Setting up a blog can be a great exercise, either as a way to keep track of your latest baking kick or even to bootstrap your fledgling small business.
But you should be aware of some of the most obvious legal problems that occur when bloggers step into the chaotic realm of the blogosphere. The last thing you'd want is for your puppy blog to get you sued or to put your safety at risk.
To keep our fellow bloggers safe and legally sound, we present these five legal red flags for blogs:
1. A Big Block of Stolen Text.
Eventually many bloggers realize that making reference to other sources is one of the only ways to remain relevant to your audience. However, you'll make yourself one big glaring liability if you decide to copy text from any source into your blog without giving proper credit. It's your own blog, so you don't have to use AP or MLA style, but you don't want the legal troubles that come with plagiarism. Just make sure to give some form of attribution to your sources.
2. Tons of Copyrighted Images.
Your blog may deal in a subject that lends itself very well to using images. But unless your blog is populated by photos you've taken, you may run into trouble when using copyrighted images without the owner's permission. Getty Images recently released about 35 million images for non-commercial use by bloggers, so why not use those?
3. Very Personal Details.
Many bloggers draw in their audiences by using a relatable, friendly writing style, which often comes with sensitive personal information. But beware: Criminals are already following social media accounts to plan their next robbery or e-heist, don't make yourself a target by posting details like your address, vacation schedule, or personal identifying information (like pics of your driver's license, passport, Social Security card, etc.)
4. Violent Threats.
If you think yelling a threat out loud in a police station might get you arrested, don't put it in your blog. Flame wars are nothing compared to felony charges.
5. Illicit Drug Use (Ex: the #BluntSelfie).
Yes, it seems like a no-brainer, but it may be best to not blog about any criminal activity. For example, pot possession is still illegal under federal law and in most states, so you may want to think twice before posting selfies to your blog with you or your friends smoking weed.
Watch out for these legal red flags, and your blog may have a smooth maiden voyage through the Internet's choppy seas.
- Legal Guide for Bloggers (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
- 3 Legal Threats for Bloggers and What to Do About Them (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Sarcastic Facebook Threat Lands Teen in Jail (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Search FindLaw.com's Lawyer Directory for an attorney who's right for you (FindLaw)