Can bloggers get sued? Watch out what you type online

I’m pretty sure you guys are wondering if your blog can be sued (But you should also consider if you can be sued for anything you type online). This is a problem if you are a sole proprietorship because your personal assets are on the line (If they sue you and win, they can take all your stuff! It’s a liability, and liabilities are bad for you when you operate a business!) Compared to LLC or Corporations. But don’t worry! I’m here to help you understand it more. What bloggers face varies from defamation to invasion of privacy to copyright infringement. The number of blogger lawsuits is likely going to increase/rise as the number of online community grows. Knowing general regulations and policies can help you run your blog properly in the long run. Remember, laws change, so make sure to keep up with the change.

Internet has millions of published writers, constantly coming up with new postings every day to entertain readers (Cough! This is my opinion, but most of them are generic and boring, unlike mine!). So let’s go over couple of stuff you can be sued for! One is what you say, so let’s start off with that.

Although bloggers may have free speech right to say what they want online, courts have determined that they are not protected from being sued for their comments, even if they are posted anonymously (better use tor properly, dear sir or ma’am).

Let’s cover threats first! If you threaten anyone online, this is considered an actual threat, and you can be sued for it.  One blogger state that certain politicians/lawyers should die because of 2nd amendment (as a joke), but has been sued for it.  Try to avoid anything that has to deal with hurting or killing anyone… seriously.

Next is defamation (this is similar to invasion of privacy lawsuits), which happened recently during trump election. Melania trump’s attorney have recently filed lawsuit against Gaithersburg political blogger and the daily mail for 75,000 dollars (Trump’s attorneys estimated damages at 150 million). Something about her at one time working as an escort in the 90s before she met her husband (I’m not sure if this is true or not, I’ll leave that up to you to research and decide).

Another case was in April 2010, when NC country official actually won against anonymous blogger on local website called him a slumlord, which is ridiculous (in my opinion).  If you write a posting about people like doctors, lawyers, or politicians, please make sure to watch out for negative remarks. There is an automated technology to scour the internet (politicians love to pay money for this) to ensure they don’t have anything hurting their reputation.

So how do you avoid this? If the topic is contradictory, try to say “my opinion is” before finishing the sentence, so they can’t be proven true or false. Also, do not threaten or write false information online and do your research carefully before publishing (if the doctor really did suck and mess up, then it’s fine, but if it’s false, you will be held liable). What I’d like to do is include on a blog is a “terms” page to include all the necessary regulations to help you prevent yourself from potential evil people out to get you (I’ve done this in my other blog, I’ll include one on this one very soon, but say stuff like you are not responsible for what third parties may post on the site). Many lawsuits like these are thrown out of court or settled before trial, because plaintiff winning a lawsuit is not high, “you could go bankrupt” just from defending against them.

Also remember that under federal law, websites are not liable for comments posted by outsiders. Which means, if you own a website like YouTube or some blog site and someone posts either crazy comments or upload copyrighted videos, YOU are not liable (under couple of regulations).

Next lawsuit we are going to cover is copyright. Biggest one in this one using pictures that you don’t own (seriously guys? Take your own picture or use free to use images! It’s not that hard to take your own //just look at mine… it’s horrible, but it’s better than copying other people’s stuff// Just use your phone or something, come on guys, I rather see a picture created by an amateur than a professional one that’s used in multiple other websites //it’s more interesting//. There are also multiple websites that offer free to use pictures now as well).  Also, every single images on my website is mine and you are free to use it =P  including the travel ones.

However, of course you’ll run into blogs that posts copyrighted pictures and say its okay under fair use standards and post the following paragraph to protect themselves, such as

“THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.”

and continue spamming copyrighted images. This is a very common disclaimer and is literally all over the blogs these days. But no! This does not protect you and you shouldn’t be doing this. Just because everyone else is doing it and you see bunch of websites that are doing it and is completely fine, doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to do so. If you are going to be a blogger, please be a proper one! Owner of Blogher have been sent a take down notice for using a picture that was copyrighted (he found it on google) and had to pay a significant chunk of money even after getting a lawyer involved. This isn’t fun, but the matter of the fact is, you are in the wrong if you are using work of someone else that you didn’t get permission for.

So here’s the fact! Even under the fair use, you’ll be liable for copyright. It doesn’t matter if you did it without knowing, if picture is not the same size, if you link back to the source, if you didn’t claim the photo was yours, if you added commentary, if the picture is embedded, if you have a disclaimer, if you immediately take down after DMCA (usually big companies send you DMCA and won’t pursue you, but small ones might).

Only ones you should use are the ones you have gotten permission from the copyright holder or ones you’ve taken/drew yourself, creative commons, or pics that are on public domain.

Now as for copyrighted postings! Seriously guys… If you are copying other people’s post, then you shouldn’t even be a blogger. If you get smacked for blog work copyright, you deserve it. But this regulation pretty much works the same way as the photos. Just write your own stuff guys, if you don’t, you don’t belong in the blogging field.

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