Cyber rights for bloggers

IN Resources | 14/09/2012
1) What are blogs, blog-posts, bloggers?
Usually a blog is a shared online journal where users can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies.
According to the IT Rules, a blog means a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. 
A blog post is a separate entry or article made on a periodic basis.
A blogger means a person who keeps and updates a blog on a periodic basis.
2) Is a blogger a journalist?
If a blogger posts blogs that are journalistic in nature, i.e., the blogger
uses the blogging platforms for posting reports, views, opinions, comments on events, then the blogger can be called a journalist.
3) Do bloggers and journalists share the same protection under the law?
Bloggers and journalists share the same protection under the law because article 19 (1) (a) that defines freedom of expression applies to all citizens. The media in India does not enjoy special privileges under the Constitution unlike US, where freedom of press was ratified by the First Amendment.
4) Can a journalist publish their stories on their blogs?
A journalist can publish their stories on their personal blogs. A lot depends on the nature of contract with the concerned media organisation s/he works for. A journalist can publish their stories giving an attribution to the employer that published the story originally. If the contract is such that the journalist retains her/his copyright of the story, then the journalist ought to mention it clearly.
5) What is the difference between an online journalistic report and a blog-post? Do they have a different legal status?
An online journalistic report seeks to collect and provide information that has a public interest. A blog post can be about a wide range of subjects written in various styles- from one’s opinions, reports and factual information to personal accounts of one’s travels, cookery, pets, health, philosophy etc. Legally, both online journalistic reports as well as blog-posts have the same status under the IT Act.
6) Can a blogger get away with a disclaimer that the comments on his/her blog do not belong to him/her and belong to that of the person who has commented?
No. If you blog elicits comments, you are considered an intermediary [1]. A disclaimer may provide limited protection if it establishes that ‘due diligence’ was taken to show that comments are not endorsed by the blog-owner. Besides, the blog owner or a website owner will have to remove the ‘offensive’ comments within 36 hours if there are any complaints as part of due diligence.
7) Is moderation of comments mandatory for a blog owner or website owner?
No. Moderation of comments is not mandatory for a blog/website owner. But remember that comments on a site are also the responsibility of the blog owner.
8) If you own the domain for a site, does that give you more legal protection over your content than if you use space offered by free platforms like Wordpress or Blogger?
No, owning a domain for a site does not give you any special protection over your data in comparison to having your content hosted on free platforms like Wordpress or Blogger. Usually the web-hosts end up being served notices to take down content on the websites hosted by them. 
9) What happens when someone is offended by your content and files a complaint with your Internet Service Provider? What is the process of operation?
If a person is ‘offended’ by your content, s/he will first sent a written complaint with an electronic signature (link to glossary for definition) to the intermediary (link to the glossary for definition), which is the blog host or the free blog hosting sites. The intermediary has to ensure that the ‘offensive’ content is taken down within 36 hours. By doing this, the intermediary guarantees him/her self protection from legal liability that may arise from legal action related to the case.
10) If a complaint is made against content on my site, what is my next step?
If a complaint is made against the content of your site, the intermediary i.e. the blog host will receive the complaint. They are supposed to take down the content within 36 hours. If they fail to do so, then they will be liable to legal action, if the case is taken to the court. The intermediary might choose to inform you or might put up a notice on your page citing the reason.
11) In which court of law or forum can I defend myself if a complaint is lodged against content on my site or blog?
Currently, under the IT Act, there is no provision or forum for you to challenge a complaint or a take down notice. You will have to take down the content within 36 hour of receipt of the complaint and then challenge it in a court of law.
12) Can one blog anonymously?
Yes, you can blog anonymously. But your content is as vulnerable of takedown as any other.
13) Does the copyright for any material - text, visuals or audio - differ for different media?
Yes. In some cases (‘sound recordings’ and ‘cinematograph films’) the producer is considered the author, and in other cases the writer / artist /sculptor / photographer, etc., is considered the author.
14) Whom does the copyright of a report, photograph, video, graphic uploaded on a blog vest with?
If the content is part of a blog created by an individual blog creator, it will vest with the creator. It is a very good idea to state the terms of ownership and sharing of the content prominently on the site.
If the content is part of a website, it will vest with the owner of the website.
Several bloggers or website owners do try to share content for non-commercial use and obtain limited licences for this. More information can be obtained from CreativeCommons and Copyleft.
15) Canblogs, reports or photographs be protected from theft? Can they be copyrighted?
Original content on a website is copyrightable content as original text and photographs/graphics fall under the categories of ‘literary work’ and ‘artistic work’ respectively as defined by the Copyright Act, 1957.

Some limited protection for text and photos for your blog-posts and reports can be obtained by using software that prevents right-click of the mouse. You can also track if your text is copied using Copyscape. For more information on how to protect your content on your blog, check here and here.

[1] An intermediary is defined as any person, who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that records or provides any service with respect to that record and includes Telecom service providers, network service providers, Internet service providers (ISP), Web hosting service providers, Search engines, Online payment sites, Online auction sites, Online market places and Cyber cafes.
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