The next time you publish a blog post, you might just want to take a minute and consider whether or not it’s breaking any laws.
Far from being just a harmless medium for posting thoughts and opinions, there are many legal issues that you have to keep in mind not only as a blogger but as a reader as well.
From copyright issues to slander and libel, not to mention the problems comments can cause – there’s more to blogging than just throwing a few sentences together.
Here are a few ways you can keep your blog – and, more importantly, you – out of trouble.
Opinion Versus Fact Versus Spite
For example, if you’re a business blogger and you’re posting an opinion on the latest business news from a company or organization, you have to make sure that your post is based on fact.
If you have an error in there, you could find yourself facing a lawsuit (although more than likely, most companies will settle for an apology and correction).
Depending on your post, you could also be liable for a libel or slander claim – so make sure you know what you’re talking about and you have the facts to back it up.
Keep It Yours. Or Not.
Copyright infringement is also a hot potato, especially with the ease that blogs can be picked up by external sources. This can be down to your RSS feed, or something as simple as your blog turning up on social media sites like Digg or Technorati.
The next thing you know, your blog is appearing elsewhere online.
While this can be beneficial as far as links back to your post (which helps your ranking with the major search engines), it doesn’t help if you aren’t being credited and the post is being passed off as someone else’s.
Of course, the flip side of this is if you use sections of other people’s blogs without crediting them as the source.
Sure, it’s nice to bring a news story to a wider audience, but make sure you link back to the owner – not only is it professional and courteous, it could save you a big copyright theft case.
The same goes with using images on your site – make sure you’re allowed to use them, and give credit if you do.
House Guests and Frat Parties
Another surprising area where you need to watch what’s going on is the comments area on your blog.
While the legality of who is responsible for comments left on a blog is still a little patchy, the general consensus is that the company hosting the blog is responsible – after all, they are the ones allowing comments to stay public.
Therefore, any defamatory or hateful statements will be blamed on you if you leave them for everyone to see.
So, for a company blog, it might be an idea to moderate all comments and approve the ones that you feel don’t break any ethical, moral or legal issues.
You can even place a disclaimer on your blog stating that all comments are approved at the discretion of the blog owner.
At the end of the day, blogging is a fantastic medium for sharing both personal and company news quickly and efficiently.
This doesn’t have to change – just make sure that the next time you’re about to open up to the rest of the world, it’s not going to end up being the last post you make for a long time.
Note – these are suggestions only. If in doubt, always consult a legal professional.
image: Nancy Dowd