As a blogger, it’s important to understand what legal protections extend to your online content. Equally as important, you should know what legal issues may arise when creating and publishing online. To avoid disputes, you should ensure your content complies with Australian law, particularly intellectual property and privacy law. We set out below what bloggers should know about copyright and creative commons as well as writing and publishing reviews on their site.
Copyright is an automatic right in Australia and as such, there is no registration system to verify copyrighted material. Copyright laws apply to the material immediately after it is created and not merely ideas. Owners of copyrighted material have rights allowing them to reproduce and publish or broadcast their work. So before posting content on your blog, it’s important that you don’t infringe copyright laws. Ask the content creator for permission before posting their material on your blog. You are unlikely to infringe copyright if you hear about an idea for an article and then write a blog post based on that idea.
A Creative Commons licence allows the content creator to authorise others to use their content without infringing copyright. However, there may be conditions and rights attached to a Creative Commons licence. For example, an “attribution licence” is a form of a Creative Commons licence whereby the creator may allow others to copy and publish their work on the basis that the copier or publisher credits their work by acknowledging them as the creator. If you use material under a creative commons licence, it is likely that you are not infringing copyright laws, provided you adhere to the conditions attached.
Guidelines When Writing Reviews
Usually, consumers rely on bloggers’ online reviews to guide their purchase decisions and so it’s vital that your online reviews maintain integrity. Consumers rarely now buy goods or services before a Google search and reading reviews. They expect reviews to be an accurate and present an honest opinion.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) released guidelines relating to online reviews. The guidelines relate to review platforms, which include websites, apps and even blogs that aim to influence consumer purchase choices. As a blogger, it’s important to be aware of and adhere to the guiding principles for reviews put forth by the ACCC when reviewing businesses, goods and/or services on your blog.
Transparency of Commercial Relationships
Consumers expect a review to be independent and to remain unaffected by commercial relationships between the business and reviewer. You must disclose whether or not you have an existing commercial relationship with a business you are reviewing as it may impact your review.
You must disclose the relationship you have with a business if:
- The business pays for advertising on your blog; or
- The business has the power to select reviews to appear at the top of your blog; or
- The business can prevent you from publishing negative reviews
Do not publish misleading reviews
Publishing a misleading review not only contravenes the ACCC’s guidelines but may also be misleading or deceptive conduct, which the Australia’s consumer law prohibits.
Misleading reviews can include:
- Reviews that are not true;
- Reviews the business itself writes;
- Reviews written by those with personal connections to the business without disclosing their relationship;
- Reviews that are overwhelmingly positive; and
- The omission of a negative review.
Disclose incentivised reviews
Sometimes a business may offer you an incentive whether through free products or services or even a monetary sum, in return for a review. Such incentives may be likely to affect your opinion positively, and perhaps diminish the honesty of your review. The ACCC then recommends that when writing reviews, you provide a disclosure if a company incentivises you to write a favourable review. If, however, a business approaches you to write a review without offering any incentives, you do not necessarily need to disclose that the business contacted you.
If you are a blogger, there are issues you need to know of to ensure you do not infringe another content creator’s rights. To avoid infringing copyright, you can use work licensed under Creative Commons. However, you must be aware of conditions that may attach. When writing and publishing reviews to your blog, following the guidelines set out by the ACCC legally places you in a good position to overcome any disputes that arise. Importantly, if you have any questions, ask someone – you can get in touch with our intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755.