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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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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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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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May 27, 2011

Copyright, Trademark and Blog Design

Automattic LogoAlmost every blogger knows that blog design is important when trying to build a successful site. How your site looks and feels not only sets the tone for your blog, but it also is a big part of what separates it from similar sites and gives it an identity of its own.

However, just as with the content and the domain name of your site, there are ethical and legal issues that come with the theme of your site. Specifically, both trademark and copyright law protect or may protect the theme you’re using right now. But unlike the content that fills your pages, most bloggers don’t create their own theme, at least not from scratch, putting them in the position of using someone else’s work on their site.

That being said, the ways in which copyright and trademark impact Web design is not nearly as simple and as straightforward as with other types of content due to how the laws overlap and what they don’t protect.

So, if you either want to protect your blog’s design or make sure that you’re on the right side of the law with your blog’s theme, here is what you need to know about copyright, trademark and blog design. read more

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May 20, 2011

Watch Out for the Law Trolls

Troll ImageMost people online know what a “troll” is and pretty much everyone, regardless of whether or not they know the term, has encountered at least one in their travels on the Web.

Wikipedia describes a troll as, “Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

However, there is another type of “troll” working on the Web as we speak. Though this kind is much more rare, it is also much more dangerous. Where a traditional troll may disrupt a conversation or say hurtful things, legal trolls (or law trolls) sue/threaten people and, in doing so, attempt to ruin them financially, often over minor perceived violations or no violation at all.

But as few and far-between as these legal trolls are, they are growing and you need to be aware of them and how to avoid them, at least as much as possible. So, with that in mind, here’s your guide to the world of online legal trolls. 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 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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September 10, 2010

Automattic Sets WordPress Free (Trademark)

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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.

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