Bloggers most of the time are more concerned with the amount of visitors than to reflect on the legal implications of blogging. Indeed there are more and more lawsuits that are directed towards bloggers and it is important that we take some precautions in order to avoid falling into some traps. In this article I will be providing 5 simple tips on how we can avoid lawsuits.
Link to Your Sources
Plagiarism is very common among bloggers who are on the look for some quick content. However you must not forget that the content does have an owner and if you are caught you may end up in trouble. This is why it is important that you provide a link back to the site where you have found the original article. Do not copy the whole text verbatim. You can cite a part of the text but it is important that you rewrite it in your own words.
In most cases the original website will have a policy for republishing content and this should provide you information on what will be required from you.
Give Proof of What You Are Saying
It is important that you have proof of everything that you say on your blog. Otherwise you may end up being sued for defamation. Most of the time bloggers do not think about this and may end up posting an opinion as being a fact. This is the best way for you to become exposed to a lawsuit. Always make sure that you check your sources well before posting something on your blog. You should be ready to prove your statement before a jury.
Stay Away from Trade Secrets
You should be very careful when posting information that can be considered as trade secrets. Bloggers are most of the time on the prowl for newsworthy information that will allow them to increase traffic. Their ambition may thus lead them to post information that may be viewed as trade secrets by businesses and hence attract lawsuits. Remember that businesses have the financial resources and also lawyers that will be ready to look for compensations.
Do Not Publish Private Facts
Some bloggers erroneously believe that they can post anything they want on their blog because they have the rights for free speech. But did you know that there are some statements that you are not allowed to publish even if it is true? Indeed under the privacy law you are not allowed to publish any private facts that do not fall into the public domain.
For instance you will not be able to speak about the sexual orientation of a person (even if it is true) on your blog if it has not been revealed publicly. Failing to do so may lead you to become vulnerable to lawsuits. So the next time that you will be making revelations on your blog make sure that you are not publishing any private facts.
Create a Disclosure Policy
Since 2009, bloggers are required by the FTC to disclose their affiliations with the products and services that they are reviewing in their blog. For this reason it is important that you have a clear disclosure policy on your blog to make sure that you are not breaching any law. So if you are being paid or given free gifts in order to do a review you should make sure that you mention it in your post itself or in a separate disclosure policy.
Why not blog anonymously then?
One blogger asked me whether the problems listed above could be avoided by blogging anonymously. Although you may have some form of protection when blogging under cover it is by no mean a sure way to protect yourself. The court may ask your hosting provider (subpoena) to reveal your identity even if you are blogging anonymously.
As blogging become more and more influential we should expect an increasing number of lawsuits that will be mainly aimed to silence critics. These types of cases are commonly known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Fortunately there are some anti-SLAPP laws that also exist and that may provide some sort of protection for bloggers. The best way to protect yourself however will be for you to follow the tips given above to ensure that you do not breach any law.
Your Legal Woes
Have you had any run ins with legal problems because of your blog, or had to take action against someone else because of theirs? Please share your experiences in the comments below.