Friday, May 27, 2011

The High Cost of Blogging

While waiting for the next SEC Baseball Tournament game to start, a cautionary tale to those who like to express opinions, either on behalf of yourself or your employer. Just don't.

Alright, that's hardly useful advice from this space, but a series of recent events does call into question both the practical limits of your First Amendment rights and if being social is worth the potential cost.

You don't like a product or service and want to say something about it - be prepared that the age old tactic of the SLAPP suit has arrived in the blogosphere. Catching up on my On the Media podcasts brought this coverage of the tactic of filing a frivolous suit by those with means - particularly against individuals - simply to force them to shut up. Marc Randazza talks of the practice, but has advice: check your homeowners or renter's policy for the ability to add defamation coverage. I'll be checking into that when I get home from this road trip.

The other is the growing practice of political parties and advocates to use Freedom of Information Act requests to get at the emails of public employees. Hey, no big surprise here - fans of certain athletic teams have made this a staple of get the coach. But as the practice widens out, it is both chilling and shocking to many that work in the public sector. Here in Arkansas, we have our own version of it today between the state GOP and a Democratic leaning blogger. ADG coverage, but subscriber link.. I could link to the blogger, but he's done a takedown on himself. There is an opposition blog, The Tolbert Report, that has an overview.

Finally, also from OTM, the new practice of treating bloggers who pick up info for their usage on-line like they were stealing audio files. Some media companies have licensed their copyright content to a legal firm created essentially to threaten lawsuits and extract thousand dollar settlements. Fair use be damned here. This takes the previous moves of AP and others to charge by the quote to a new level. Read more from the OTM transcript about the activities of Righthaven.

My serious advice: get the legal coverage, do your diligence to keep personal and business email separated (and by that, doing public business on a GMail account isn't a way around that, it only opens up the private email to public inspection) and no matter how juicy the quote, take extreme care in what you use and how you cite.

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