Essential Legal Tips
Did you know that writing can be a legal minefield? While you can get away with a lot under ‘fair use’, there’s still a limit to what you can legally do as a writer. There are some areas where you might end up coming unstuck if you’re not careful.Try to avoid any mistakes by keeping these five legal tips in mind while you work:
1) Copyright is important! (But probably not the way writers think)
A lot of the time, especially in this digital age, writers have no idea how copyright works. They don’t necessarily understand, for example, that copyright is automatically given to the creator of a work – whether they have registered that work or not. In Australia, copyright currently lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years – although it was only plus 50 years for anything created before 2004. There are also moral rights for music performers, and artistic designs can be covered under the Designs Act. All this means you have to carefully check your source before you know whether you’re legally allowed to use it – and it’s probably best to try to contact the creator or their estate and ask.
2) Don’t throw mud
If you throw mud – which is to say, to smear someone’s name in public – then you might get into hot water. If you make accusations about someone that are unfounded, or cannot be proven, or are a matter of opinion, then you could be at risk of being sued. There are some cases where a lawsuit wouldn’t work, so be sure to check rather than allowing yourself to be bullied into taking down a piece about someone if you aren’t certain. But if you would be at risk of a lawsuit, think twice before publishing.
3) Credit your sources
Writers can get into trouble even if they don’t copy the words or copyrighted pieces from other people. If you write something and present it as fully your own work, but the research was taken from work done by someone else, then you could get into an argument with the person who did it. People on the internet are quick to notice these mistakes, so don’t allow yourself to get drawn in. Credit your sources at the bottom of any article so that the people who did the work are recognised for it.
4) Know a lawyer
How do you keep all of the intricacies of the legal system clear in your head? Simply put, you don’t! Unless you’re an actual legal writer, it would be a waste of your memory. Instead, you’re better off making friends with a lawyer and asking them when you are in doubt. This is a good way to have yourself checked before you publish, so that you at least know your back is covered.
5) Own your content
It’s not just about getting sued yourself, either. You might want to use your newfound knowledge to protect your own work, too. If someone republishes your work without credit or consent, you could be at rights to demand payment or take them to court. Don’t be afraid to fight for your own rights when the case arises. On that note, don’t ever republish someone else verbatim!! This especially true online, as it could ruin their search engine rankings, which are hard won!
Legal issues are not something to be sniffed at. It’s important that you always keep yourself safe while you work. Don’t get caught out by something that could easily be avoided. Good luck!
BIO: Lucy Taylor is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers. Working as a legal expert at LY Lawyers, Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions and crime.