Gnomedex: Today’s Digital Legalities

Posted in Blogging, Opinion, Professional Blogging

Panelists: Denise Howell (Reed Smith), Buzz Bruggeman (ActiveWords), Jason Calacanis (Weblogs Inc)

Denise does appellant law – programmers of the legal field. They deal with briefs that go to the appellant court. It takes a lot of research. And that is moving to the web. Now it’s being blogged and read by citizens, lawyers, and judges alike.

The law is NOT static. It is always changing.

Law is participatory. A judge just may pick up on what you say and actually use it. People who make the law do read the web.

Jason gives us an overview about how RSS impacts in law. “Really simple stealing.” Fair use. Intellectual property. Trade secrets. Picking your fights – what happens when you get sued by big companies (which is stupid, but happens). Blogger contracts. Should you incorporate your blog?

Sometimes lawyers send letters but know, in some cases, that they are just pushing but not with validity. The discussion is important – why should you comply? Is the position valid? Talking is good. Delay can go your way. But this is not advice ;) Back down if you are wrong, definitely. Choose if you want to share your discussions with the lawyers. You can share what the discussion is. It will teach others and maybe even other lawyers. Plus, as Jason says, if the lawyer is wrong EVERYTHING is online – letter, address, reputation. It forces out a candid participatory law.

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The truth will eventually come out. Say where your sources are from. Be up front. Use “claimed” “alleged” if you are not sure. If you state the truth, it will be supported and that’s great. But it also covers your ass. :)

So, back to how everything is good for opening the law. The information that lawyers used to get was very restrictive – they got private subscriptions and information. Now, they share the same base – the Internet.

EFF legal guide for bloggers (US only)

Would you hire a lawyer because they are a blogger? Me, no. Not without checking all the other important criteria.

Should you incorporate? It doesn’t reduce your litigation expenses. Only if you are wrong will it provide some protection for you. The better you write, the more you write, the more you’ll be cognizant of the nuances of how and what to say. Just plain old don’t be stupid. Not everything is bloggable. I am very interested in incorporation. I realize any advice here would be US based, but it’s something we’ve yet to decide on.

Blogging contracts. Write out everything involved in what you are responsible for. Write out a letter of agreement that lays out no further discussion on the points after each bullet is signed. This will include what your pay scheme is, how you can leave the company, etc. You should also write down your telephone conversations so you have documentation.

Public officials need better ways to connect with all constituents. This could include using VoIP and video so people outside metro areas can have the same access to public officials and the legislation being created.

Fair use – are you impinging on ability to make money? How much are you using? Keep within 100 words. Respect the work. Communicate – ask them what is fair to use their work and send them traffic. There are some fair use guidelines published by IP lawyers on ourmedia – go here.

Why not ask for legal advice on your blog? Or connect with bloggers who are in this area and ask to start a discussion. It’s much more of an equal platform conversation that opens you up to legal areas and discussion.

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