Business blogging is considered indispensable in today’s competitive market. A business, whether online or offline, needs to have a least a website in order for their customers to find them. Even better, a business should have a blog.
Several reasons for this:
- A blog is regularly updated, which search engines and users both like
- A blog provides added information that readers find valuable
- A blog puts a more human face to your customers
Whatever your business may be, it is important that you understand that what you publish in your blog is subject to laws, and that you are accountable for what you publish. You may face legal issues if you go against these laws whether on purpose or unwittingly.
IF you do get sued, the first thing to do is get in touch with a Los Angeles criminal lawyer, or wherever you may be located. They will be able to help you determine if there really a case against you or if you are being SLAPPed (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation). The California Anti-SLAP Project is a good resource for this.
Assuming you’re not in that position yet, here are some of the essential things you need to know to avoid legal issues with your business blog.
Online Defamation Law
Laws against defamation have been around way before the Internet was born, but the applications online are basically the same. Defamation can either be libel or slander, the former being defamation in print while the latter being spoken or broadcast. The inherent characteristics of defamation are:
- A false and defamatory statement regarding another;
- Unprivileged publication of the claim to a third party;
- Rising, in the case of matters of public concern, to at least negligence by the publisher, or worse; and
- Damages to the subject.
There are now more specific rules on defamation online. The main thing here is to be careful of what you say about another person or company, whether they’re competitors or not. Again, if you find yourself facing a defamation case, get in touch with a lawyer immediately.
The term ‘intellectual property rights’ deal with the ownership of created work. This applies to written work online, as well as photos and videos. If you blog publish someone else’s work on your blog and claim it as your own, you can be charged with copyright infringement.
There is such a thing called ‘creative commons’ license, wherein the owner of the work allows other people to use it. For photos, the easiest way to find good quality material is to use Flickr, do an advanced search and check the boxes ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’ and ‘Find content to use commercially’.
The bottom line is that you make sure you publish original work, and if you quote someone, you either ask for the permission or use work that has the creative commons license.
Privacy is such a big issue these days, and you have to be mindful about what you publish about other people – even customer experiences. To avoid getting tangled in legal issues, make sure you ask for the express consent of people to mention their names, use their photos, etc. Otherwise, mask their identities under pseudonyms.
These are just a few legal issues you ought to know so that you don’t make a mistake in your blog. Hopefully, these help you in making sure that you don’t get sued over what you published.