Everyone is blogging. From high-fashion and street style features to sites that draw attention to the downsides of the industry, everyone is blogging. Due to the proliferation of such sites, it's more important than ever to be aware of your rights as a blogger, and be familiar with the do's and don’ts of blogging. These rules are integral, as they may prevent you from being on the unfavorable side of a lawsuit. Here are a few easy ways to ensure that what you post is free and clear (for the most part) of claims against you.
Copyright law protects a vast majority of original writing. As such, you need to act accordingly. If you quote another blog or an article, etc. on your own site, be sure to use quotation marks and acknowledge the source of the information. If you are using more than short quotations, provide a link to the site where you got your information, in addition to informing your readers that the information belongs to the applicable individual or website. Similarly, you have rights to any original writing that you post on your own site, which means that if others post your writing verbatim on their site without attributing it to you, this is probably copyright infringement. The best solution: send them an email and ask them to take it down. Usually this will work and it is far less time consuming and expensive than trying to sue them.
A big exception to this – copyright protection does not protect facts. So, you can report the facts from another person’s article or site without having to give them credit, but FYI – “Givenchy’s fall collection was so gorgeous” is not a fact, even though we might think so.
Photographers have exclusive rights to their own photos just as writers have exclusive rights to their original works of authorship. This means that any of your original photos are yours. This also means that photos from other sites aren’t exactly fair game. In most cases, it is perfectly legal to include others’ pictures on your site (your blog, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.) as long as you include details of where you found them (i.e., photos courtesy of The Fashion Law) and/or include a link to the page.
Put simply, defamation is a false statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation and that is published negligently or maliciously. For bloggers, libel, which is defamation via writing, can be relevant. However, as long as you are talking about public figures (Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Prabal Gurung) and you are voicing your opinion, you are likely to be in the clear. In order for a public figure to bring a successful claim against you, he or she must prove that you acted with actual malice (aka, you intended to hurt them), and this is difficult to prove. The other good news, your opinion is not defamatory. So, if you think that because Louis Vuitton uses leather and other animal skins, it is the most evil fashion house in Paris – this is not defamatory. It’s your opinion.
This is really important! For those of you who endorse products for which you are receiving some kind of compensation, whether it is money, credit from a website, clothing, etc., you should absolutely include a disclaimer of affiliation and/or responsibility for material posted or linked to the website. It can be as simple as saying “this post is sponsored by The Fashion Law.” It is also a good idea to include a reservation of your copyright and trademark rights on your site.
Keep these few points in mind when you’re blogging because you will likely find that preventing a potential lawsuit before it happens is far more preferable than exposing yourself to time in court. When in doubt, speak with legal counsel, but don’t underestimate the power of a preliminary email or letter to get the job done.
JULIE ZERBO is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fashion Law. Her work has been featured on New York Magazine's The Cut blog, the Huffington Post, Fashionista, and Vogue UK, among other publications. She was recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal.