Good afternoon, friends and Uncommoners. Today at our sister site, Want To Freelance, weekly columnist AC Gaughen produced a really important – and pretty scary – article that I wanted to pass on to all of you called The New Shark in the Water.
This article deals with the issue of actionable law suits against bloggers, and since I know many of the Uncommoners out there run their own sites or blogs, I wanted to make sure you had this information so you could protect yourself against this disturbing trend that is apparently gaining momentum. So thank you, AC, for this great article – this is must-know information!
Originally printed Friday, June 5, 2009 at Want To Freelance.com by AC Gaughen
As bloggers, we’re all pretty wary. We’re wary of job ads, like Karen wrote about last week, we’re wary of spammers, hackers, and every virus and scam from Trojans to Nigerian Western Union emails. But what about lawsuits?
The blogosphere seems to be, in many respects, a place where just about anyone can shoot their mouth off at any given time about any given subject. It can range from entertaining (like Bethenny from RH blogging about the NJ Housewives) to informative (obviously we’re all interested in freelancing industry blogs) to pretty much anything in between or beyond. With no more than a quick visit to WordPress and a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can have their very own forum for self promotion, self indulgence, and ranting, and no one can say otherwise.
For this online world, we find legitimacy in popularity; the most popular are given creedence and are considered reliable and trustworthy. Reputation stands on the line, and that’s the only thing to keep anyone in check. Until now, of course.
The WSJ recently ran an article titled “Bloggers Beware: What You Write Can Get You Sued“. I, personally, was flabbergasted. I spoke to a friend of mine about it, and said, “Well, my blog doesn’t make money. Surely I’m not at risk for this”, and she said, “It doesn’t matter that you’re making money, it matters if you’re in the way of someone else making money.”
For example, because a blogger referred to a man as a “failed lawyer” and mouthed off about his ad campaign, he was ordered by the court to pay $1.8 million dollars in damages. A gossip blogger was jailed for her remarks. And don’t forget that 140 characters or less can still be damaging enough to be considered defamation and libel, as “Getting Sued for Twibel” outlines. So as a writer online, what exactly gets you in danger, and what will protect you from lawsuits that could decimate your livelihood?
The first line of defense is insurance. The Media Bloggers Association is stepping up to the plate, offering Blog Insure, a comprehensive program that offers up to $100,000 worth of insurance in addition to legal advisories and relevant legal information. NewsU offers a free, engaging test that teaches you the basics of media law, and there is a Legal Guide to media law geared to blogger.
And if there’s absolutely only one link you click in this post, click this: The Ten Rules For Limiting Legal Risk.
Basically, as a member of the online media, you absolutely have to check your facts, not only in regards to the story or article you’re writing, but in regards to what your rights are and what’s out of line. I like to think we all know that direct plagiarism is not only fundamentally wrong, but also illegal; what about the guidelines for using photos? What is protected, what’s simply “out there”?
This is definitely just the tip of the iceberg; I’ll be posting more on here as I find out more! If anyone has any experience with this, feel free to share.