There are millions of blogs online these days. While incredibly easy to launch, most bloggers do not realize there are legal issues you need to deal with when running a blog. In today’s article, we take a look at legal issues related to blog comments.
According to blog enthusiasts, comments are where you interact with your readers and followers. Perhaps. If your site is anything like mine, the comments section is where you receive a ton of spam kicked out by automated software. It is annoying and even the best spam comment software catches only so much of it.
This spam problem begs a simple question. Do you really need to allow comments on your blog? You might, but then again perhaps not. Food for thought if you will. Assuming you wish to keep your comments on, you need to be aware of the following doing.
Can you run into problems with copyright infringement in comments posted by visitors? It is fairly unlikely, but the solution to preventing it is so simple that it is worth mentioning.
So, how would a copyright infringement case arise? The answer is if a person posted a copyrighted work such as a photo in their comment without permission of the copyright owner. While theoretically possible, few people do this in the real world. What they do, however, is post links to content on other sites. For example, someone might post a link to a funny video on YouTube that contains infringing material.
Does this make you liable for infringement? I would argue that it does not. Still, it is a murky area, and you could be dragged into a lawsuit. While you would most likely “win” the lawsuit, it would be an expensive victory since you would need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to defend it.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to get around this problem. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is your friend. The “DMCA” provides you with immunity from copyright infringement claims based on user-generated content. A blog comment would count as such. By complying with the requirements of this law [See DMCAAgentService.com], you can put an end to any copyright threat. Compliance is a simple, one-time event, so contact me to get it taken care of for your blog.
Slander and libel can be a real headache for bloggers. The problem is an argument between two people posting comments on the blog. If the posters become inflamed, the comments can quickly spiral out of control. Before you know it, one poster is accusing the other of killing baby seals while the other is being accused of doing intimate things with a cow. The result is a slander lawsuit.
The good news in this area is you, the blogger, are automatically legally protected from the claims. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives you immunity from slander claims based on user-generated content. This section is also the law that allows sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to avoid an avalanche of lawsuits.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this protection is under attack. A number of states are asking Congress to gut Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They are seeking to make site owners responsible for user-generated content including blog comments posted by third parties. Forget the NSA for a minute. This effort is the big news you need to be aware of and fighting. This single change could fundamentally change the way the internet works.
When it comes to blogs, there is often a simple solution for dealing with comments. In the settings section of the blog, you should be able to require a manual review of comments prior to publication on the site. This forces you to review each comment and evaluate whether they contain anything that could get you into trouble. Of course, you may need a bit of legal training to do this, but common sense often is sufficient.
As a blogger, what should you do to combat legal issues surrounding blog comments?
- Require a manual review of comments before publishing them online.
- Comply with the DMCA to gain immunity from copyright claims.
Contact me today to get into compliance with the DMCA and protect yourself or if you have any questions.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.