Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Some thoughts on Blogging from a Legal Perspective

Discussion of blogging is important at this time, as we are seeing the increase in the number of blogs and bloggers. The new ‘killer application’ is sweeping everything, as many people from different backgrounds want to create their own blogs and start blogging to the world.

Not many of them know that blogging can be fun and challenging at the same time. Although blogging is not a new application, only recently researchers and scholars are becoming interested in studying this phenomenon and its implications. This is because blogging is changing how humans project themselves and others in cyberspace. Lawyers and legal scholars are also not distinct from the world, as they want to be first in exploring the legal issues and risks associated with the use of blogging and the liability of bloggers. But the question, do we need novel rules to deal with blogging? And to what extent are traditional laws helpful in answering our questions?

Sulvia Kierkeggrd wrote a piece entitled Blogs, lies and the doocing: The next hotbed of litigation?” on legal issues related to blogging. I believe there is not concentration in her article. I did not know which legal system she wanted to study and examine. She moves from the common law system to the civil law system and others. She copies different stories from several online sources about blogging that happened in the developed and developing world without any connection, update, analyze and comment.

Furthermore, I am not sure of the reliability of the sources, and the information she provided and to what extent they are trustworthy. To be honest, I did not feel that I was reading an article written by a lawyer or a director of the international Association of IT lawyers, but rather someone who does not have a legal background. I think she made studying blogging boring although the topic is very interesting and represents the latest challenges of how the law should cope with the latest developments.

Her conclusions are obvious that this is a grey area of law, the law has not caught up with technology, and there is very little case law at this point. I think that the main question that the article was supposed to answer is whether blogs are governed by the same traditional laws and to what extent we need to create novel decisions to blogging problems? I was hoping to see more concentration into one legal issue or problem that blogging raise, studying it in depth and comparing how the different legal systems deal with the issue.

I think that article leaves an impression that blogs are not different than any other internet medium like the World Wide Web, the same traditional laws apply, and there is no need to update the laws to deal with blogging. There is no argument whatsoever in the article, but a mere collection of data as I have indicated. The article is helpful for someone who does not have any idea about blogging, but not to the advanced readers.

The report on the blogging revoluation by governments entitled The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0” is really interesting as it offers tips and best practices for public sector bloggers. Although it is narrow in its scope since it concentrate on the US governmental experience, and does not consider blogging in Europe and other countries of the world. This does not come as a surprise since the report is directed toward enhancing the US experience. The report demonstrates without equivocal terms to what extent the blogging revolution is changing the administration of government, the political arena, and the management of certain businesses as well.

I liked in the report the different experiences provided by the bloggers and how some of them could not cope with the speed of thinking or the severe criticism of their ideas, and how they had to close their blogs. We really live in a fast pace world that does not wait for people to adapt to what is happening around them. If you are not familiar with the technology and the instruments of our generation there is no way that you can catch up and you will be left alone soon. We should encourage corporate bloggers since they provide the inside story that we will never hear from businesses that will enlighten us as consumers. It is important at the same time not to go far in protection and be strict toward employees that inflict real harm and disturb the business models.

But, how we can reach this balance? The report does not offer any recommendation and was merely descriptive of the current situation. The report did not deal with the legal issues properly and hence it came very poor in that respect. It encourages the use of blogging in public and private sector, but does not tell us what are the problems associated with its use and how they may be resolved?

I think that Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) overview of legal liability document on blogging issues entitled “Blogger’s FAQ – Overview of Legal Liability Issues,” is good and bad at the same time. It is good since it gives bloggers a very basic understanding of the legal issues that they should expect from blogging, but at the same time it does not offer any real practical measures that they can take to protect themselves. It is funny how they answered that they may be able to help and they cannot help outside the United States. What is the purpose of this organization that is supposed to defend free speech, privacy and consumer right? If a blogger turns to EFF and cannot find any help either because of the limited sources of the organization or he was outside the US where he should turn for help? I am doubtful of what they are doing.

Drafting a code of conducts for bloggers for example the one done by Iim O’Reilly entitled “Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct” is a good idea that may be used by bloggers themselves to know what they can and cannot do. The initiative is considered to create certain online norms within their community to adhere and respect. Why bloggers should follow these norms and who are the people behind it? Where they bring their authority to draft a blog that represent the interests of all bloggers? Do we need norms to be imposed by someone or are these norms self-emergent? Bloggers vary in their interests and perspectives and it is difficult to let them adhere to certain norms that will restrict their freedom over the Internet. Although the idea seems good, I question how it can be applied in practice and enforced? What happens if a blogger does not adhere to these norms since he believes they restrict his free flow of ideas?

The fascinating thing about the internet is that there is no one can predict its future and where it will take the human race. No body can know which new application will be used more frequently than others and how that will affect our life, leisure and business. Technology is developing rapidly, and there is no limit to our imagination and creativity. You do not have to be a sophisticated programmer or a technical person to enter the world of blogging and be an active member. You only need to be honest, clear about your ideas and want to take them to a wide audience community that will provide immediate positive and negative feedbacks. There are certain forces that try to limit expression of ideas through blogging including businesses, governments and local courts.

I think that studying blogging as a social phenomena and how it may impact on both our private and public life is more appealing than studying its legal implications. This is because blogging in my opinion does not pose novel legal implications and most issues including: jurisdiction, defamation, trade secrets, privacy and copyright are covered in either traditional laws or cyber laws. It is still very important for internet scholars to consider all the legal issues that may arise because of the use of blogging, as this may help in developing our legal thinking so we are more prepared to deal with more sophisticated applications of the internet that need novel legal approaches that we can not foresee now.

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