Important Legal Considerations for Bloggers

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While blogging certainly falls under the "freedom of speech" umbrella, there are still legal issues that every blogger should know. With blogging as popular as ever and citizen journalism now coming to light, Aviva Directory published 12 important U.S. laws to consider for bloggers. Among some of the more interesting:

  • Images - Good blogs are not only imformative, but pleasing to the eye. Inline linking is used when an image is taken from another page, but loaded when the blog page is opened. In other words, the image is not a permanent resident of the blog. Another alternative is thumbnail images - smaller, lower quality images of the original. Inline linking is murky territory - it's best to get permission to use the image. Thumbnails - as long as they are created and not reduced-sized images of the original - are protected under the fair use exception of Copyright Law. A good safety net is creative commons - where you can find work licensed for public use.
  • Private Data of your Readers - Getting your readers to contribute to your blog (comments, forums, etc.) is a good way to bump readership and brand your company as an industry hub. However, to do that you will likely need to collect some form of personal information. Unfortunately the laws are very convoluted about personal information as it relates to bloggers. The best bet is to prominently display a privace policy for your readers for any future legal recourse. And always supply an opt-out option.
  • Shield Laws - Citizen journalism is on the rise. As a blogger you may think that you are entitled to the protection of shield laws that are provided with "traditional journalism." You are not. Assume that you are not protected in any way under these laws if you plan on acting as a journalist. There are movements underway to provide shield laws for bloggers, but err on the side of caution for now.
  • Who Owns UGC? User-generated content (UGC) is a big part of blogging and Web 2.0-style sites. Forums, comments, bulletin boards - all are good ways to get content for your site. Surprisingly, as the website owner, you don't own that content - the author does. The solutions is to include terms of service. Outline for the user that you have a license in all content on the site and that you are not obligated to remove or modify content, but you may do so.