Bloggers: Don’t Get Sued
A few years ago at the London Bloggers Meetup we hosted Robert Lands as a guest speaker. Robert is a lawyer from law firm Finers Stephens Innocent LLP and he gave us his top tips to ensure as bloggers we don’t get sued. On re-reading the tips, they are equally as valid today as they were then.
You may not be aware of this, but as a blogger you need to apply the same basic skills to your writing as a professional journalist e.g. ensuring accuracy, taking into account ownership of intellecutal property and being mindful of slander / libel.
So what are the top 10 tips I took away from Robert’s presentation**
2. Yes you can get fired if you blog about your job, employer or other employees, even if you change the names involved. If it’s possible for readers to interpret what you’ve written as being about your employer, you’ve had it.. and there are plenty of examples of this.
3. As a blogger you are seen by the law as a professional journalist and publisher. Therefore anything you write about a person or company in a defamatory way leaves you open to being sued for libel (this is more relevant in the UK than the US as apparently we have tighter controls on freedom of speech).
5. If someone takes a disliking to the content on your blog / web 2.0 site, probably the first you will know about it is when you get a letter asking you to take down the content. It might help to have a page on your site with “Notice and Take Down Policies” i.e. telling people how you will deal with any complaint.
6. With copyright, you can get done for linking to a site that infringes someone else’s copyright. Incredible if you ask me, but I don’t set the rules. So be careful what content and blogs you link to as they may be putting you at risk. It’s called ‘making available’.
7. Don’t ever blog about the intellectual property you are generating at work e.g. technology you are developing for your employer, or content you are writing. This will land you in hot water as they will own all this content and you giving it away is not a good thing. Equally, make sure your own employees know your policy here.
8. If you are publishing content written by others, either who you have paid or not, make it clear who owns the content. Get it down on paper with each writer to avoid any problems later on with intellectual property rights.
9. If you write about a company don’t be tempted to include a copy of their logo in your post (I’ve done this a lot unfortunatley). If the company doesn’t like your content you could be done for things like Dilution of the brand, or incorrect usage of a Trade Mark.
10. remember, you are seen by the law as a professional journalist, so you should be prepared to be treated as one. Get some legal advice or do some research so you understand your legal position, before it’s too late.
So there you go. If you haven’t realised why I started on point 2, it’s because point 1. is below. Hope all that was helpful.
** disclaimer. These comments do not constitute legal advice and you should consult a qualified legal practitioner before using any of this advice (point number 1. do not offer advice you are not qualified to give…)