informa
/
2 MIN READ
Commentary

Bloggers Be Aware (And Beware): Legal Pitfalls Abound

One myth of the blogosphere is that anything goes. After all--or so conventional wisdom says--that's what distinguishes bloggers from their colleagues in traditional media. Because they aren't hampered by timid editors, journalistic conventions, or even manners, they provide the public with unfiltered access to important events and opinions in a way that is both powerful and empowering. Indeed, the recent storm of hysteria over the proposed
May 04, 2007
One myth of the blogosphere is that anything goes. After all--or so conventional wisdom says--that's what distinguishes bloggers from their colleagues in traditional media. Because they aren't hampered by timid editors, journalistic conventions, or even manners, they provide the public with unfiltered access to important events and opinions in a way that is both powerful and empowering. Indeed, the recent storm of hysteria over the proposed blogger code of conduct perpetrates the myth of the unfettered virtual reporter/pundit as someone who must be protected against lily-livered censors.The only problem is that this view of the virtual Wild, Wild West is wrong. If you have any doubts about this, read the superb article at the Aviva Directory.

Entitled "!2 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs To Know," the piece goes well beyond just trotting out the normal platitudes about the ways that laws governing traditional media relate to cyberspace. Instead, in plain, non-jargony English, the authors lay out the potential problem; explain the current law; and provide helpful hints on how to stay out of trouble. Ambiguities in current law are carefully documented. This is required reading for any blogger or indeed anyone involved in creating content for or managing a Website.

Some of the points are to be expected: for example, on the need for bloggers to obey copyright law for both text and graphics, and what responsibilities/liabilities a blogger has for feedbacks to posts. But others surprised me. The section on "deep links"--or the practice of linking from a blog to deep within another Website--took me into legal territory I hadn't previously considered. The explanation of limited liability laws makes for a fascinating read. And with Websites' increased dependence on user-generated content, the section on who owns what--and how that content can legally be edited, manipulated, or copied-should be required reading for anyone who regularly solicits user input.

Do you blog? Do you think at all about your legal responsibilities and/or vulnerabilities? Let us know by responding to the InformationWeek blog.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer