Because I occasionally do or say things that get me in trouble with The Man (see Ken Jennings/Sony and Simply Porn), I’m often asked my opinion on what to do when other people find themselves in similar situations. After lots of disclaiming (I’m not a lawyer, but…), I usually end up giving very little useful advice because I don’t know much about the issues involved with any case beyond my own. But now, I will be able to point people to the EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers:
Whether you’re a newly minted blogger or a relative old-timer, you’ve been seeing more and more stories pop up every day about bloggers getting in trouble for what they post.
Like all journalists and publishers, bloggers sometimes publish information that other people don’t want published. You might, for example, publish something that someone considers defamatory, republish an AP news story that’s under copyright, or write a lengthy piece detailing the alleged crimes of a candidate for public office.
The difference between you and the reporter at your local newspaper is that in many cases, you may not have the benefit of training or resources to help you determine whether what you’re doing is legal. And on top of that, sometimes knowing the law doesn’t help - in many cases it was written for traditional journalists, and the courts haven’t yet decided how it applies to bloggers.
But here’s the important part: None of this should stop you from blogging. Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Internet bullies shouldn’t use the law to stifle legitimate free expression. That’s why EFF created this guide, compiling a number of FAQs designed to help you understand your rights and, if necessary, defend your freedom.