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Freedom of Speech – Bloggers Legal Rights

Bloggers have rights. Did you know that? You do. Bloggers also have limits to those rights and freedoms. The Electronic Frontier Foundation – Bloggers Legal Rights outlines what your rights are and what work is being done to protect them.

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.

Of most value may be The Overview of Legal Liability Issues FAQ addressing common legal issues as a publisher and writer, The Bloggers’ FAQ on Intellectual Property covers issues of publishing material created by others, The Bloggers’ FAQ on Online Defamation Law, The Bloggers’ FAQ on Section 230 Protections which covers federal law portecting you against legal claims from hosting third party information, and The Bloggers’ FAQ on Privacy, covering the legal issues of privacy rights not just for you but the people you mention in your blog.

Remember, it is your responsibility to know your blogging rights, what you can and cannot do on your blog. Freedom of Speech is a right and a privilege. As a privilege, there are rules. Claiming you didn’t know after the fact doesn’t work. Know before you blog.

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  1. Posted October 4, 2005 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    The saddest thing is that in Malaysia, such legal rights don’t exist and for the growing part, people abuse the right for freedom to express every damn thing they want…including racial hate speech which is deemed as seditious in our part of the country and you can be jailed for it.

    Such laws are a two edged blade.

    It’s hard to defend free speech when there are people who will misuse it to no end.

  2. Posted October 18, 2007 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    So glad to see the word “responsibility” raised in this topic–too many bloggers seem to think that “free speech” and “carte blanche” are synonymous when, in fact, freedom of speech is a narrow concept that applies only when dealing with governmental restrictions. As writers, bloggers or creative people of any ilk, we should respect each other’s work as the fruits of labor that it is and not attempt to co-opt it for our own use/profit.

  3. Posted November 23, 2007 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Actually I read with interest. Legal issues have always been interesting while I am no lawyer.

    Although I agree that many courts are not really sure about blog judgements, the basis of likening them to licensed publication (regulated and with authority) and code-observing professional journalist is not agreeable.

    Which is why Scope has also written his original piece on such legal stuff hyper casually being not a lawyer.

    Actually, to me, it’s common sense and not freedom of speech that matters. By the way, I am looking to work outside Singapore, it’d be nice if anyone has any lobangs (aka opportunities) to recomment.

    Thanks and rgds.


  4. G. Pascal Howell
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Are the MLA guidelines acceptable for blogging? Or is blogging an entirely different ball game. Better for me to ask now, before establishing bad habits. I decided to come to the source.

    Thanks in advance.


  5. Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    @ G. Pascal Howell:

    Depends upon what you are doing with your blog. If it is a personal blog, anything goes. If it is a business blog, use business style guidelines. From there, it’s up to you. With a blog, anything goes as long as that is where you want to take it.

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  1. […] Freedom of Speech – Bloggers Legal Rights […]

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  3. […] The Electronic Frontier Foundation – Bloggers Legal Rights is at the forefront for protecting Blogger rights as well as other online rights and freedoms, and I wrote about their efforts over the past year to protect freedom of speech for bloggers. […]

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  8. […] got a nifty article on the legal rights of bloggers with lots of good links. My favorite is to the Electric Freedom Foundation’s article Legal Guide […]

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