Legal Guide for Bloggers

Feb 17, 2005 20:39 · 492 words · 3 minute read

Update, June 14 2005: The EFF has released their Legal Guide for Bloggers. While the information below is still relevant, their guide is far more detailed and covers many more issues. Go there instead. Thanks!

As more stories start arriving of they can’t do that.

Have you been accused of copyright violation for including quotes as part of your criticism? The concept of Fair Use provides a defense against this, and fair use provides guidelines for what you can and can’t do. Here’s some good advice and the four tests of fair use. If you’re doing real commentary on someone else’s work and not making a profit from it, you’re in pretty good shape as far as fair use goes. Just don’t cut and paste the whole thing.

Are you being accused of defamation, libel or slander? If you’re writing something unpleasant about someone, be sure that you can back it up. Mitch Ratcliffe has an excellent article with links to many resources regarding defamation and staying in the right when you’re writing.

Have you been told you can’t photograph something? In some cases (like being on private property), you really aren’t allowed to photograph without permission. If you’re in a public place, however, the law is on your side.

Have you been told you can’t include that recording in your podcast? Sadly, at this juncture, I think you’re in murky territory. Unless you essentially set yourself as an internet radio station and pay the significant statutory rates, it is unlikely you can include a whole song in your podcast. Including portions of songs and commenting on them should still be covered as fair use, however.

Legal threats against blogs will only increase over time. Freedom of speech is a huge right that we enjoy here in the US, and knowing where to draw the line will let you write almost anything on your blog with complete confidence.