An Interview With the Author of the "Legal Side of Blogging"

In today’s iREADray hot seat, we have Ruth Carter, the creator and owner of the blog, The Undeniable Ruthand the owner of Carter Law Firm. As a lawyer, who also blogs, Ruth knows all about the law and blogging, and has served as a good source for us as we push the legality envelope with each post here on iREADray.

Welcome Ruth! Thank you so much for being here.
We hear you just came out with a book titled “The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed, ” could you tell us more about that?

It’s an e-book written for bloggers by a blogger that tells them about the risks and responsibilities they take on every time they release a new post. I also cover the rights bloggers get in their work and how to protect them.

You worked with Deborah Bancroft and Aaron Wood on this book, how was working with them?
They were fantastic. Deborah did the copy-editing for my book and Aaron did the cover art.

What’s the worst thing that has happened to you because of your blog?
I’ve never had anything really bad happen to me because of my blog, but I’m really careful about what I say and how I say it. The hardest part about being an outspoken blogger is dealing with people who attack me. I think people will leave hurtful comments online that they would never say to someone in person.

So, tell us, which laws do you think bloggers, like myself, break the most?
I think the most common law bloggers break is the Copyright Act, especially when it comes to selecting pictures. A lot of people think it’s okay to pull any photo from a Google search result to use on their site.
I met a professional who had an assistant who worked on her blog. The assistant thought that any photo online that wasn’t labeled with © came with a Creative Commons license, which is not true. She used a picture that was protected by copyright and the professional got a bill for $5,000 for putting a picture on her blog that violated the photographer’s copyright rights.

How do you think bloggers can avoid breaking these laws?
The best thing bloggers can do is to educate themselves on the laws that apply to their work so they know how to push the envelope without crossing the line. Most people who violate the law with their blogs don’t realize that their doing anything wrong. A lot of problems can be avoided by being more thoughtful about their word selection and where they get their images.

What prompted you to write this?
As a blogger I had a lot of questions about what I can and can’t do with my blog. That turned into a blog series entitled “Can my blog get me sued, fired, arrested, or killed?” After that I did an extensive research paper for my Cyberspace Law class in law school on the legalities of blogging. I took those two projects, did some extra research on emerging issues in blogging, dumped the legalese, and wrote the book.

Name your top three tips for bloggers:
  1. Be careful about your word choices. It’s easy to cross the line between stating your opinion and accusing someone of being something they’re not.
  2. Always use images that you own or are available for use under Creative Commons with the option to modify and commercialize the original photo.
  3. Maximize your rights in your blog under the Copyright Act by registering your blog’s total content every three months.
A little birdie told us that just this year, the American Bar Association named you the “Legal Rebel” of the year for your work regarding flash mob law. A ton of people don’t even know what flash mobs are, could you describe them for us, and tell us about the work you have done with regarding flash mob law?
I work behind the scenes of flash mobs to make sure the organizers and performers don’t set themselves up to be sued or arrested when they do what they do. I get to think about everything that could go wrong and what the people could be accused of doing wrong and tell them how to avoid those problems.
I spoke at the American Bar Association TechShow this year on flash mob law. You can check out the video here.

We hear you also volunteer with Improv Arizona and Ignite Phoenix. What exactly do you do? 
I’m a co-founder of Improv Arizona, a flash mob troupe in the Phoenix area. I help plan and participate in flash mobs.
Ignite Phoenixis an event that gives individuals 5 minutes and 20 slides to share their passion with the audience. It’s a rapid-fire mini lecture event where people share and connect over the topics that are most important to them. I had the pleasure of being selected to speak at Ignite Phoenix #5. I fell in love with the organization and now I help plan Ignite Phoenix events and I am the assistant stage manager during the show.

You sound like a busy lady, so we won’t keep you, one last question: what’s next for you? 
There are always multiple projects on my plate. Coming up I’ll be speaking on The Legal Side of Blogging at TechPhx in Tempe in November and I will also be speaking at SXSW on Protecting Your Copyrights in Digital Media in Austin in March 2013. Between those events I’ll be training and competing in my 4th half-marathon, planning flash mobs, and continuing to grow by business.

Thanks so much for letting us interview you. We look forward to getting a copy of your book, and recommend  for all bloggers to do the same.

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