Court rejects blogger’s claim to be a journalist

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A Montana blogger accused an attorney of being a thug and a thief.

Lawyer jokes aside, the attorney didn’t find the blog post funny and sued for defamation.

The federal judge hearing the case ruled that the blogger was not a “journalist” apparently because she didn’t have journalist credentials or experience, and wasn’t affiliated with a traditional media organization. Since she isn’t a journalist, the state shield law designed to protect journalists won’t apply.

Looks like the blogger is going to be on the hook for $2.5 million.

Unless reversed on appeal, this case will have a chilling effect on bloggers.

Can your guest bloggers sue you?

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Internet lawyer blog

Your internet lawyer can help you protect your blog

Surfing the Web as an Internet lawyer sometimes leads to stories about silly lawsuits. Here’s one…

Although reading the Huffington Post could be used for torturing enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay, those who write for the site think what they’ve contributed is worth some bucks.

In fact, now that AOL has gobbled up HuffPo, volunteer writers are filing a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for their posts. See AOL, Arianna Huffington Hit with Class Action Suit.

If there is money to be made in lawsuits like this one, will your guest bloggers sue you too?

You may want to reduce your risk of a shakedown lawsuit by getting an agreement signed by each guest blogger that (1) clearly states the work is donated, (2) there’s no compensation for it, and (3) identifying the intellectual property rights you’re getting to the blog posts. Your Internet lawyer can draft the legalese for you.

To your online success!

-Mike the Internet Lawyer

Death of Internet Civility Changes Blog Rules

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Web lawyer crazy guruWeb Lawyer Draws Line On Free Speech

Although I’m a big fan of free speech as a Web lawyer, there are some limitations.

Unfortunately, some of the fruits and nuts inhabiting cyberspace have decided that it’s perfectly okay to show up at this blog to personally attack me, clients, and friends with name-calling plus false and defamatory accusations.

Because Internet anonymity brings out the worst in some people, it’s now time to change the rules a bit.

Web Lawyer Blog Comment Moderation

All comments will be reviewed by a blog administrator before being posted.

New Web Lawyer Comment Guidelines

Simple new comment guidelines have been put into place.

  1. Be polite. Make your point without using four-letter words.
  2. Practices not people. Discuss issues relevant to this post (good and bad) but do not include as examples the names of any specific companies, individuals, websites, products, or services.
  3. No advertising. Comment spam will be deleted.

Please continue to contribute your thoughts on blog posts.

Thank you for understanding why these changes have been put into place. It’s a shame that a few crazies made this necessary.

To your online success!

-Mike the Web lawyer

OpenCamp: Death of WordCamp Dallas

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Dallas WordCamp has died an untimely and utterly unnecessary death. Instead of the annual event devoted exclusively to WordPress, this year’s event will be OpenCamp. At OpenCamp, Joomla and Drupal will also be covered.

Frankly, I’m concerned that OpenCamp isn’t inclusive enough.

Why isn’t OpenCamp covering Frog CMS, Umbraco, Mambo, ocPortal, Magnolia, XOOPS, etc. If open source content management systems are now the theme, let’s include everyone.

Why not broaden the camp to include open source operating systems too?

Yes, I’m yanking your chain.

OpenCamp is a bad concept based upon the false premise that it is too costly to run the annual two-day event as WordCamp exclusively for WordPress bloggers and designers.

I understand and appreciate the work involved with coordinating and setting up such an event. Yet there are two fundamentally mistaken assumptions made by the organizers when they made their decision to turn this into a techie Kum ba yah fest.

First, the organizers mistakenly assumed that jacking up ticket prices was the way to raise revenue to meet expenses. In reality, the costs could have easily been met (and exceeded) by sponsorships and running the event like Ken McCarthy’s System Seminar. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, System Seminar speakers must deliver valuable content to the attendees and at the end are permitted a couple of minutes to make a pitch (some don’t). The event organizer takes a cut of each sale made. This is not a pitchfest. Deliver value. Sell something at the end. Split the profits.

Secondly, there is a mistaken belief that all prior WordCamp expenses were necessary. A speaker’s dinner, bowling party, ASL interpreters, funding for speaker travel, etc. are all nice things to have but they can be cut if it means keeping the event as a WordCamp rather than EverythingCamp.

I’d like to thank the WordCamp organizers for the past two years for providing value to attendees. Your hard work was appreciated. Killing WordCamp and replacing it with this atrocity is nuts. Let the other CMS groupies have their own separate events rather than bastardizing this one.

Let’s hope that Matt Mullenweg and his new WordPress Foundation will host a WordCamp Dallas in the future. If you want to attend a WordCamp in another location, here’s a link to the WordCamp schedule.

FTC New Rule: Bloggers Must Disclose Compensation

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endorsement-reviewIf there’s compensation for reviews or testimonials (including money or free products), such payment must be disclosed under new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. Equally important,

“advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.”

Note that the FTC can hold both the endorser and the advertiser liable for false claims, unsubstantiated claims, or failing to disclose the compensation.

This is long overdue from a consumer protection standpoint. Those who use flogs, phony review websites, and cooked up testimonials are on notice that the FTC will not tolerate this nonsense in the future. It will also set the bar higher for affiliate status disclosures.

Unfortunately, it will take some expensive lawsuits and a few info product marketers going to jail before the new reality sets in. The federal government is taming the Internet Wild West. Cyber-Deadwood is becoming civilized whether it wants to or not.

Recommended Reading: FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials