The Internet has changed the face of publishing, particularly as far as the media is concerned. These days it seems like more people get their news online than through traditional printed newspapers.
But with the new publishing medium comes a new set of concerns. For example, with traditional print newspapers, there were databases to search for the information that you needed, but that process was still much more arduous than simply typing a few keywords into Google.
Information now is relevant for a longer period of time because it’s easier to access. And because it’s far easier to search for information today, more and more people are educating themselves about what is printed about them online as they strive to maintain a positive online reputation. After all, that information that’s staying relevant for a longer timespan surely isn’t all positive.
When someone feels that his or her online reputation is at stake, that person might lash out at the newspaper and threaten legal action. They might claim the newspaper’s decision to publish that content online where it’s easily searchable by friends, family, bosses, or potential employers is unethical.
The fact of the matter is, though, that there are laws that protect online publications because publishing online is very risky. Before you petition a newspaper to claim that their article about you is unethical, make sure you familiarize yourself with online publication laws or talk to an online reputation management company that is familiar with them.
Some of the most important laws and regulations governing online publication:
In both print and online news articles, you can be sure that a copyright is enacted. What the copyright does is ultimately give the owner control over the copy.
Copyright also promotes progression, however, and thus we have what is called “fair use” attached to copyrights. This means that others may use all or part of a work (with proper attribution) for the following purposes: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
Violation of those copyright terms, however, such as sites republishing entire articles without express permission, can result in cries of copyright infringement, which can lead to law suits.
What does this mean for you if you are attempting to repair your online reputation? It means that first and foremost, you shouldn’t take the original news piece and try to alter it to suit your reputation in any way. Instead, consult with an online reputation management service to assist you with getting the article removed.
Additionally, because many copyrights allow for the republishing of content with proper attribution, assume that if an article that is damaging to your online reputation is removed from the newspaper’s website, it’s likely that it still exists elsewhere online.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Think of this as copyright amped up. This act came into existence in 1998 in order to address the rise of digital technologies and the online world (including publications).
In addition to extending the copy owner’s rights to the online sphere, this act also included some other protective measures, such as the “safe-harbor” provisions. Many websites – including online publications – who host any kind of user-generated content will take the necessary steps to be covered in this way. A safe-harbor provision means that the site and its owners are not responsible for content posted by users should it contain any kind of copyright infringement. In other words, they’re protected from being punished for other people’s actions.
What a shield law does, essentially, is protect a reporter from disclosing the name of a source or other relevant documents and notes gathered. While they are not currently federally recognized, they do exist across numerous states, protecting the journalist’s desire to keep that information confidential, as well as the source’s privacy (and, perhaps, ultimately the source’s safety).
While the aforementioned copyright-related regulations are what primarily protect online publications, there are other factors to be considered. In the grand scheme of things, online media is still relatively new, and the lines are constantly blurred. Should bloggers be covered by the same protections that journalists enjoy? For that matter, should there be a difference in a journalist’s protection depending on whether he or she writes in print or online?
The Laws and Online Reputation Management
If you are hoping to use the laws protecting online newspapers to help you make a case for that publication removing content from its site, you may have some difficulty. Laws exist that prevent defamation of character, slander, and libel. However, if a journalist writes something about you that is true, they don’t have to remove it simply on the grounds that it harms your reputation. Many online publications have no standard in place for handling requests to “unpublish,” however, so there is often some room to work with them. If you choose to work with an online reputation management service, they can use their industry knowledge and technologies to help improve and maintain your good name with these online publications.