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Personal blogs may create legal issues for employers: over the past few years, blogs and blogging have made tech headlines as a sometimes risque alternative to mainstream news coverage. What happens when blogs intersect with the workplace?

For the unfamiliar, blog is short for weblog. Blogging is the practice of maintaining a weblog. A weblog is a personal web site that uses a dated log format (usually with the most recent addition at the top of the page) and contains links to other web sites along with commentary about those sites. A blog is usually updated frequently, sometimes grouping links together by specific subjects, such as politics, news, pop culture or computer issues.

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Blogs are growing in popularity and businesses have begun to use them as an alternative to traditional media to expand their marketing reach, create product buzz and encourage customer loyalty. Recently, when General Motors wanted to stop speculation concerning a rumor that the Buick and Pontiac brands were going to be eliminated, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz discussed the rumors on his GM Fastlane blog. He personally explained that the automaker would not shed the brands and that the rumors were a result of a recent media trend to be hard on the domestic auto industry and a misrepresentation of recent comments he had made.

Blogs can be harmful as well as helpful to a business. With the growing popularity of blogging, many businesses are becoming concerned about the messages being posted by their employees on their personal blogs. Mark Jen, a former Google employee, learned this lesson the hard way. He was fired for releasing too much information about his company, including specific financial information.

When a personal blog is maintained with company approval, the company may expose itself to the same legal issues faced by the blogger. It is important that businesses that encourage corporate blogs take action to avoid liability by developing a company blogging policy and sticking to its terms.

Generally, individuals that choose to maintain a personal blog face the same legal liability issues as anyone making a publication available to the public, and receive the same freedom of speech and press protections. The main legal issues include: defamation (saying or writing something untruthful about someone else), intellectual property such as copyright and trademark (using someone else's words or trademarks without their permission), trade secret (improperly releasing protected information), right of publicity (improperly using someone else's image or likeness without permission), publication of private facts and intrusion into seclusion (invading someone else's privacy).

Before the Internet, these legal issues were primarily only of concern to those who had access to the necessary resources required to undertake a large publishing effort. With the Internet, anyone can publish content with little cost and that content will be available for the world to view. Individuals that have done little to educate themselves on these potential legal issues can easily create liability for themselves without knowing it.

LEARN MORE ONLINE

A list of over one hundred companies with business related blogs can be found at http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Resources/CorporateBlogsList

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Title Annotation:NEWSLETTER
Author:Sprague, David D.
Publication:Detroiter
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:490
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