Archive for the ‘Keep It Legal’ Category

How to Avoid Email Hubris and Costly Fines

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

      Email hubris is spamming your friends and
everyone else in your contact database without
their consent. Like trying to resist a danish with coffee in the morning, it is hard to contain your enthusiasm.  You want to share the next great product or service with everyone.
      To keep you in check from spewing forth endless emails, the Federal Trade Commission issued The Can Spam Act.
      What people do not realize is that for every unsolicited email you send out, whether it be in bulk or individually, you are at risk for a fine of $16,000 per unsolicited email.  
       Let’s face it.  We all do it. We meet someone at a Business Card Exchange and enter their email address in our database. Exchanging business cards is not an implicit consent to requesting to be added to your email announcements.
       The Can Spam Act ( an act known probably to compliance people, but overlooked by the masses) includes the distribution of all business email, whether sent bulk or individual, that promotes or advertises a commercial product or service.  It also includes promoting a website/blog, which advertises a product or service.  Even sending emails to former clients must have consent.
      The provisions of the Act are not difficult and follow common courtesy.  In a nutshell, here are the basics of the Federal Trade Commission’s Guide to Email Etiquette.
1.  Be Transparent.  You should be truthful when you fill in your “To”, “From”,  “Reply to” and subject lines.  Deceptive domain names etc. will obviously will get you in trouble.  In the Subject Line, avoid using sensational or exaggerated text to get the reader to open the email.  Eventually they will find that they were misled.  For example: Your subject line reads: “You Won a Trip to Hawaii,” but the email text says you won a chance for a Hawaii trip if you click on any of the what seems like hundreds of advertising options.
2.  If your email is an ad, be clear and say so.  Ummm. Well, according to the Act, there isn’t much leeway here. It has to be conspicuous and upfront. Use your creativity to get this done.
3.  Location.  If you are legitimate, you have a location. It can be a post office  box.  No biggy.  Adding this will give your email greater credibility.
4.  The Opting Out Issue.  You must give the email receiver a way of opting out of receiving your email. It must be clear and easily recognizable.  Check other sites and emails for wording.  And should you have requests for opting out, you must comply within 10 business days.  Just remember you may have the person’s name on a couple of lists, so it is prudent to weed through lists periodically.  You are also responsible for those opt out requests that get caught in your spam filter. 
5.  You are responsible for the emails sent out on your behalf.

For the specifics of the law, check out this website:

Lots of people are not compliant. Lots of people get away with spamming. However, a more pragmatic way to view this is: In the long run, unsolicited email offends your target audience.  Aside from the hefty fine, which could break a small business in this economy, it is in your best interest to adhere to FTC rules. 
      Repetitious emails hawking the same product or service from you is annoying.  And if you appear more self serving, you know where your email will go…to  JUNK, UNREAD.  
       These rules aren’t hard because this particular piece of legislature has the distinction of making sense.





























Plagiarism Sites

March 12, 2008 Leave a comment

This week has been tough. I’ve been on overdrive for the past few days, adjusting to changes at work, keeping up with whatever the family is doing, and packing for vacation. This is the first vacation that my husband and I have taken in years. I am so looking forward to it….Anyway, before I left for vacation, I wanted to share with you a few more thoughts on plagiarism. Sharon Stoerger gathered some great articles on plagiarism and the college environment.

You might also visit Jonathan Bailey’s blog dedicated to plagiarism issues. He found ten things you should know about copyright on the US Copyright Office website.

Ten Facts About Copyright

In order to speed up this process and make this information easier to digest, I’ve broken down the facts into ten short explanations with links to more information if desired.

  1. Copyright Is Immediate: Copyright in a work is created once it is fixed into a tangible medium of expression. Though added legal avenues can be opened by registering the work with the Copyright Office, there are no formalities needed to obtain copyright in a work, including placing the copyright symbol.
  2. Copyright Protects a Set of Rights: Copyright is not just about the exclusive right to copy, it also provides the copyright holder with a sole right to publicly display a work, to publicly perform the work and create derivative works. Doing any of these things without the permission of the rightsholder is likely to be an infringement.
  3. Copyright Lasts a Really Long Time: In the United States, copyright in a personal creation lasts the life of the author plus seventy years. In corporate works, the term is a flat 95 years. After that term expires, the work passes into the public domain.
  4. Copyright Does Not Protect Many Things: Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. It also, typically, does not protect titles of a work, systems, concepts and anything that has not been fixed into a permanent medium. Finally, all works that are in the public domain are not protected by copyright and can be used freely.
  5. Not All Copying is Prevented: Though copyright gives the author of a work the sole right to produce copies, not all copying is prohibited. Fair use allows limited copying of a work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.”
  6. Fair Use is a Defense, Not a Right: Legally speaking, fair use is not a right, it is a defense against a copyright infringement suit (see footnote 20). Fair use rights do not exist and a whether or not a use is fair or not can only be determined conclusively by a judge/jury after the case has gone to the courts.
  7. Work For Hire is Limited: Though, in most cases, copyright in the work transfers to the author, in some cases it can transfer to the employer. Those cases are called “works for hire” and are limited to employees of the company (as recognized by Federal guidelines) and contractors in a limited set of fields that sign a work for hire agreement before the work is created. Most contract work is not a work for hire.
  8. It is Possible to Remove Many Infringing Works on the Web: If you find that your work is being misused on the Web, you can have it removed by filing a DMCA notice with the host. Alternatively, you can file a notice with the search engines and have the the content removed from their indexes. This can be done without an attorney or registering a work.
  9. Benefits of Registration: Though registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office does not earn you any new rights to your work, it is a prerequisite to filing suit for infringement in a Federal court, it enables you to collect attorney fees and statutory damages, serves as a public record of the copyright and services as prima facie evidence of ownership.
  10. Poor Man’s Copyright is a Myth: Finally, many claim that you can protect a work by mailing it to yourself and using the postmark as proof of copyright. This does not work and no provision of the law exists to make it possible. So-called “Poor Man’s Copyright” is not a substitute for registration.

Cynthia Webb (great name because she is obviously a web reporter for the Washington Post) writes about the blogging ethics debate. Citing a flagarant abuse of copy and pasting, Webb gives a global view how people look at the incident.

Lastly a blog on from socalsportsfan. He or she defines plagiarism rules for bloggers.   _Rules_What_Every_Blogger_Needs_To_Know

I think I’ve exhausted the plagiarism topic. Bottom line is that if you plagiarize, especially when it is out there for a gazillion people to see, you won’t be the only one that knows that it isn’t your work.

Since I am so challenged by my time management issues, I am going to explore this topic with you next time. I am learning the hard way. Your thoughts on plagiarism or time management are welcome.

I may get an entry in before I leave, but that is wishful thinking. I certainly will be back in ten days.

Is the Interconnectivity of Blogging a Legal Tightrope?

March 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Blogging is fun.  It seems innocuous enough…that is, until one day you find a seething comment about your competitor on your blog.  At first glance, you might read the contribution as a gift, because you didn’t have the guts to be so brutally honest.  Maybe the information revealed feels like a relief because you realize others share your thoughts.

Or maybe someone posted on your blog — material lifted from elsewhere ?  Eeeks.  What does that say about you?  Common sense dictates that these are not your words, so accountability lies with the person who posted.  According to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you are protected somewhat if you didn’t knowingly allow it.  But once you recognize the infringement, you are responsible for taking it down.

Okay, so if someone slams someone you know or reveals some dirt on your competitor on your blog, is that your fault?   Under the federal Communications Decency Act, you aren’t considered the publisher of the comment, therefore, technically you shouldn’t be liable as long as you don’t add to the defamatory remarks.  However, ethically you are responsible for your blog, so to let inflammatory material sit on your blog for any amount of time past discovery is a questionable decision.  Though, if you are into drama, then don’t bother reading comments and see where life takes you.

The whole idea is to keep your risk of liability to a minimum.  Concentrate on your writing.  You don’t have to live with this kind of conflict.  You can create it in your fiction.

What is your take on blogging ethics?  Do you review comments for defamatory or obscene remarks?

How Legal is Your Blog?

March 4, 2008 1 comment

Before I started this blog I was concerned about the legal aspects of the written word. Unlike journalism where the reporters’ code is to cross check the fact against at least two sources, this relatively new medium has no checks and balances and only loosely restricted. 

Many years ago, my mom wrote what I consider the first “blog.”  She called it “The Dear Ellen Letters.”

My mother — a visionary in her own right — wrote letters to Ellen, a distant relative, and sent it not only to Ellen, but to all her nearest and dearest relatives and friends.  The letter was a potpourri of life’s events and some reflections..  The difference was that my mom’s Dear Ellen letters were sent to a contained target audience.  No one was g0ing to sue her if she misreported, misunderstood, or miss quoted.

Today’s blogs are ubiquitous.  They have morphed into webettes (my word for mini websites) that carry links, comments, and images.  For most, bloggers are clueless about their vulnerablity to the legal system.  Their liabilities include copyright infringement, obscenity and indecency both in language and images, and defamation. 

You probably know about the blog wars waged in cyberspace and the impact of internet bullying  (The suicide of a depressed Missouri teen last year caused by internet bullying generated cries for new legislation ).  These underscore the point about just how dangerous thoughtless and callous words can be.

To keep your blog within the legal limits, here’s a definition of infringement:

If you copy or publish written work without the consent of the author, this is copyright infringement.  Cutting and pasting text, an image, or a comment that seems like an everyday object is still considered infringement.  Remember cutting and pasting material from another’s website and putting it in yours is robbery.  It prevents the orignator from pulling his full share of the traffic to his site.  To avoid this, get written permission or an emailed permission (and print a hard copy) .

If anyone can share knowledge or ideas about the legal aspects of blogging, please feel free to contribute. 

Tomorrow I will share my thoughts about linking and allowing others to post on your blog.