of Speech and Anonymous Blogging

The holidays are around the corner and some of us will be indulging ourselves in festivities. I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on freedom within the blogosphere. I live in a relatively peaceful country where I can do or say whatever I want within the boundaries of the law. In the Netherlands the law is pretty keen on freedom of speech which sometimes leads to heated debates but at the same time allows me to speak my mind.

Freedom of speech is something I take for granted. Blogging is also something I take for granted.

[Read more…]

Name Calling Bloggers

The The Pioneer Woman calls the man in her life the “Marlboro Man”. Chris Cree of SuccessCREEations calls his wife “Gorgeous”. I refer to my husband as “hubby” in my blog posts, a contradiction to the tall, handsome, Mensa-brilliant, multi-lingual engineer I love and adore. What do you call the lovers, spouses, friends, and family members in your blog posts?

Whether you are a personal blogger or business blogger, there always comes a time when you need to refer to someone in your life who would rather remain anonymous, protecting their privacy, and sometimes your own. What names do you use?
[Read more…]

A Quick Reminder For Bloggers At Blogger.com

Bloggers who enjoy blogging anonymously at the Google-owned Blogger.com might want to hear about a recent legal kerfuffle in Israel.  Specifically, Global Voices Online reports that a local Tel Aviv court had recently ordered Google to hand over the IP of an anonymous blogger who wrote defamatory remarks on his Blogger.com hosted blog (they call the comments slanderous, but really, wouldn’t it be libel instead?)

To no one’s surprise, Google has worked within the boundaries of local laws, and has in fact, given up the IP of the blogger in question.  Further details over at TechCrunch have emerged that confirmed my own suspicions in the matter, in that Google did work through a process, but did give the IP over according to their own Terms of Service.

They read, specifically “Google may investigate any violations to “comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request” ”

I think there are some legitimate reasons for wanting to blog anonymously.  However, if you’re going to do it and you want to avoid persecution for whatever reason, clearly you may want to avoid doing it with a service such as Google.  They will do their best to work through local laws, but have long ago decided to work *within* those local boundaries in almost *all* of its services.