Blogs in Action

Last night I attended a Six Apart event on blogs, in action at the Polish club, which is a very nice trad-looking venue indeed. A good counter-balance to the high-tech and business topic and the audience. The people assembled were an interesting bunch and my impression that there is a pent up demand for such events. My only reservation was that much was crammed into the session and a series of events would allow to spread the backlog of blog knowledge to ‘evangelise’ in the UK. It would also allow a sustained focus on blogging, which is sorely needed here. The good news is that Alistair and the tBBC gang are planning such a series, with focus on individual sectors and industries. So, watch this space.

I was taking copious notes during the session but having come across Suw Charman’s account, I put my hands in the air and said ‘teach me master’ – I am a fast typist, or so I thought, but Suw’s “demon typing hands” put me to shame. She captured most of the talks on her blog and I shall only reproduce the one by David Carr, our esteemed bloglawyer, who first scared everyone away from blogging and then told them what to do about it.

Gilbert Bass
Lawyer and director with the Big Blog Company. Issues around libel etc.

Lots of horror stories that can frighten any blogger – the lesson from that is stay away from lawyers. There are several issues, such as privacy, but the one that comes up most often is libel. It’s a major worry and with good reason. Some people have formed the view that the internet is beyond the reach of law and that you can post whatever you like and it doesn’t matter. This is nonsense. All the law that applies to traditional publishing applies to blogging. There’s a little difference in the way corporate and vanity publisher are treated, but not with libel. Whether you are commercial or not, the position is unsatisfactory for bloggers. Law is governed by the Defamation act,

In 97, someone pretending to be one Dr Godfrey posted to a Usenet group and said lots of horrible things about him, the real Dr Godfrey took the view that the comments were libellous. Faxed Demon internet, and asked them to take it down. Demon said it’s nothing to do with them, they were just hosters. Godfrey took Demon to court and won – Demon said they were innocent carriers. But that only works up to the point that they have received notice of the libel. Because Dr Godfrey had noticed them, and not taken down the posting, they lost their defence.

Law does not require you to police your comments – if someone leaves a libellous comments, you are not necessarily obliged to do something about it unless someone notifies you, and then you must take it down. Difficulty is what is a plausible complaint and what is silly and frivolous. Puts blog owners in difficult position, because they will remove the offending item rather than face a lawsuit, although implication that someone wrote something libellous could also be interpreted as libellous.

Have disclaimer on the comments to the effect that your comments are here under sufferance and that it’s a privilege not a right, and that comments may be removed at any time for reasons of law, taste or decency. ‘On any grounds that the editors see fit’. May be less important with personal blogs, but particularly with commercial concerns.

Photos and permission is another issue.

All in all, a good evening that should be repeated.