Blogging mistakes, copyright violations and nasty comments
One’s blog is such a personal thing. I mean, whether a blog is a place which you use as a diary, or a place where you jot down random thoughts, or a place where your write about issues which concern you or a media which you use to help others or simply a place which you use as a platform to connect with people…it all depends on what you want from your blog and there is no right or wrong…because a blog is meant to set you free. It’s there to tell people who you are.
But if you make mistakes, whether with an inadvertent copyright violation, or by allowing abusive comments, or writing an abusive post…then there can be a price to pay.
Even if it’s a comment which you have not written and it’s offensive to someone and that someone decides to persecute, the blog owner is liable. In fact here is an example of a blogger being sued for a comment left on his blog by someone else. Publishing a comment that is defamatory is similar to a newspaper publishing a defamatory letter…both the newspaper and the writer can be sued. A Blogger is Media.
In Europe or in the United States a blog owner can be hauled to court (alongwith the writer) over libelous comments left on his blog by others. And if those comments are written during work hours using the office computer, the company is liable as well!
In India we don’t have such stringent laws. In fact in India owners of communities/groups/blogs can get away scot-free if someone leaves a derogatory comment….for now. There is a recent example (link to this article was sent to me by Axinia) of a 22-year old Gurgoan techie (Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid) who was arrested for writing derogatory comments about Sonia Gandhi (Congress President) and Mahatma Gandhi on an orkut community called I hate Sonia Gandhi. He has been charged under section 292 of Indian Penal Code and section 67 of the Information Technology Act . In this case the owner of the community was not held liable as the laws in India seem to be different…but I wonder how long it will be before we too will frame internet laws like those in developed countries. Rules and laws pertaining to the internet have a penchant for spreading very quickly.
In any case, what is clear that it is best to delete derogatory comments about people. Even when you are writing a post about crimes committed by people and even if you are sure that you are right, use words like alleged, suspect, it seems or I feel – do not ever directly call anyone a criminal (make a statement) unless he is a convicted felon. If anyone leaves such a comment on your blog, best to delete it, even if you feel that the writer meant no harm.
And when it comes to addressing someone, a badly written comment (or a post) can give rise to a flame war if one allows it. Blogging etiquette is actually the same as etiquette in real life. You have to deal with each person as if that person is standing right in front of you, whether you write a comment, a blog post or you are answering a comment…as if you are looking that person straight in the eye…and if someone does cross the line, a blog owner is well within his rights to delete the comment. Too often rude bloggers are introverts in their personal life, afraid to face people and use the anonymity of the internet to shout and scream.
Timethief has given excellent advice in her post on “how to handle negative comments”. She writes:
The bottom line is that it is your blog and it’s your call. If you do not want nastiness posted on your blog then delete the comment and get on with your life…Providing a quality environment for the readers of our blogs is more important than giving a platform for a few people who don’t know how to play well with others. …
And the person to decide whether a comment is inflammatory or rude is you, the blog owner. If you make a mistake at times, don’t worry. We are all human.
Another hot topic when it comes to blogging is copyright violation. The rules are the same as in print…one has to acknowledge the source of the the material. But acknowledging the source isn’t enough. If the exact words are used (or similar) then the matter needs to be in quotation marks or it becomes a copyright violation. Also, there is a limit on what you can quote…more than a paragraph and you are on dangerous ground even if the source is acknowledged.
If you quote someone, say a famous personality, the origin of the quote needs to be given.
Where taking permission is concerned, one doesn’t need it if one is taking a few lines from a post/article and that too for a non-commercial purpose, but to take the contents of the whole article without permission is plagiarism even if it is for a non-commercial purpose.
If you get an idea for your own blog post from someone else’s post, then it is best to acknowledge that with a link. This isn’t copyright infringement, simply etiquette. This also applies if you get hold of a useful link from a blog…you need to acknowledge the source. Again, just etiquette.
If your blog post is completely based on some article, then it is best to say so upfront. You can say that the post is a summary of the orginal (give the link) and then proceed to write it out in your own words, otherwise it’s a copyright violation.
Where photographs are concerned, again acknowledgment is necessary even if it is for non-commercial use.
The best and clear piece of writing that I came across on the internet on this subject is this – 10 Big Myths about copyright explained. The author, Brad Templeton gives some tips to owners of content as well. He explains that today you don’t need a copyright notice. The owner of the content can sue whether there is copyright notice on his content or not:
…in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people’s works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise…
Sure, a notice serves as a warning, but you can win a case anyway if you can prove that a certain material is yours. Templeton says something even more interesting. He says that if you use something from someone even on a non-commercial site, and this results in a financial loss to the owner of the content, then that party can claim compensation.
About ‘fair use” he has clearly said that a very limited amount of the work of another can be used, and that too with attribution.
Laws in India are probably different…but in India we do have fairly good intellectual property rights laws. If you can prove that something belongs to you, then a case can be made. There was also this recent case when film maker Rakesh Roshan had to pay Rs 2 crore to music director Ram Sampath because he had used his tunes in his film Krazzy 4 without acknowledgment or payment to Sampath. I am not sure what the laws on cyber copyright violations are in India though. I suspect they haven’t been framed because I couldn’t find anything. A person who has his online content stolen will have to use existing laws I think.