EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers

June 14, 2005


“…bloggers sometimes publish information that other people don’t want published.” Isn’t that something we’ve all heard about, felt like doing or actually done? In a very real way, blogging can be the stuff of investigative journalism. It can also be the stuff of trash journalism and worthless screed. But if we want a free and open society, free speech must be protected – wherever it rears its adorable face.

So what is a blogger to do. There are several twelve-step programs that can be considered. But in the meantime, head on over to the EFF and read their legal guide for all bloggers. This is an excellent source for understanding applicable free speech laws in the United States.

One of the most valuable things that this guide stresses is that free speech is not the same as unbridled and/or completely unrestricted speech. All bloggers must remember a number of simple things that all journalists are taughtt in school (or on the job). Fundamentally, our free speech rights don’t give us the right to say (or blog) anything we want. We must guard against libel, defamation, and a host of other misuses of speech. We must also guard against illicit speech (e.g., soliciitations to violence or illegal activities, etc.).

And while these general rules are imperative, the EFF guide provides discrete information as well. For example, the guide includes information on how a blogger can take advatnage of anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws that exist within each state. These laws protect individuals against lawsuits designed exclusively to silence speech.

What are the issues that this guide can help with? They include:

* Defamation
* Intellectual Property (Copyright/Trademark)
* Trade Secret
* Right of Publicity
* Publication of Private Facts
* Intrusion into Seclusion

Please note that this guide is really a means fo connecting the interested and informed blogger with additional resources. The guide cannot be construed as legal advice. But it is a good starting point.

Finally, I urge every blogger to read these guidelines. But you should not stop there. In addition to the legal issues, every blogger must recognize that there are ethical and moral issues involved in blogging. While it may be completely legal to reveal certain information, such revelations might be unethical, immoral or both.

So here is my advice. Learn what is legal. And then consider what is ethical/moral before you post sensitive information.



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