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…]

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…]

Twitter: Using Tweet is OK, Twitter Might Not Be

Twitter has applied to trademark the word “Tweet” says the official blog. They think it is an obvious attachment to the Twitter brand, but say they have no intentions of going after users of the word.

We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of “going after” the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

That’s good, I think. It is also good that they come clean and say that they are “a bit more wary” about the use of Twitter in projects. So cancel that Twitter Herald project and find another name, you might get in trouble otherwise. [Read more…]

Are You Being Namesquatted?


Over the past week, two very important events in one’s online identity took place.

First, and most memorable, Facebook began offering usernames, creating a landrush, and second, Twitter began verifying user accounts.

But what if the username you wanted is no longer available? What if your name, your business name or some other element of your identity is gone. This happened to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and, most likely thousands of others.
If this happened to you, the good news is that you may have rights you can protect, especially if you are facing an obvious namesquatter, but it may be very difficult enforcing those rights on either site due to the nature of the law and the nature of Facebook and Twitter as companies.

Still, it may be worth a shot. [Read more…]

20 Law-Related Questions Every Blogger Should Know

Though journalism schools are often maligned in the blogging world as producing stale writing, they do teach many valuable lessons that are useful when running your own site.

One of those lessons is a primer in mass media law. By publishing works to the Web, one is essentially performing much of the same function as newspapers and television stations did exclusively just a few decades ago. However, the laws that govern such publications are not taught in most high schools nor most colleges.

So what should a blogger know about the law before they put up their first post? There are many things, certainly more than what can be covered in this post, but here are twenty questions every every blogger should be able to answer. [Read more…]

Is “Deep Linking” in Trouble?

Linking directly to individual pages on a Web site instead of the home page, also known as “Deep Linking”, is a staple of blogging and the Internet in general. It is used as a means to reference sources, forward interesting articles and, generally, get information out there on the Web.

Without deep linking, social news would likely not exist, many Web 2.0 services (such as Delicious) would have to close and even Google would have to drastically change the way it operates. The Web would, almost overnight, become a much more difficult to use and less efficient place.

However, a recent lawsuit filed by GateHouse media has asked new questions about deep linking and its possible legal implications.

Though the lawsuit is clearly misguided in some ways, including the claim that the site loses advertising over deep linking, it is worth taking a quick moment to look at some of the potential legal hazards that come with deep linking and how to avoid them. [Read more…]

Cease & Desist Sent Via Twitter, Come On…

Burger King didn’t like the Twitter username whoppervirgins, so they sent a cease and desist notice – via Twitter. Or did they, maybe it’s just a ploy to get some linkage from the blogosphere? Techdirt dug it up, and asks why no one nabbed this Twitter username when the ad campaign with the same name rolled out?

My bet is that the C&D isn’t entirely serious…

Don’t You Dare to ;-) Me!

Oleg Teterin, a Russian entrepreneur, has gotten trademark approval for the ;-) emoticon, and he intends to cash in on it, says BBC. “Tens of thousands of dollars” will be the fine, but you can continue to use it in your personal IMs.

“I want to highlight that this is only directed at corporations, companies that are trying to make a profit without the permission of the trademark holder,” Mr Teterin said in comments on the Russian TV channel, NTV.

Now, this is most likely just a PR stunt, but even if Teterin is serious, it is highly unlikely that this will hold up. Personally, I find it hilarious, so I’ll use it one more time. I needn’t worry, the Blog Herald’s owner – Splashpress Media – will pick up the tab!

So ;-) to all the readers!

Trademark and Blogs

When Patricia Houser reserved the domain name Palintology in early 2007, Sara Palin, the blog’s subject, was the Governor of Alaska and had not risen to national prominence. Houser, who had worked with Palin on her gubernatorial campaign, had obtained permission from the Governor to both create the blog and use her name in the domain.

However, both Palin and the Palintology blog were thrust into the national spotlight in late August when John McCain selected Palin to be his candidate for Vice President. Though both the site and the candidate were suddenly a global focal point, not all of the attention was desireable.

The worst example came when Newsweek used the Palintology name on the front cover of their magazine. This prompted Houser to not only begin the process of registering her trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but also to contact Newsweek about potential trademark infringement.

But even as Houser and Newsweek seem to be working toward an amicable agreement, the story raises the issue about what bloggers can do when it comes to the names and logos of their blog. After all, if Palintology went from being a locally-focused political blog to having its name on the cover of Newsweek, so could almost any site. [Read more…]