I met Duane Lester from All American Blogger when I spoke at a blogger conference in Charlotte, NC a few weeks ago.
Last week I got a tweet from Duane. Turns out a small news paper had taken a blog post of his, copied it almost verbatim, and published it in their newspaper. They did not get his permission. They did not attribute the source to him. So here was my complete non-legal advice.
So that is what he did. He wrote a letter to the paper, he attached a bill. He delivered the letter, and in the end, he got a check from the paper for $500.00. He also videotaped the encounter and posted it on his blog. This all can be seen here.
This entire episode shows that the law is a double edged sword. The advice about posting and attributing to bloggers, applies to news publications. You cannot copy and republish an article without violating someone’s copyright. Bloggers can’t do it. Newspapers can’t do it. Select what you want to use, a small fraction of the original work, attribute it, and add your own content, at least double of what you copied at bare minimum. More would be better.
I also encourage bloggers to actually develop relationships with local newspapers. See if you can get what you write republished with permission, and perhaps actual payment. This way, they get content, you get attribution, publicity, and maybe a little cash.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains no actual legal advice. It is difficult to dispense comprehensive legal advice on the internet. If you find the information on this site interesting and insightful, great. But before you rely on any of this advice, please consult a legal professional with the specific details of your case or controversy.
Here we have yet another reason why bloggers need advocacy.
A blogger writing a blog on his personal experiences combating diabetes using the “paleo-diet”, is threatened with a government mandate which could send him to jail for “practice of dietetics or nutrition” without a license. The blog, Diabetes-Warrior.net, was started as a result of the blogger, Steve Cooskey changing his lifestyle in his fight against diabetes after he was hospitalized in 2009.
The complaint comes from the state diatetics and nutrition board, which regulates the dietician profession. In order to avoid jail he needs to virtually shut down and delete his blog. This is in spite of the fact that he placed this disclaimer on every post ““I am not a doctor, dietitian, nor nutritionist … in fact I have no medical training of any kind”.
From the Carolina Journal:
Declan McCullagh, a CBSNews.com correspondent who writes about online free speech, says the board probably is violating Cooksey’s First Amendment rights.
“The First Amendment says state and federal governments ‘shall make no law’ abridging freedom of speech,” McCullagh said. “It doesn’t say ‘except for what annoys the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.’”
McCullagh pointed to a sentence in Cooksey’s blog the board didn’t approve of: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
“If that language appeared in a book or a magazine article, do you think the board would complain?” McCullagh asked. “How about if someone said that to a friend over dinner at a restaurant? Of course not. But because it’s on the Web, they seem to think that the First Amendment no longer applies.”
A couple of key points. If Cooskey was offering paid services then the state would have a case. However, blogging would have nothing to do with the paid services, the paid service itself would be the violation. Anyone can offer lay opinion. News editorials offer lay opinion on legal issues all the time (and they are more often than not wrong). Are they practicing law without a license? Clearly not. Their activity is covered by the first amendment. The same applies here.
On my blog, on posts where I opine on legal situations, I always include a disclaimer stating that the information contained is not legal advice, and that the reader should consult a lawyer before doing anything. If Cooskey’s disclaimer is not enough, then what is to say my disclaimer is enough, should someone decide to act on the advice given?