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Top 10 Legal Facts Every Blogger Should Know

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on October 27, 2011 6:43 AM

Anyone can be a blogger these days, but only some understand the extent of their rights.

Whether a blogger writes about food, local politics, or her business, she is subject to a set of legal rules that both limit and protect her blog and its content.

The list of rules is endless and draws from a variety of legal specialties. This means that specific questions should always be asked of a lawyer.

But to you get started, the following are the top legal facts every blogger should know.

1. Foreign laws may apply. Your content is seen worldwide. You can be sued in another country.

2. You are subject to disclosure rules. Bloggers who receive products or money in exchange for a review or endorsement must disclose such facts.

3. You choose who uses your content. You can impose a Creative Commons license, or send a DMCA takedown notice whenever someone reposts your original words or images.

4. Hotlinking might be illegal. This is the practice of posting an image or file that is stored on another person's server. It might violate copyright laws.

5. Fair use is a limited defense. There are no definitive rules to fair use , so try to limit the amount of copyrighted material you use.

6. You must remove infringing content. If a copyright owner makes a request, you must remove their content from your site--including in comments.

7. There is a fine line between defamation and opinion. Opinion is not illegal, but defamation is. Be aware of how others interpret your statements.

8. Once it's public, it's repeatable. If you post personal photos, or tell personal stories, you have no right to keep those facts private.

9. You're probably not responsible for readers' comments. Arguably, Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act relieves bloggers of liability for reader comments.

10. Your blog can be used against you. Just like Facebook and Twitter, anything you write can be used in a criminal or civil court, or by your employer.

This last one is perhaps the most important legal fact for bloggers. You are responsible for what you post, so be prepared to defend your content.

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