Are there legal responsibilities and protections for bloggers?

Posted on March 02 2015 , at 10:42 pm
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By Akinyemi Ayinoluwa

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The Bella Naijas, Linda Ikejis and Olorisupergals of this world are worthy examples of the noveau influential Y-Generation who hugged and blogged their way to prominence. Photo: Filed

Now that the Social Media Week Lagos is done and dusted, it is time I share the most significant moments I witnessed. One of such moments was being a Panelist on the Olorisupergal and Fozadoza produced event, titled ‘The Blogger, Law and Brand’.

I spoke on the above subject and was committed to doing commensurate justice to it. I hereby render excerpts of the conversation.

My objective is to highlight the legal issues bloggers grapple with, advise on how best they can create a viable venture without flouting applicable provisions of the law, and attune their minds to the immense power they wield as members of the forth estate of the realm.

To set the mood for our discourse here are quotes that put issues in proper perspective;

  1. Ideas rule the world.
  2. Nothing stops an idea whose time has come.
  3. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
  4. The power of life and death is in the tongue.
  5. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  6. The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that is power because they control the minds of the masses. – Malcolm X
  7. The law is the formal glue that holds fundamentally disorganised societies together. – Thomas Hobbies.

Blogging as the new frontier of the media is pacy and phenomenal. It has impacted how information is dispensed, which has in turn affected us as a people and the way we live. It is interesting to know why we blog; its uses are endless. I blog to air my point of view on areas of interest dear to me. Other people blog for economic advantages, political awareness, leisure, propaganda, etc.

The Nigerian blogosphere has had its fair share of new millionaires, of individuals who have been empowered by the art and science of blogging. The Omojuwas, Tolu Ogunlesis, Osagie Alonges, Olorisupergal, Linda Ikejis, and Bella Naijas of this world are worthy examples of the noveau influential Y-Generation who hugged and blogged their way to prominence.

It is of great importance to note that the pace of ideation, creativity, innovation and technology can’t be compared to the pace of law making. As such the power bloggers wield must be deplored responsibly.

Regardless of what use a blog is deployed – in an age of innovation, information and creativity – blogging must not violate order. Words matter. Tweets have caused revolutionary events, and careless paragraphs have caused deaths. As such, Bloggers must shun contempt for constituted authority and blasphemy, inciting violence, disparaging the weak, undermining national security, violation of minors, racial discrimination, etc.

The question then is: Who polices the blogosphere? Who holds these overlords to account? Should bloggers be allowed to run wild?

In some climes these answers have been answered by decided cases. Some countries have put their laws to use to ensure the blogosphere is regulated. They consider bloggers accidental journalists and regulate the practice of blogging as if it were journalism. In countries without democratic processes the censorship is more palpable. Freedom of press, speech and expression is threatened by the overbearing act of government censorship. Listed hereunder are likely issues bloggers have to deal with.

The legal issues Bloggers encounter:

  1. Incorporation
  2. Defamation, Libel and Slander.
  3. Employment

4.Taxation

  1. Trademarks, Infringement of Domain names and Cybersquatting.
  2. Copyrights, DMCA, Moral Rights, Infringements, Secondary Infringement, Piracy, Plagiarism – Linda Ikeji.
  3. Privacy, Breach of Confidence, Public Interest, Misuse of Private Information, Brands, Kiss and Tell (Domestic Intimacy). The late Sam Loco, Davido, Wande Coal have had their privacy breached in recent times.
  4. Data Security: hacking of nudes, exposure of subscriber’s email addresses is a common problem.
  5. Contract law
  6. Advertising: Advertising is regulated by law, regardless of the medium.

How Bloggers can protect themselves and their enterprise:

Bloggers must:

  1. Acknowledge the importance of the rule of law in social media enterprise.
  2. Maintain vigilance and reading-up on ethics of Journalism.
  3. Understand the Concept of Copyrights, Defamation, Privacy and Data security.
  4. Lean on legal advice.
  5. Use good privacy policy, terms of use, and exert control on blog.

In addition, there is an urgent need for promulgated laws that cater to present day torts in the digital arena. Asides government legislation, regulation can be championed by government agencies and professional organisations. Bloggers can also retain a self-regulation mechanism.

A blogger is assured of a successful enterprise if he carries on business without flouting the laws of the country he is domiciled. A blogger or media practitioner who scorns the law can be likened to a pedestrian who is addicted to Jay-walking in the dark; a crash is imminent. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility…do the right thing today.

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