If you know someone who's a blogger, and you surely do, then you also know someone who's at risk of certain kinds of legal threats.
You might have a blog, or perhaps a friend from law school does, or your cousin's girlfriend posts regularly online. There's also a good chance that at least one of your clients is a blogger, either professionally or just for fun.
Even when it's not done for profit, blogging is often met with legal threats; some are real, while others are just empty threats disguised as legal claims. Here are three common types of threats faced by bloggers:
- Cease and desist letter. Things that are posted online are bound to please some audiences and bother others. Some of those that take offense to content on a blog may send a cease-and-desist notice asking the writer to take down the objectionable material. Of course, not all cease-and-desist letters are valid. The content may fall within fair use or the sender may not have any legal ownership. When reviewing a cease-and-desist letter sent to a client, or sent to you if you blog to promote your work, it's good to ask for proof. Sometimes that's all it takes to get an angry reader off your back.
- Online threat. This one's actually more of a legal problem not for the blogger who receives it, but for the person who sent it. For whatever reason, many people feel as if the Internet shields them from fault when it comes to threatening or abusive language. On a blog, the comments section can be used to leave nasty and intimidating messages that can cause anxiety for any writer. Make sure your clients know that they can fight back, even if the threats aren't made in person.
- Lawsuit. A blog is essentially an online way to speak your mind and like anything else people say, those words can have consequences. If the blog is tied to a commercial venture, then the consequences of a lawsuit could be serious. Encourage friends and clients who blog to be careful about what they put on their websites. It may also help to warn them about potential defamation and trademark infringement claims so they can be aware of the issues.
These aren't the only legal threats bloggers may face, but they are three of the most common. Have you had clients who've dealt with other blogging-related legal problems? Send us a tweet @FindLawLP or share your story on our FindLaw for Legal Professionals Facebook page.
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