Anyone writing blog posts or articles—for your own website or your employer’s—should read this book. I’m not a lawyer but my sense is that the author covers all the key issues you need to be familiar with to stay out of trouble. And if you do like to push the envelope, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed will make you aware of consequences and serve as a guide for when you should seek legal counsel.
Ruth Carter is both an experienced blogger and a practicing attorney. Her writing style is clear, concise and filled with relevant examples. Carter does not add a lot of fluff to pad the book—89 pages feels just right. I paid $3.99 and feel I got a lot of value. I consider myself “dangerously familiar” with business law and yet learned a few new things such as:
- “Fair use does not give you permission to use another person’s work, but rather it gives you a defense that you can use if you’re accused of infringing on someone else’s copyright.” (News to me.)
- “When you select images for your blog from Creative Commons, always pick images that you can modify and commercialize. This license gives you the most freedom. You want to have the ability to modify images so you can crop them to fit your needs. You may not be making any money on your blog now, but you might in the future. You don’t want to have to go back and figure out which images you have to replace and find substitutes so you can commercialize your work.” (Great advice.)
- Once you release your work into the public domain, i.e. remove the copyright, you can’t take it back.
- “…if you have ads on your blog, even if you don’t earn much money from them, your use of another’s work could be characterized as commercial.” (According to Amazon’s Popular Highlights feature this is the most frequently underlined phrase in the book…so far.)
Carter also stressed what I call the Golden Rule of online behavior: “Don’t post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper.” And the related reminder, “never say anything online about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face.”
I have only a couple quibbles and those have to do with the design and formatting of the eBook. One is that the endnotes link to the note but don’t link back. So if you find yourself interested in the citation you’ll have to search for where you left off reading before clicking to the endnote. The second issue is that it is not formatted for the black background reading mode in a couple sections of the book. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is fixed soon. It’s the same issue I spoke about here back in February.
If you do a lot of writing, and you are not a lawyer, this book could help you sleep more soundly at night. It’s a great investment of both time and money.