How to Stay on the Right Side of the Law Whilst Blogging
For most of you, blogging is probably a hobby or a past-time. It’s probably also an avenue where you feel you can speak your mind and share your opinions with the World. Of course, that’s one of the major draws of having a personal blog… but there are still certain legal obligations that you should be aware of when publishing content on the web. There are many documented cases where bloggers have fallen foul of the law, in both the United Kingdom and the rest of the World.
Don’t assume that you are safe to say what you want, and publish content regardless of the source – even if you do so under a pseudonym. If you want to stay on the right side of the law whilst blogging then read on for some examples which you should be aware of so you can keep legal, whilst continuing to write compelling and engaging online content.
The use of copyrighted material is probably the most common trap that UK bloggers fall into. There is a blog culture of searching Google for an image, then simply re-using on a personal website. Most bloggers believe that this is perfectly reasonable and fine… but in fact, it can constitute a copyright infringement.
To be on the safe side, always ask the owner’s permission if they are happy for you to use their photograph. If you want to avoid that rather long-winded approach then use the Creative Commons Image Search – it will let you filter your search for photos that can be used for non-commercial purposes. In most cases all you will need to do is apply a name-check or credit link to any photos you use. Or even better still, take your own photos and use those instead.
Clear Disclosure if Publishing Paid Promotional Comments
This one has had a lot of coverage recently due to a rise in celebrity endorsements on social networks such as Twitter. However, law on promotional comments could also be easily applied to bloggers and personal websites. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has recently insisted that if publishing promotional comments on your social media channel that a company has paid you for, then you must disclose the fact whilst clearly identifying that you have received money to do so. You can read more about this on an official press release from the OFT.
Defamation of Character and/or Libel
What you say on your blog can come back to haunt you, even if you delete it. There have been many high-profile cases of bloggers being successfully sued for libel and defamation of character over the past couple of years – believe it or not, some bloggers have even been held responsible for comments left by third parties.
It goes without saying that you need to be very careful as to the content you publish. However, currently it is possible to offer any real guidance on this matter as the regulations around free speech are not as clear cut as they should be. As a result there are pending campaigns around English libel law reform in order to make the law more explicit as to what it permitted and what isn’t. In the meantime, make sure to exercise caution.
However, there is a very good independent guide to Libel Law for bloggers then we recommend you read called: “So You’ve Had a Threatening Letter. What Can You Do”? This is a guide produced by the Sense About Science Organisation. You can download the guide in PDF format from here.
Disclaimer: Please note that the advice given in this guest post does not constitute official legal advice. It should be viewed as guidelines from an academic review of the current law and how it could affect UK bloggers. We would recommend that should you always consult with your own legal representation should you have any concerns or questions about your online blog and social media actions.
About the author:
Guest post contributed by the team behind the Personal Injury Solicitors London UK website. They offer advice on personal injury claims for residents living in London and the surrounding areas. Currently they do not specialise in law relating to the online space so cannot offer any professional support on matter arising from the publication of online content in blogs or social media.