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.

16 Responses to Bloggers threatened by legal bullying

  1. July 10, 2014 at 1:04 am #

    Best of luck, Stephanie. I hope Popehat has generated some great legal counsel for you. On a personal note, Linda and I are right behind you.

  2. July 10, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    Good luck Steph, you know we are all right behind you in this!

  3. July 10, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    The piece on Popehat has summed it up rather well: “vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery”. The only merit here is that a bigger company can afford an attorney to slap a legality-sealing signature as hollow as the words preceding it.

    What they don’t have are your numerous industry peers rallying behind you, Steph. You have every bit of my support during your ordeal, both professionally and personally.

    I’m myself extremely pleased that PTBA have now the initiative to provide resources and legal advice to any future victims of such exploitation – it’s just a shame that these mechanisms are only introduced after the misfortune has befallen on someone.

    But then, at least we’re all in can’t be more sympathetic an industry.

  4. July 10, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Such a ridiculous thing, we are all standing behind you Steph in support of you and your right to free speech!

  5. July 10, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Craig, thanks for helping to spread the word.

    Two other links your readers might find helpful:

    My page on free speech resources:

    My post explaining how to react to a defamation threat:


    Ken White

    • July 10, 2014 at 2:20 am #

      Hi Ken, thanks for the additional resources, and thanks for your strong support of one of our members, Stephanie.

      It’s great to see people on the ‘good’ side of the legal battle, helping us non-specialists. Kudos to you.

  6. July 10, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Supporting Steph! This must be so stressful for her, but surely will come out in her favour. I don’t know you Steph, but here is a virtual {hug} Stay strong xx

  7. July 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Good luck Steph, stay strong! A big hug from Italy

  8. July 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Supporting Steph!
    What the hell:/

  9. July 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Stephanie, I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with such a stressful situation. Hopefully you have found legal representation by now and it all gets sorted out as quickly as possible. Best of luck!!

  10. July 10, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Stephanie, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this, but I have faith that it will all work out in your favor!

  11. July 11, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Steph, I’m really sorry that this is happening and I hope it’s all resolved soon. I’ve read your article and I think it’s well-researched and fair.
    I had a bad experience when someone complained to the Press Complaints Commission about an article I wrote for a national UK newspaper. It was very stressful but luckily I had the support of both the newspaper and the National Union of Journalists, of which I am a member, and the situation was resolved.
    Here’s the link to the NUJ website in case it’s of use in the PTBA’s search for legal advice for members:

  12. July 11, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    This is terrible, and a very serious issue. Seems like big companies have mistaken travel bloggers for mainstream media. Readers are always more relying on bloggers rather than media outlets because of their more honest reporting rather than accepting to write misleading impressions and advices in exchange for commercial collaboration. I hope there will be a strong reaction from the blogging community that will discourage future bullying initiatives.

  13. July 11, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    So sorry that you have to go through this Stephanie. Know that you have so many behind you supporting you.

  14. July 21, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    Stephanie, so sorry this is happening. Remember, you have an army behind you ready to lend support.

  15. July 25, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    This is terrible. I can’t believe this is happening.

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