Getting Fired for Blabbing on Your Blog
New York attorneys' advice when you get doocedBy Marilyn Stone | Last updated on January 20, 2023
It’s the Law, Not the MediumBloggers often include links to other Web sites. Progoff says this practice isn’t viewed as a violation of rights. Lepera offers bloggers the following advice: “Make sure the content you post is yours and that you’re not violating anyone’s copyright or other rights. If you’re going to disparage someone, be very careful that it’s the truth or protected speech, particularly when you name names. While the First Amendment provides much protection, you may nevertheless expose yourself to libel litigation.” “All the same rules apply in terms of libel and defamation for the Internet,” says Nick Akerman, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, co-chair of the Computer Fraud and Abuse department and author of Computer Security. “Your legal obligations aren’t eradicated by the computer.” Blogs by nature invite public comment. What if someone commits libel in your blog? Opsahl says you’re off the hook. “Congress addressed that issue in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. If you’re operating a blog and a third party posts on it, the third party is responsible for what they say, not the soapbox on which they say it.” Akerman adds a caveat on including images. “If a picture could invade privacy or if the picture combined with the words could be construed as libelous, all the rules of libel still apply.”
No Statute of Limitations?The Internet makes it possible for virtually everyone to know everything, but does a blog stay on the Internet forever? “It’s much less forgiving than other media,” says Akerman. “If you make a statement on the Internet, it’s there forever. In the old days, a statement quoted in the Akron News would be lost to the ages. No one could find it unless they went to that newspapers’ archives.” Others say bloggers can remove content and the Web host would have no reason to re-launch it. However, it might be stored in Google Cache, a Web site that archives pages that had significant traffic at some point. Lepera suggests erring on the conservative side because you don’t know who will see or make a copy of your blog. Will the law bend to the Internet or will Internet users bend to the law? Lepera sees tension on both sides. “The law is well established and you see it in the copyright area with piracy cases. Yet you see a tension with the Internet creating new business models, new jobs, and new ways to share content. There’s pressure to change laws and adapt while companies and individuals are asserting their rights under existing law.” Eisenberg notes, “The law evolves based on what happens culturally. The law will continue to develop to meet the needs that the Internet has created.” Indeed, technology not even in existence today might spark cases before the courts tomorrow. For more information about this area, see our employment law overview for employees and our wrongful termination overview.
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