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News & Views

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
How to keep your blog out of the courtroom

DATELINE: BOSTON, MASS.

Businesses and individuals create blogs for a variety of reasons – to demonstrate their expertise on a particular topic; improve search engine rankings for their Web site; sell a product or service; or just to create a forum to express opinions. No one, however, starts a blog with the intent of being sued. Yet, according to Boston-based Tarlow, Breed, Hart, & Rodgers, P.C. (TBHR), the potential for a lawsuit arising out of your blog is real and greater than you may realize.

“When it comes to a blog, where you get your material and how you use it can land you in hot water just as much as, if not more than, what you say. Using unauthorized photos, failing to properly credit a source you quote, using copyrighted material, or allowing comments that contain any of the above can open the door to a lawsuit. That’s not why most people start blogs,” said Emily C. Shanahan, an associate at TBHR.

There are some steps you can take to help ensure your blog sticks to its intended purpose without making you or your company vulnerable to a lawsuit:

  • Screen comments on your blogs – Stay in control of the content of your blog either by not allowing comments or by clearly defining from the outset what standard posted comments have to meet. If they don’t, delete them. That being said, don’t play editor of your users’ comments.
  • If you quote them, give them credit – Trying to pass off somebody’s words as your own can lead to big trouble. If you’re going to quote somebody, keep it short and always credit the person who said it and in what publication.
  • Using photos and images – Just because you find an image on the Internet does not mean you have permission to use it. When it comes to artwork, use only what you create, own the license for, pay to use or know to be free stock photography or clip art.
  • Celebrities – While using celebrities as fodder for your blog might make for entertaining content, it could open the door to a defamation lawsuit if you’re not careful. Even associating a celebrity’s name and/or image with your blog in a positive manner can lead to trouble down the road if you don’t have his or her permission.
  • Company trademarks – Do not use in your blog trademarks that you do not own or are not licensed to use. You can, however, mention another company by name. As a precaution, you may want to mention if the company’s name is trademarked.

“A lot of this stuff is common sense, but many businesses seem to check their common sense at the door when they start up blogs,” said Shanahan. “Your blog is meant to give you a business advantage, not put you out of business. So when it comes to most blog posts, if you have a doubt about whether or not a post could be taken the wrong way or puts you at risk, consult your attorney. Better safe than sued.”

This release is not intended to be, nor should be construed as, legal advice.

 

About Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C.

Formed in 1991, Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. is committed to providing high quality, comprehensive legal services to its clients. Featuring a breadth and depth of experience and perspective usually found only at larger law firms, Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers. P.C. offers sophisticated legal counsel to entrepreneurs, businesses, individuals, families, and institutions.

Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers’ areas of expertise include corporate law, employment matters, mergers and acquisitions, litigation and dispute resolution, estate planning, taxation, real estate, bankruptcy, and municipal law.

The offices of Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. are located at 101 Huntington Avenue, Prudential Center, in Boston, MA 02199. For additional information, or to arrange for a consultation, please call 1-617-218-2000, e-mail info@tbhr-law.com, or visit www.tbhr-law.com.

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