Legal ScaleIt is amazing that, once again, there is social media brouhaha over plagiarism and copyright. Once again, at a big firm, from a Blogger’s post. Here is why I feel compelled to write this post in response:

Because of the lack of legal understanding in blogging and the non-desire to do anything about it.

Heck. Legal stuff is not sexy. I get it. I know it is not a topic that sells conference tickets. Those conferences that get it, like Type-A Advanced, Blissdom, and Reviewer’s Retreat, do have us on the schedule, but usually in the same time slot as “How to Work with Brands”, or “How to Make Money Blogging”. Not on purpose, mind you, but just that there are so many topics like these on the conference schedule because it’s what most bloggers want to hear. That is the sexy stuff.

So I’m left speaking to a room, of a hardy few, who understand that, to make money, is to keep it.

You plagiarize on a big site. You are probably fired. Not making any more money now, are we?

You don’t disclose your goodies. Brands don’t want to be caught in the legal crossfire and stay clear of your blog. Not getting sponsored posts any more now, are we?

So here is my suggestion to big sites who hire bloggers to write for them. Having a contract that states the blogger “shall produce original content” is not enough. Train them like any other employer. Offer legal 101 training sessions and make them mandatory if you must.

Alternatively, here is my suggestion to Bloggers. If you want to get paid, then you need to start acting like a business, and that includes legal compliance. Take the time to learn some key legal elements for your blog. You spend hours on affiliate links, pinning, and tweeting, so take 30 minutes and learn about legal concerns for your blog posts. You spend time at night at Twitter Parties so jump on a legal webinar, go to a legal session at a conference, read some legally-related blog posts, and learn what you should do, shouldn’t do, and the things in between.

Lastly, here is my suggestion to Blogging conferences: offer it as an option at your conference. As a Q&A, a panel, a keynote, a roundtable, or a hey-Charlene-is-out-in-the-hallway-got-talk-to-her tweet. Whatever works, but it’s time to make it a reliable conference resource. If conferences, like BlogHer, are dedicated to the profession of blogging, then they should be providing legal resources in addition to ‘How to Work Worth with Brands’ panels.

Furthermore, while there are many bloggers who may know the law, they have not practiced the law. Reading terms of service is important, but knowing case law, policies, regulations and more, plays into what is the real legal deal in the law and how it really relates to the blogging community.  You wouldn’t want a blogger, who has never worked with a brand, to spend a whole conference panel theorizing over how to work with brands. Good panels have brand experts and brands representatives. So don’t find lawyers who don’t blog and don’t find bloggers who aren’t lawyers. There are a handful of us that do both. For example, many of my blogging friends can attest to the fact I was telling them to disclose in YouTube videos, and tweet #sponsored, over a year before the FDA issued its report. Why?  Because I, like many of my legal blogging colleagues, have spent years in the legal field and it is our job to stay on top of the changing social media legal landscape.

{Crazy WSJ after-parties optional.}


Charlene offers free legal webinars on and has spoken at many blogging conference on legal issues in social media. She wrote laws in Massachusetts for several years, was the youngest known General Counsel in the history of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, and has been a member of the Massachusetts and D.C. Bars for over 10 years. She readily admits she is not an expert by any means, and that lawyers have different answers on the same subject (even the Supreme Court Justices disagree with each other), but she figures four years, a couple of bar exams and a crap-load of law school loan payments should account for something. 

Image Credit: My own via purchased stock image.


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  1. THANKS again Charlene for your legal expertise and reminding us all what needs to be done – IT IS TRULY APPRECIATED!

    I am dismayed however that you do not need to be a blogger or professional to know plagiarizing is WRONG – we should all be learning that is grade school and it saddens me that it still happens all too frequently.

  2. Thanks Lynn!! Much appreciated too! I agree but I think that everyone needs a refresher. Some feel that giving credit is enough and don’t understand that isn’t an option. That you need permission first. Things like that are a great refresher for some and a fresh lesson for others!

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