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5 Laws Writers Should Know to Avoid Getting Sued

30 May

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Yikes!

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As a blogger or internet writer, do you know how to stay on the right side of the (copyright) law?  You don’t have to be legally trained or a lawyer to understand the laws that govern internet content and blogging. Here are the most important ones:

1. Use of images from other websites and blogs
You do not have permission to use just any image you find on the internet.  But how can you legally use images?  You can simply buy royalty-free images and not have to worry about copyright. Or you can ask for permission to use it when you find an image you like on someone else’s website. A sign of good manners and a thank you to the creator is to have a link to his site and/or giving him credit.

Another great source to find free images is to visit the Creative Commons photos on sites such as Morguefile or Flickr. These photos do not have copyright restrictions and show Creative Common attributes, such as “share” or “non-commercial use.”  No matter which photos you use, it’s still polite and shows professionalism, to link to the original web page or give credit to/naming the photographer.

2. Disclose paid endorsements
Bloggers and internet content writers must be open with the fact that they are being paid to use, promote, or review a product.  Do not claim to be an objective third-party when you are not.  Make it perfectly clear which information is editorial and which is advertising. This could mean labeling links that drive to your Amazon affiliates, or building a page that explains all of your affiliates and relationships.

3. Deep linking and framing
It may surprise bloggers and internet content writers whether deep linking is even legal.  Deep linking is where you write a blog post and then link to another website in that post. However, you don’t link directly to the homepage: you link to a page buried on the site.  From the perspective of a blogger, it makes more sense to link directly to the page that you are referring to than it does to link to the home page, and then hope the reader can find the information you are referring to.
On the other hand, deep linking and framing are such accepted SEO practices that there is no reason you should worry that someone might sue you if you deep link to their site. In fact, most people encourage the practice since it brings exposure to their site.

4. User-developed content
Comments, reviews or guest posts on your blog, you do not own the content: – the original author owns it. The best way to deal with this issue is to create very clear terms on how you will manage user-developed content. State in your site’s terms of use: you will take the liberty to do with the comments as you please, or that you will remove them if someone requests it. You also can require a minimum amount of information so you can avoid anonymous comments or that you will delete comments if and when you close your blog. If these terms are stated clearly and openly, you shouldn’t have much of a problem when it comes to the law and user-developed content.

5. Protect visitor’s private information
Privacy on the internet is a huge issue and people are worried that their identities will be stolen, bank accounts will be drained or that the government will watch their internet path if they don’t protect their privacy. What is your responsibility when it comes to your user’s information? Of course if you run an e-commerce site, you need to protect their information with secure pages. But what if you are simply collecting an email address?  Have a clear privacy policy on your website. It could be as simple as “We promise never to rent, sell or share your email address.” Or it could be more elaborate, with an entire page dedicated to it, depending on how much information you collect.

However what should you do when someone steals YOUR internet content?
If you are creating compelling content, someone might take it and uses it on their site. Sometimes they do it without knowing that they are breaking the law. They may even give you credit and link to your website. If you want to protect your work, send them an email and let them know that what they are doing is copyright infringement. If you are dealing with a reasonable person, they will probably apologize and take your content down.  If you’re dealing with somebody who does not comply, you might consider pursuing legal action which is often difficult and expensive.

Register and you will receive compensation for legal costs etc.
How can you protect yourself from plagiarism?  Invest $35 in your book and obtain a registered copyright. You will then be able to command a higher claim from a thief of your content/images: you can collect “Statutory Damages”  plus all your Attorney fees.

You can usually discourage people from taking your content by putting a copyright symbol on the footer of your website so it appears on every page, also your work is protected by copyright law the moment you publish it. Even if you don’t have a copyright symbol, you are still protected.
On the other hand: some authors consider the value of spreading their work through copying to be worth more than protecting and defending their rights.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons

http://www.jeremynicholl.com/blog/2011/06/13/the-10-rules-of-us-copyright-infringement/

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus71-ftcs-revised-endorsement-guideswhat-people-are-asking

http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter6/6-c.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_aspects_of_hyperlinking_and_framing

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/copyright/copyrightarticle/hypertextlinking

http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch9.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_privacy

https://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/what-every-writer-needs-to-know-about-copyright/

http://baneromics.blogspot.ca/2010/06/user-created-content-wins.html

http://ucc-usa.org/what-is-user-created-content/

https://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/re-blogging-vs-copyright-infringement/

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Hyper Smash

 

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