Bloggers Knowhow: How To Respond To a Legal Threat Online
There are a few ways for you to measure your true level of online success. The first is that your blog or website gets hacked by people looking to extort money from you – thankfully this isn’t very common. And the second, and more common, is a legal threat of some kind. Maybe you said something that rattled somebody’s cage, maybe you posted an image you shouldn’t have or maybe you’re infringing on a trademark that you didn’t mean to. In either case a legal threat is usually related to the size of your online profile – so in a way kudos to you for being so prolific!
Not a Laughing Matter
But back to business. A legal threat is no laughing matter and if you’re not used to dealing with them the first time you get one can be a daunting experience. Your first reaction is to probably panic. But panic won’t solve the problem for you so take a moment to calm down first.
Now read the legal threat itself carefully and look for specific details. What have you been accused of doing and by who? What demands (financial, content removal etc, etc.) are they making? Does the legal originate threat from your own country or a foreign nation (remember your web based content is available internationally)? Do you have to respond to this threat within a specified timeframe?
Check Facts Before Freaking Out
You’ll probably have received either a cease-and-desist letter or potentially a lawsuit but you need to be clear about what you’re facing before you take any action – this will save you a lot of major headaches later on.
Time is of the essence when you’re dealing with this type of legal threat so until you can get professional advice comply with the notice if that’s at all possible. Compliance could be removing a page of content or a picture, transferring ownership of a trademarked domain name (this is getting more and more common) or taking an entire website offline. You may not be able to comply with the legal request as immediately as you’d like but until you get proper legal advice that’s exactly what you need to do.
Seek Legal Advice
And of course as we just mentioned you need to seek professional legal counsel on this threat. You can find plenty of solicitors who are more than willing to work on a “no fix no fee” basis and will be willing to review the threat you’ve received as part of your initial consultation with them. Ideally they’ll advise you to just dismiss the threat because it’s fake or has no basis in law. If, however, the threat is legitimate it’s best to have your legal advisor draft a reply to the person or company who issued the threat in the first place.
Of course once you engage legal help you’re looking at having to spend money on resolving the problem but usually when the other party sees that you’re willing to put up a legal fight (unless they’re a large corporation) the threat will usually just evaporate and you’ll never need to worry about it again.
Help Others Help Themselves
You can also add the threatening legal letter you received to the Citizen Media Law Project Threats Database so that other people who receive threats from the same company or people who are working to restrict your freedom of speech know what steps to take to deal with their issue. You can save other bloggers and webmasters a lot of worry by adding to this database.
Now you can get back to being the online superstar you were before all this legal mumbo-jumbo ruined it for you eh?
This post is written by Lior Levin, an online marketing consultant for a company that offers psd html conversion, and who also consults for a company that provides to do list application for businesses and individuals.