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Anyone can start a blog, but does that mean we’re all across the legal and ethical issues of blogging? There are some things that can be dodgy, but others are downright unethical and don’t do well in building a trustworthy relationship with your readers. As the law is different in every country, I’ve only discussed some issues after doing some research of Australian pages, so it may be different for bloggers in other countries. I also want to disclose that I’m not a lawyer of any sort and I’m resharing information based on my own research.
Here’s some of these issues below:
Owning your own copyright
When you create content for your blog, whether that’s written or visual, that means you own the copyright. If other’s steal your work through plagiarism or reposting your images on instagram/tumblr, that’s considered to be copyright infringement, and the owner has the right to request you to take it down.
Using other people’s content
Copyright issues also apply when you use other people’s work on your blog and social media channels, such as Instagram. If you’ve found an image/gif/review that you’d like to repost on your blog or account, you need to seek the copyright owner’s permission or make sure there is sufficient acknowledgement for the post. Don’t assume everything that you find on Instagram is free for you to use and repost, especially if you have a monetary motive behind it (eg. an author reposting blogger content without permission). You can get around this by resharing the post from the original source if it’s from social media, or using the repost app after asking the copyright owner for permission.
You know those negative snarky reviews that people love to read and write? If you make it personal and it affects the reputation of an author, it can be considered as defamation. What’s even scarier about defamation, is that it means you might be liable anywhere in the world. How do you get around this? Never make your review about the author.
Using someone else’s image
If you use a photo or picture of someone and put it on your blog, they might not be too happy to find out that you’ve posted it without their permission. If you’ve taken a photo at an event and there’s someone else’s face in it, you might want to crop it out if you haven’t obtained their permission. To avoid this from occurring, make sure you’ve asked for permission to post it on your account or blog.
Review platforms, including blogs, should not contain fake reviews especially if they’re disclosed to be honest and fair reviews. The very nature of a review platform is that you provide considered, honest opinions. If you are posting reviews that are false and do not reflect your true and accurate opinion, and you’re affiliated with a company/publisher/author who gives you an incentive to post a positive review, then that could be looked at as a fake review. Fake reviews are also frowned upon by readers and other bloggers.
If you received a book for free and you post about it, it’s best practice to acknowledge the publisher/author in your review and your social media channels. Similarly, any affiliate links or sponsored ads/giveaways must also be disclosed as well. It’s best to be open and transparent when it comes to anything you receive for free.
Source: Arts Law: Legal Issues for Bloggers, 30 March 2016.
ACCC: What you need to know about: online reviews – a guide for business and review platforms, Commonwealth of Australia, 2013.
Websites & User-Generated Content, Australian Copyright Council, 2017.
Blogging is a personal platform that can be constituted as a hobby, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t bound by the same ethical issues for businesses who make money out of it. With these things, it’s always better to be on the safe side.
Do any of these issues surprise you?
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