The Legalities Of Blogging & Plagiarism

Blogging allows ordinary people to put their thoughts, opinions and creative work onto the internet, potentially for the whole world to see. With the explosion in popularity of social sharing, through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, blogging has sky-rocketed over the last decade. However, it can present certain legal dangers, especially to those who have no formal training in the worlds of journalism, publishing or law.

No matter what the background of the blogger, once their blog is published online, it technically has the same legal status as any piece of professionally published work. This means that the various pieces of legislation related to journalism or publishing now apply to that blog.

As a result, there are certain legalities regarding blogging, which everyone should be aware of, to prevent possible problems.

Copyright and Plagiarism

Copyright law and the issue of plagiarism should perhaps be the most important blogging-related topics when in comes to complying with the law.

In most circumstances, recreating or duplicating a copyright protected work on your own blog is a violation of copyright law and may also be an act of plagiarism. If a blogger publishes a post containing copyrighted material, the owner of that material may be able to bring legal action against the blogger.

Yet, despite this, it may be possible to use certain small quotations from other sources without violating any laws. In UK copyright legislation, the concept of ‘fair use’ allows for certain instances of this, in order to protect free speech and aid news reporting.

In order to ensure you are in-keeping with fair use laws, you should make sure that the quoted material is justified in your overall piece, that no more is quoted than is necessary and that the original source and author are mentioned.

Some works are made available for more widespread use and these can be found by locating works with a Creative Commons licence or works where the copyright has lapsed.

Defamation: Slander and Libel

Another important legal concept that bloggers should be aware of is the concept of defamation. In short, defamation is the communication of a false idea, either presented as fact or implied to be true, which could damage the reputation of a person, a company or an entity. This can take the forms of either slander or libel.

Slander is defamation presented through spoken word or another transitory medium, while libel is defamation presented in fixed form, such as print or through published online video. As a result, the vast majority of online defamation is classed as libel.

A person, or entity, that is the victim of defamation may pursue legal action against a blog which publishes material they deem to be false and damaging to their reputation. Even if the blogger is sure that what they are writing is the truth, the burden of proof lies with them. If they cannot prove it is true, it can still be classed as defamation.

Opinions are not subject to defamation law, as long as they are clearly presented as opinions and not presented or implied to be facts.

Defamation law does not take into account the size of the audience reading a libellous claim. Whether a blog is read by one person or 100,000 people, if it contains libel then it is in breach of defamation law.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Generally, blogs are subject to the legislation of the country they are published from. However, it is worth considering that some things that are legal in the UK may not be legal elsewhere and this could have implications for your blog.

Social networking sites are subject to similar laws as blogging and material posted to facebook and twitter is also considered ‘published’.

Sources:
http://www.blogherald.com/2011/10/21/21-legal-facts-every-blogger-should-know/
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p09_fair_use

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This post was written by Christopher, a law student studying for his LLM masters in law degree. Christopher is a keen blogger who enjoys writing and photography in his spare time.

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2 Responses

  1. This is good information on a timely and relevant topic. As bloggers, we should be concerned with not only protecting our own work, but also respecting the content of others’ blogs. Thanks for bringing us up to speed on this.

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