The legal side of blogging By Adeola Kayode

Setting up a blog is relatively simple. However, sourcing for articles, news, photographs and other content to attract traffic to it is not a child’s play.

To achieve success in blogging, one may have to experience the risks facing journalists. For those doing copy-and-paste blogging, they may not understand what journalists face.

As blogging continues to gather steam, attention on the activities of bloggers will continue to rise. The popularity of online news portals is an invitation to others to jump on the train. But there is the need to understand what is required to build a respected and successful blog. While many give credit to the web for removing barriers to publishing, there is still a lot of education one needs to build a successful blog. There are also ethical sides of the job; while one also needs to consider the risks that come with information gathering.

All over the world, bloggers are also exposed to legal and risky factors of journalism. According to Public Radio International, Islamic fundamentalists have collated a list of 84 secular and atheist bloggers to be killed because they dared to oppose their views on Islam.

They have, so far, killed nine with many others already forced to close their blogs and social media accounts. In a number of countries, it is that serious. A popular Kenyan blogger who I met during WordCamp Kenya was arrested and docked for calling President Uhuru Kenyatta an “adolescent president”.

Back in 2014, a former governor of Katsina State was reported to have ordered the detention of a student for criticising him on Facebook. One Wasiu Ogunnoiki was arraigned on September 2 for allegedly “engaging in acts capable of denting the image” of Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, on Facebook. Also recently, Seun Oloketuyi, faced court charges for allegedly defaming the Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo.

Blogging and social media posts have continued to earn people a lot of enemies. It is worth examining the common myths among many bloggers. To what extent are the myths true? Here are some of the myths:

You can be anyone on online

It is common to see people who think that they cannot be held responsible for a comment they post online. The cases of defamation as a result of content posted online have been on the rise. Once you are identified, you can be held responsible for what you share on online. It doesn’t matter if you copied it from another blogger, you can be held responsible.

Copy-and-paste is not plagiarising

Some of my articles are all over the Internet and this is largely due to cope-and-paste phenomenon. In 2008, I published a research document on consumer behaviour on social media through SlideShare. That document has been downloaded and used by many people without an attribution. When you copy and post articles and images without attribution, it is not cool and you may be sued.

When you are a small player, they may ignore you. But believe me they will come after once you start making money.

The best practice is to cull some parts and attribute to the source. Unless you notify the copyright owner and get permission, you are not allowed to take an entire article and use it. You may be helping the owners to advertise their work, but it is still not right.

You can use it since it is on Google search results

The common notion is that once you find an article, image or music on Google, you can use, share, tweet it as if it were originally created by you. This is not true. Google clearly says that users are responsible for what and how they use the information obtained from its platforms, including Google Search.

For images, the best practice is to source from websites with royalty-free images. One can also subscribe to websites with stock images. Also ensure you credit the source of the photograph you use. According to the International Copyright Convention, any creative work is copyrighted even when there is no notification on it.

Traffic is everything

In the quest for traffic, it is a common practice to look for information everywhere and anywhere. Businesses are already getting smart and are associating with bloggers that are concerned about building authority rather than traffic. Instead of looking for traffic, concentrate on creating quality content. Then, traffic will follow.