Think before you blog

Mark Hill and Taj Kunwar Paul of the Rights Lawyers analyse the legal risks associated with blogging.

Tags: DefamationLegal protectionThe Rights LawyersUnited Arab Emirates
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Think before you blog
By  Mark Hill and Taj Kunwar Paul Published  February 28, 2010 Arabian Computer News Logo

Blogging continues to be a popular way of communicating your views. It obviously can serve any purpose you can think of, including political commentary, literature, industry commentary and so on.

Now, I am sure, it won’t surprise any of you when we say there are a number of legal issues which may get involved with respect to blogging and you should know those before you start your own blog.  We all know that the concept is still relatively new and we don’t have specific laws associated with the same.

So what are these legal issues?  Well, you might for example publish something that someone considers defamatory or you might republish a news story that is under copyright. You may happen use someone else’s trade marks which may be infringing upon someone’s intellectual property rights. Some examples follow.

Defamation

Defamation – the word sounds a bit scary especially in this part of the word as we have some fairly broad defamation laws. Basically defamation is the making of a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation. There are specific elements that need to be proved to establish a case:

• there has been a publication to one other than the person defamed;

• the statement of fact is false; i.e, truth is a defence to defamation;

• that false statement must be understood to be about the person defamed; and

• It must also be understood to have a tendency to harm the reputation of that person.

You may have read or heard many stories of journalists having been imprisoned for stories they have written. It is relatively easy for a person to file a defamation complaint with the police which costs no money or time and you run the risk of eventually facing imprisonment and fines if you find yourself on the wrong side of the defamation line.

This is a real risk for anyone running a blog in this part of the world. So, regardless of whether there is any merit in the claim that defamation has occurred, it is so easy to launch a criminal action for defamation that the risk will always exist for bloggers. So you may want to be careful analysing your statements before you publish them on your blog in this part of the world.

Sometimes not only the bloggers but also the publishers can potentially be sued for any comments published by the readers. For instance, in a case result that has just been announced in January 2010, an UAE e-magazine has been shut down for thirty days and fined $5400 after the court held that some comments attached by a reader to an article were defamatory. The lower court ruled that the editor of the website was responsible for readers’ comments published on the website. The relevance to bloggers should be obvious!

Publicity

The right of publicity relates to the claim that you have used someone’s name or likeness to your commercial advantage without permission and resulting in injury. Bluntly, the concept is still a “new development” here so it is an issue of watch this space, particularly as we see the cult of the celebrity begin to increase considerably in the Middle Eastern context with an increase in the number of high profile singers and sports personalities in the region.

Employee Blogging

There are a number of cases that we have seen in the past where both employers and employees can get into serious problems if this is not done responsibly. Basically, if you are an employee and are just about to blog about your workplace, think of issues such as defamation claims, harassment claims (yes, there are such cases!), economic damages, disclosure of confidential information and so on.

Basically, you are responsible for what you publish and remember that everyone including your mom, boss, colleagues and competitors can read your blog so you may want to apply some caution when you write about sensitive issues!

Mark Hill and Taj Kunwar Paul are solicitors with the Rights Lawyers.

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