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One Year Anniversary Review: Blogger’s Rights and the Risks of Blogging

The issues of protection for bloggers, bloggers rights, and copyright protection for web content is still an evolving issue. As more people find freedom of expression in blogging, other people seem to find more excuses to stop or control not just what they say but how they say it.

There is even a guidebook for bloggers who push these freedom limits called Reporters Without Borders – Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents which covers the issues of how to to remain anonymous and get round censorship, publicize your blog, and work against social and political pressures that want to stomp down on your speech, which I highlighted in October last year.

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.

Freedom of speech was threatened when a case came up about limiting speech for blog comments. Part of the complexity of the issue was whether or not the blog owner was responsible for the blog comments, even though they didn’t write them, but by allowing them to stay they were endorsing their words. Or should the law pass off the responsibility to the anonymous blogger, and force someone to try to find them and hold them responsible for their comment? In a note I wrote on this subject, we cheer that freedom of speech won out over all other issues of responsibilities for that speech.

“Delaware Supremes extend First Amendment Protection to online comments” by by Bob Cauthorn is seriously worth a read.

The Delaware Supreme Court yesterday delivered what one hopes is a watershed decision when it definitively extended First Amendment protections to an anonymous blog poster who attacked an elected town councilman in Smyrna, Del.

More importantly, the court set the bar high because the unknown posters’ comments were filled with obscenities and innuendo about the councilman, Patrick Cahill. That’s the bright line for significant First Amendment rulings — when you see judges protecting loathsome speech, you know they’re serious.

…Frame it. Savor it.

Considering the drift in our nation lately, one gets the feeling that certain people — and pretty much everyone in the Bush administration — have forgotten that America is about inconvenient freedoms.

Convenient freedoms are easy. They cost nothing and they withstand no assault. Standing up for the inconvenient freedoms in the most difficult times is what defines you as a patriot.

Blogs took a hit in the workplace. Not only did companies crack down on people blogging about their company, they handed out contracts for their employees to sign saying they wouldn’t blog about their company. Blog reading during work hours was also nixed as more and more companies put blocks on blog websites and popular blogs. In “Now Blogs Not Safe for Work”, I wrote:

Wired story that Blogs Not Safe for Work.

Robert Mason (not his real name) would love to spend a few minutes during lunch catching up on blog posts from around the web, but his company doesn’t allow it. The financial institution where Mason works as a vice president has security filters set up to block access to — among other things — any website that contains the phrase “blog” in the URL.

…Filtering out every blog isn’t a completely feasible project (and, in fact, Mason says his company’s filter doesn’t catch everything), but the technology to censor the lion’s share of blogs is fairly commonplace. From installing simple URL filters and content scanners to blacklisting ranges of IP addresses, myriad methods for shutting out blog content are available.

If nothing else, the corporate firewall can simply add the word “blog” to the company’s list of verboten phrases that trigger blocking, alongside “games,” “warez” and “britney spears sex tape.”

Okay, this is what I’m not understanding. Yes, I understand that companies are worried about people blogging and leaking sensitive material, be it through actual blogging or comments posted on blogs, but what’s wrong with actually reading blogs?

The article mentions that “In a survey of over 300 large businesses conducted in conjunction with Forrester, Proofpoint found 57.2 percent of respondents were concerned with employees exposing sensitive material in blogs. That’s higher than the portion concerned with the risks of P2P networks.”

NPR Markletplace reported that workers in the US are becoming obsessed with blogs, and that one in four working Americans read blogs while at work, which makes cutting off access to blogs is a serious thing.

On the bright side of things, bloggers like changed the face of blogging by blogging opening about his employer, saying good things and bad. While Scoble recently left Microsoft for another company, many believe that he did more for public relations for Microsoft than the whole public relations department.

Still, the lengths that people will go to let their voices be heard, bucking governments, friends, employees, and everyone, risking their lives to get their message and information out to the world, doesn’t it boggle your mind? When was the last time you blogged about anything knowing that someone might kill you just for writing it?

In The Committee to Protect Bloggers – Risking Your Life for Your Words I wrote about my respect for these risk-taking bloggers:

I’ve written about a lot of bloggers, and few have moved into the amazing realm of self-less motivation and risk that this blog does. According to their mission statement, The Committee To Protect Bloggers is dedicated to “the preservation of the life, liberty and freedom of speech of bloggers across the globe.” It’s a big task and they do it well.

Their mission statement makes it clear that they are primarily interested in the well-being of the bloggers themselves, not just the freedoms they promote. They are seeking information on bloggers imprisoned or “otherwise the victims of state-sanctioned oppression.” By bringing their cause to the public’s attention, they hope to support, defend, but mostly encourage the continual freedom of expression and freedom from oppression.

One of the most popular posts I wrote last year was What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, which provided step-by-step guides for how to respond to copyright violation. Having someone steal your site’s content and use it as their own, or even credit you but do so without permission, is one of the biggest blights on the Internet. What cracked me up more than anything was the amazing number of people who arrogantly thought that the bigger issue regarding that article was the fact that I described “copyright infringement” or “copyright violation” as “content theft” and used the word “steal”. Honestly, folks, do you think the article would have been such a success if titled “What do you do when you’ve been copyright violated”? For the simple folks, when you take something that doesn’t belong to you, it’s called stealing. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t change the intent. And the intent is theft. It’s a word. Get over it.

On the opposite side was the growing trend to consciously and unconsciously allow copyright infringement to be wide spread on the web. In “The Biggest Copyright Infringement in the World But Nobody Cares Enough”, I vented about the apathy regarding this and the growing apathy I see all over the country:

I found a lot of comments on and about my recent articles series on What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content dealt with the issue of “if it’s on the Internet, it’s free for the taking” and “who cares anyway”. Pitiful apathy until I see comments like this above which just reinforces the apathy. Nobody cares.

…Over and over I run into folks in stores and businesses who just “do their job” and nothing else. I’m so tired of “not my responsibility”, “who cares”, “not my job”, and “I just do what I’m told”. I spent 20 minutes once wandering around asking employees in a hardware store if they made duplicate keys before I finally found a customer who pointed me in the right direction to where they made keys. I had to wait another ten minutes before someone finally showed up who knew how to run the key machine. It wasn’t that big of a hardware store!

I know I’m on a soap box, but I want people to care. I want people to live their life with passion and enthusiasm. I want them to do what they do with joy. I want to be around people who want to help others because it’s their job not because they have to, barely doing enough to get through the day to whatever life waits for them away from their job. I’ve found that people who just “get by” in their day job, tend to just “get by” in their life outside of work, too. Sad.

I know I shouldn’t have to remind you, but you only get one life. No matter what your religious belief is, you get now. Why not live each minute as if it is your last, because – well, may I be totally honest here? – it is. So why not care about it before it’s gone. And the next, and the next, and the next.

You don’t have to care about protecting your copyrights. That’s your choice. It is the law, whether you think it should be or not.

If you do care one way or the other, let us know by posting a note on your blog that says “free-for-all-because-I-care-about-copyrights” or “free-for-all-because-I-don’t-care-about-copyrights” so we will know. If you care and want to reinforce your copyright protection, let the world know by putting a “not-free-for-all” sign on your blog. You can find all of these at Creative Commons.

Because whether you care or not, when you hit the PUBLISH button on your blogging program, your written word and photographs are protected by copyright law. What you do from there is up to you. That’s the caring part I’ve been talking about.

I’m constantly on the look out for passionate blogs and bloggers, especially those who deal in integrity, living by it and dying by it, in some cases. In “How Do You Know If a Blog Has Integrity?”, I quoted CRE8PC on Usability and Holistic SEO:

How do you know if a blog has integrity?

The blog that has reposted your posts, in full, whenever you write one is a copycat. Granted, they say that being copied is a form of acknowledgment that you’re doing something right. But, to get my vote for having a brain, I would prefer an overview, and a link back to my blog, instead. Just because we’re on the Internet doesn’t suddenly mean nobody needs manners anymore.

The uniting thread between bloggers is passion. Passion for what they say and passion for what they do. That’s been the refreshing part of being involved with the blogging industry. And yet, things are being overlooked, fellow bloggers. We need to get more active. More responsive. We need to question authority even more and challenge the “way of thinking” that has seeped into society. Apathy reigns. We feel helpless and yet we aren’t.

I recently heard an interview on the radio and I wish I’d caught the name of the speaker, but she said:

As long as we have a voice, we have a responsibility to use it.

Well said.

Articles on Blogger’s Rights, Legal Issues, and Copyright

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network


  1. Posted September 8, 2006 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    LOVE these anniversary posts. Great job, Lorelle!

  2. Posted September 17, 2006 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Yep, so many people steal it is not even funny.All of my stuff is original mainly because I am creative enough to get away with it, I do not care if I have 1 mil readers and I do not believe in stealing.


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