PTBA Blog

Bloggers threatened by legal bullying

With the continued rise of antagonistic and litigious legal systems, we’re seeing more and more companies trying to take advantage of (largely underfunded) travel bloggers.

While some cases are likely to have merit, many aren’t. Without the backing of venture capital, easy access to pro-bono legal counsel, and thin profit margins, what’s an independent publisher to do?

Increasing legal threats against travel bloggers

Earlier this week, I received a private message asking for PTBA assistance on legal advice regarding a copyright infringement notice. This morning I saw PTBA member Stephanie Yoder under fire from a “frivolous, thuggish, [and] vague threat” (thanks Popehat).

Is this a rising trend that PTBA members should be aware of?

In any case, it’s one that we want to take very seriously. So what can we do?

Fight the good fight

Firstly, we can fully support our members when they are engaged by legal threats we think are unjust. Having read the Popehat report on what’s happening to Stephanie, and having read the original blog post, I personally believe this unjust and sent a note of support to Stephanie.

For most bloggers, lawsuits are far away from our areas of expertise and generate large amounts of stress and that sucks huge amounts of time away from our core business. With most blogs in our organisation being one- or two-person operations, this can be disastrous. Friendly notes of moral support can go a long way.

Stephanie is unable to comment at present, but we warmly welcome your messages of support in the comments. Even if you’re not a PTBA member. We’re also starting to use the #supportsteph hashtag across social networks.

Secondly, I believe the PTBA can help by creating go-to resources for travel bloggers faced with legal questions. This should not replace true legal advice, but bring together the best resources published by organisations like the BBC, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, and other organisations. We will work to find a legal expert willing to help educate PTBA members through webinars or other mediums — to avoid problems in publishing, and then to react appropriately if issues do come up.

Thirdly, and related, we can try to build relationships with legal organisations such as Pro Bono and the Artists and Inventors Legal Clinic in addition to sourcing referrals of good lawyers in various countries who our members have had good experiences with.

I imagine a day when the PTBA has a ‘war chest’ to help our members with legal battles, but it isn’t this day.

Starter resources

I’ve linked to some starter resources in this blog post, but would be very interested to hear of more. Please comment with resources you’re aware of below and we’ll compile them into a starter pack of legal advice.

Stephanie is unable to comment at present, but we warmly welcome your messages of support in the comments. Even if you’re not a PTBA member. We’re also starting to use the #supportsteph hashtag across social networks.



Craig Martin is the President of the PTBA, 2014-15. You can reach him by tweeting @craig_martin.

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