Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What about the First Amendment?

The First Amendment protects speech from regulation and censorship from the government, and is not applicable to private employers.

You could use your blog in your favor if you use it to talk about specific topics protected by state laws, such as unionizing, whistleblowing, reporting on your work for the government, and talking about legal off-duty activities.

Check out the International Bloggers Bill of Rights
here for a list of freedoms asked for by the "Inhabitants of the Blogosphere." This, of course is just a website and is not legally binding.

Very little exists in terms of legal precedent on blogs or blogging. Most likely, individual companies will have to set up their own policies on worker blogging.
Sun Microsystems is one of the few companies with a prominently displayed blogging policy.

One example that might generate some case law is
Apple vs. Does. Apple subpoenaed the email service provider of three online journalists in an effort to identify Apple employees who leaked information on a new product to online news sites Apple Insider and PowerPage. Even though this case involves journalists and websites, not bloggers and their blogs, the case might be made that no one can be guaranteed anonymity online.

Copyright is also a thorny issue with blogs. Copyright guru Lesley Ellen Harris writes in The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter (2005, issue 1), that individual bloggers would retain the copyright to items in their blogs for 50 to 70 years after the author's death. Will your blog last this long?

She also addresses the topic of people who blog for work, as part of their job duties. In this case, it is the employer who would own the blog's content.

In terms of 'ownership,' today's copyright laws allow only the owner of a work to authorize its reproduction. As blogs are designed to be freely accesssible and widely read, is permission really necessary or even desirable to reproduce blog content? Bloggers are notorious for picking up and linking to content in each other's blogs.


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