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Your Blog: An Asset Worth Protecting? (Sponsored Post)

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BloggerShield_Logo_RGB While many journalists and other types of media professionals have had the opportunity to secure insurance protection for their profession, bloggers have been ignored…until now. BloggerShield™, a brand new liability insurance product created exclusively for bloggers, is now available.

Unlike journalists, whose content often includes more reporting and less personal opinion, bloggers are typically valued for their point of view or their own personal brand. Often times, bloggers have a dedicated following, become social influencers, and are relied upon for information, insights, or even product promotions and reviews. With this power to influence, bloggers become vulnerable to an array of liability exposures as well as the potential backlash of critics.

Any reader may go so far as to use legal recourse to pause, halt, or counter one’s blogging activities. A blogger may experience this in the form of having a claim or lawsuit brought against them for defamation, slander, copyright infringement, or privacy violation. Regardless of the circumstances and the validity of a claim or lawsuit, bloggers are still faced with managing any legal action taken against them and keeping their blog and personal assets protected in the process. In addition, many bloggers are still unclear as to what their liability exposures are until it’s too late.

Let’s take a look at a few recent cases in which bloggers have found themselves facing litigation:

Woman Awarded $338,000 in Damages for Defamation as a Result of Anonymous Submissions

On July 11, 2013, jurors awarded Sarah Jones $338,000 in damages for defamation against gossip website thedirty.com. This high profile case arose out of two anonymous submissions posted in 2009 that claimed that Jones, a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals, had sex with every Bengals player and was afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases.

Nik Richie, the operator for the website, argued that he was protected under the Federal Communications Decency Act which provides immunity to website operators for content that comes from third parties. However, Jones argued that the protections did not apply as thedirty.com admitted to screening and adding comments before posting third party submissions. The jury agreed with Jones, finding that Richie acted with malice or reckless disregard in posting the submissions.

The posts were unrelated to Jones’ previous guilty plea to charges that she had sex with an underage former student. For more on the case, prior history can be found at Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings, LLC, 766 F. Supp. 2d 828 (E.D. Ky. 2011).

Blog Article Results in Libel Suit

On July 19, the District of Columbia Superior Court denied a motion to dismiss brought under DC’s 2010 Anti-SLAPP statute.  Separate but similar motions were filed by defendants National Review and the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute after climate scientist Michael Mann brought a libel suit over an article published last summer on the organization’s blog, Openmarket.org.

Mann accused the publication of defaming him by accusing him of fraud in his research and by drawing comparisons between Penn State’s investigations into his research and the school’s previous investigations of assistant football coach and convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.

In denying the motions, Judge Natalia Combs Greene found that the statements in the blog had crossed the line from protected opinion to factual assertions. Accordingly, Judge Greene wrote, “there is a strong probability that the NR Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.”

For more on this story, the case has been filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court under the docket number 2012 CA 0008263 B.

Anonymous Blogger Compelled to Identify Himself for Making Defamatory Statements

A New York trial court recently directed Google Inc. to identify an anonymous blogger who had been criticizing New York attorney Frederick Shulman on blogspot.com, a Google owned company.  In his affirmation before New York Supreme Court, Shulman argued that Google should be compelled pursuant to the New York rules governing pre-action discovery to disclose the identity of the blogger posting defamatory statements to stopfrederickschulman.blogspot.com and frederickschulmancrookedattorney.com. Shulman further argued that “in the era of internet savvy individuals . . . the damage continues to mount with each day these web blogs continue to remain visible to the public.”

Justice Debra A. James found that Shulman had sufficiently shown a meritorious cause of action for defamation and the necessity of the information. Accordingly, the Court ordered Google, barring objections, to disclose reasonably available creation IP addresses as well as the name(s) and email addresses(es) used to register the blogs.

Counsel for Schulman has since disclosed that Google has cooperated with the order and that ongoing litigation is expected.

For more on this story, see In re The Matter of Schulman, Frederick Esq. v. The Go Daddy Group, Inc., et. al. at New York County, Index Number 155629/13.

So what can bloggers do to stay protected from lawsuit?

Most bloggers have some idea as to standard blogging best practices, i.e., using proper disclosures, correctly citing sources, etc. However, in many cases, this is simply not enough to stay protected from the consequences of legal action.

With the formation of BloggerShield™, a new insurance coverage created specifically for bloggers, protection is now available to bloggers. BloggerShield™ is a form of liability insurance designed to help mitigate loss and cover legal fees associated with issues arising out of a claim or lawsuit for one’s blogging activities. To learn more about blog liability exposures and BloggerShield™ Insurance, please visit www.bloggershield.com or call 888-228-7988.

Is an Army Blog Any Different? (Sponsored Post)

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Disclosure: The Army sponsored the Military Track at NMX 2013, and this post is part of their sponsorship package. We think what Captain He has to say about blogging while in the military is not only interesting, but can help give you a new perspective on your own blog, whether you’re in the military or not. -Editor

Captain He at NMX

I am in the Army, and I write a blog. To many people I have talked to, this means I write a blog about the Army. Following this logic, this means that I write a blog featuring pictures of soldiers in sandstorms in remote areas of Afghanistan with accompanying stories of intense missions to villages and the good work we are doing there, in contrast to the big media stories of the quicksand situation in the Middle East. When I say no, I’m not in the Infantry, they then think maybe I write one of those military wife blogs, full of tips of what to put in a care package to send to your husband overseas and what to wear to his coming home ceremony. Still not true; I may be an Army wife, but in a dual-military relationship that leaves both of us with our fair share of homecomings and goodbyes.

I don’t try to write an Army blog. I write a blog that just happens to occur in the context of me being in the Army. I do not write about Middle Eastern policy, because I am not a Middle Eastern policy wonk. I do write about the Army’s Cultural Support Teams and what a great idea they are, because I am a female and I am in the Army. I don’t write about secret missions in Afghanistan, because 1) that’s probably violating security, and 2) as a signal officer, I plan networks and make sure those Infantry guys have internet.

Old vs. New

The idea of old-style military blogging, or “milblogging,” was covered at the Milblog conference in DC last year.  A lot of the original milbloggers started to blog about the “real” story on the ground. When blogging became a more legitimate news source, and journalists at big papers started blogging in addition to filing their real news stories, the role of bloggers as story tellers started to diminish, and they became another news source in themselves.

I don’t think the original idea of the blog, telling someone’s story, is any different though. Maybe blogs are faster, shorter, more reactionary and less analytical, than a real news story, but it still tells a story. Today’s stories among milbloggers are a little different, but no less important.

My Idea of “New”

I don’t try to write news stories, I just try to tell the real Army story. Soldiers are not deployed every single day of their Army careers; they do spend time at home. In the almost four years that I’ve been in the Army, I’ve only been deployed to Iraq for about five months of that. The rest has been here in Georgia, training and planning and watching other units deploy.

Health and Fashion

Maybe my blog would better fit under the health or fashion categories of blogging. They do seem to be the top two topics for blogs right now.

Think about it, I work out every day with my unit. We run, we do calisthenics, I like to swim and bike and do triathlons and races on my weekends. Of course I write about it. I write about injuries I get, and how the Army tries to deal with that. I write about how stupid my hot pink shoes look with the Army PT uniforms that don’t even fit me.

That’s another thing I like to write about. While I watch my friends post their instagram #OOTD, I wear the same thing every single day. Want me to post that? I can do a cute face with minimal, natural looking makeup, picked specifically for its high-SPF content and the waterproofness/sweatproofness of the mascara, and show off my worn-in combat boots and small-short men’s uniform.

Or, on special occasions, I get to wear my dress blue uniform. Did you know that the first women’s uniforms, for Army nurses pre-WWII, were made on a men’s mannequin, and NO ONE NOTICED for almost 20 years? That’s how much the Army cared about providing their females with high quality uniforms. Some new prototypes of female-specific uniforms are being field-tested, not to mention female specific body armor (after only ten years of sending women to active combat zones), so maybe some changes will be coming eventually.

Just Telling Stories

So, there you have it. I blog to write about life and what I do, just to get my story out there. Even if I think my life is boring sometimes, it’s still different from anyone else’s in the world. Whenever I’m stuck, here are my go-to prompters that make me write:

What did I do different today? Maybe I did the same thing I do every day: went for a run, made some coffee, checked my email, made some slide presentations, answered some phone calls. What made it different, or special, or particularly awful?

What major events do I have to look forward to? In the Army, there is always something coming up: another deployment, a short trip for training somewhere, the possibility of a new assignment, or even just the chance to take leave following a grueling two week training exercise.

What inspires me? Sometimes getting up early to run in the middle of winter is hard, but I don’t have the option of staying in bed. What inspired me today to smile and push on? It might be thinking of my friends who can’t run anymore, or recently meeting someone who just said, “thank you for your service.” Sometimes it’s thinking about how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and that I don’t want to let down all the generations of Soldiers before me who gave it all. And sometimes it is knowing that Thursday is donut day, so I better get up and run.

Nothing seems too small to be a part of my story. Maybe it isn’t big news, or a big story, but it’s all mine, and I’m going to keep writing.

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