Do You Need Liability Insurance For Your Personal Blog? You May Already Have Some.

If you’re blogging, you’re a publisher.  Yesterday I posted about how Cyber Liability Insurance may help firms mitigate the risks of new online business activities. But what about your personal blog?

Liability for Your Personal Blog? Oh, yes.
Andrew Hamilton published a website, Forgotten Ohio, in which he retold a local ghost story about a “haunted house” in his community. Though he didn’t encourage trespassing, or portray the property owners in a false light, a local court held the website liable for $125,000 in damages. See coverage of this horrifying ruling on Overlawyered.

Are There Liability Risks in Personal Blogging?
Even if your blog is non-commericial you can still be charged with defamation, copyright or trademark infringement, libel, slander (if you publish audio), and other creative charges. Once could also be charged for invasion of privacy as part of your news-gathering. Though the First Amendment protects what you say, it’s protection isn’t as strong about how you gather information to express.

And there is always the potential of infringement claims by trademark and copyright holders. And even if you’re in the right,  litigation can be expensive to defend, and the costs skyrocket the longer the litigation continues.

Besides, the law around many digital issues is still unfolding, and many jurisdictions vary in their knowledge of these laws. You may think you’re in the right but still find a decision against you. These unexpected rulings are the bread and butter of our online law blog.

You May Already Have Liability Insurance for Personal Blogging
If you have Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance, you have general liability insurance that could be applicable in some of these situations.  Most policies cover damages and fees incurred in suits against the insured for “bodily injury.” While that sounds more physical, this often includes  personal injury arising out of defamation or invasion of privacy.

Obviously, you are only covered if your insurance contract contains such language.

You should note, however, that your policy may not include coverage for copyright or other intellectual property claims, which do not typically fall within the standard definition of “bodily injury” or “personal injury” covered by most policies. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies typically cover damages  and legal defense costs, but not punitive damages.

Extend Your Coverage With Media Insurance
Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project provides resources to explain if you would benefit from Media Insurance.

If your online activities are part of an existing business, you may also be able to add coverage to your business insurance policy through an add-on rider. Keep in mind that the fact that you may not make money doesn’t insulate you from responsibility for what you publish online. And a few minutes thinking about how to avoid liability and protect yourself from charges may save you stress and thousands of dollars in expenses later.

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