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The legal landscape for journalists is like a minefield; stories and posts of nomadic lifestyles don’t come without legal conditions.
Here are some legal terms that travel journalists NEED to know:
Defamation — an untrue statement that’s been presented as fact and causes harm to the character of the person it describes.
This term is split into two sub-categories:
- Libel — a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation.
- Slander — an action of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.
Plagiarism — presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your own work without full acknowledgement.
Patent — an exclusive right to a product or a process that generally provides a new way of doing something.
Copyright — a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to copy and distribute a creative work, usually for a limited time.
Trademark — a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
I know… all of this legal mumbo jumbo seems like a drag for journalists to think about but if you want to carry out reliable and trustworthy journalistic practices then you need to take note of these definitions.
Senior lecturer and and Media Law board member Carole Watson explained:
“Understanding how the law works empowers reporters to know when they can pursue important stories”
Although the risk of breaking one of these components is quite rare compared to journalists, they still get the same treatments and the same legal protection. If you want to learn more about how to avoid law breaking for bloggers then read this Fitnancials article as it is very interesting and detailed.
One of the big things that catches out bloggers in their journalistic pursuits is images. Taking a picture from google images and putting it on your blog or article seems like a harmless process. That photo is however the intellectual property of someone else and you are not licensed to share their content unless you have purchased it.
Still not scared? Well, if you get caught using images that you haven’t received permission to use, then you may be subject to copyright infringement where you may have to pay damages of up to £50,000 in serious cases.
Luckily for us, there are tons of photographers out there who want to get their snaps out on the internet and there are sites such as Pexel which are platforms where you can attain copyright free pics for your blog posts.
If you do find yourself in legal bother, it may be useful to know your protection rights in the matter. Here are some of the laws put in place to protect journalists from legal scrutiny:
Contempt of Court Act 1981 (s.10): This section explains that in a free and democratic society there is a need to protect journalists’ sources and presumes in favour of those journalists wishing to do so.
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988: In the UK, anything that you produce, whether it’s a piece of writing, photographs, infographics or even music is automatically covered and protected by this act.
Defamation Law 2013 Protection:
Truth = a complete defence to a claim in slander or libel if the defendant can show that the allegations they have published are substantially true.
Honest Opinion = a defence if the publisher shows that what they published was a statement of opinion; that the statement complained of indicated the basis of that opinion; and that an honest person could have held the opinion based on any fact which existed at the time the statement was made.
Public Interest = the defendant must show the statement was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest and that the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
Privilege = this protects statements made where public policy requires people to able to speak freely. Privilege can be “absolute” (e.g. statements made in Parliament) or “qualified” (such as job references).
It is true that for journalists, there are many ways to trip up which could land you in trouble and you must be aware of this. Nevertheless, if you follow these guidelines and act diligently and respectably in your writing then you have nothing to worry about in most cases.
So my advice to you is … read up on the legislature, read other articles to understand the right things to say and most importantly … don’t let it ruin your passion for becoming bloggers and journalists because it will be both rewarding and beneficial to your life.