Month: March 2013

Letter of the Law: Keep Your Blog Legal

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Keith Lee, an attorney with the Hamer Law Group and the man behind the popular law blog Associate’s Mind. Ketih will be a special guest at See Jane’s Write Bloggers Who Brunch event set for April 7. RSVP via Facebook or in the comments section of this post. 

Guest post by Keith Lee 
Blogging is one of the greatest revolutions in publication since the printing press. It has given the ability to publish and be heard to essentially everyone with access to a computer. Almost all of the filters or barriers between a person wishing to share their thoughts, and display them in public, have been removed. Computers and the internet have given everyone the opportunity to have their voice heard.
But with this opportunity comes responsibilities and liabilities. You decide to blog about a bad experience you had at a restaurant which then reads your review and decides to sue you for defamation. Or someone makes a comment on one of your blog posts that attacks a politician. That same politician decides to come after you instead of the commentator. You decide to tweet about something that a local business gave you as a free trial – and the FTC decides to open an investigation file.
All of the above are worst case scenarios that are unlikely to happen. But at the same time, it makes sense to take some basic, and generally easy, precautions to familiarize yourself with laws and make sure you are complying with them.
Free Speech
First and foremost, you have the right to free speech. The government has no right to censor or impede you sharing your opinions. It is unlikely you will ever face any restrictions on your speech from the government.  But sometimes individuals or businesses will attempt to suppress an individuals right to free speech through what is known as a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
To go back to our bad restaurant review as a example, the restaurant learns of the bad review by a blogger. The restaurant files a lawsuit against the blogger as a way to threaten and bully them to take the review down. The restaurant is betting on the fact that they have deeper pockets, and better lawyers, than a small-time blogger. So while the restaurant’s lawsuit would likely fail if it ran its course, it doesn’t matter. The restaurant doesn’t need to win in court, they only need to intimidate the blogger enough to take down their review. Hence, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Other People’s Speech
Another difficult issue that can arise in blogging is the comments on a post. Comments are fantastic to receive because it indicates that your readers are engaged with your writing. But it can also be a headache it they are negative or attacking people in public. But as a blogger you are generally protected. Specifically, you are protected by a section of the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996. While much of the Act has been struck down as restrictions on free speech, one important part has survived:

Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230).

Essentially, you are not responsible for the speech of others on your website. Under the law, bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds. Section 230 provides the protection that has allowed innovation and freedom to thrive on the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent infographic on why Section 230 is so important.
Paid or Compensated Speech
Many people who start blogs do so in the hopes of them becoming a business. Maybe not a full-time one, but a passive, secondary business nonetheless. The way many bloggers make money is through the endorsement of products and services through affiliate links. Affiliate links are unique links that serve two purposes: A) it directs a visitor to a sales page AND B) credits the host-blog with a commission should the visitor make a purchase by tracking the link back to them. The most common example of this is Amazon’s Associates program.
This type of activity went unfettered for many years before the government stepped in. In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission revised its rules and regulations regarding endorsements and testimonials in reaction to blogs and online advertising (warning: only read that you link if you are a glutton for punishment or a lawyer!). What these new rules mean is that there is now a requirement for voluntary disclosure of endorsements and affiliate links.
The easiest way to do this is a simple statement: “This is an affiliate link,” or “I received this product from X company – but I am endorsing it because I use it and believe in it.” What matters here is honest communication with the reader, not compliance with some obscure legalese.

Want To Learn More?
As I stated earlier, blogging is a fantastic revolution, and one that people should embrace. But you should also be aware that, like everything else, it is governed by rules and regulations. These rules should not intimidate you. You just need to take a small amount of time to learn about them and make sure you are complying with the law and keeping yourself protected. Which, admittedly, can be tough – just last week the FTC released a new set of rules that particularly affects Twitter. So it’s worth your time to keep tabs on the laws affecting blogging from time-to-time.
If you would like to learn more about these, and other issues you might face as a blogger, I’ll be speaking at See Jane Write’s Bloggers Who Brunch at noon on April 7 at Black Market Bar. I look forward to meeting and speaking with you. 

See Jane Write Turns 2!

Exactly two years ago today See Jane Write began with a small gathering of 14 women at a local Mexican restaurant. We crowded around a table and discussed our writing adventures and aspirations and I asked them what they wanted from a group like See Jane Write.  The women there that night I barely knew at the time, but some are now good friends of mine — women like Chanda Temple, Erin Shaw Street and Karri Bentley. And it’s crazy to think that some of See Jane Write’s biggest supporters currently — women like Sherri Ross Walters, Tanya Sylvan, Mandy Shunnarah, Jessica Jack Wyrick, Emily Lowrey, Darlene Robinson Millender, Jennifer Dome and Carol Marks, who has driven all the way from Huntsville to attend events– are women I hadn’t even met two years ago. 

The second See Jane Write event — a Twitter workshop — drew about 40 people; the next event — a panel discussion on blogging — drew about 65. The See Jane Write email list has grown to nearly 300 addresses. And thanks to this wonderful group I’ve been featured on great websites like Magic City Made and The Cobalt Club and I received the SMART Award, an honor given by the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham to innovative women in the city. 

It’s hard to believe that all this has happened in just two years. But I have a feeling that year 3 is going to be even more amazing. 

If you’d like to give See Jane Write a birthday gift feel free to do so via the PayPal button to the right. But if you can’t spare any extra cash there are other ways I’d love for you to be part of the See Jane Write movement. 

Here are my goals for the next year and how you can help. 

1. Start magazine.
As some of you already know, I plan to launch See Jane Write Magazine this summer. This will be a blog-style website offering information and inspiration for women writers, bloggers, and journalists worldwide. You can support this project now by following the new Twitter account @seejanewritemag

2. Create a blueprint. 
I’ve had requests to start See Jane Write organizations in other cities and even other states, which is one of the reasons I decided to start the magazine. But I want to do more. I want to one day be able to offer a detailed blueprint to future See Jane Write ambassadors in different cities. But See Jane Write is only two; she’s a toddler that still stumbles when she walks. I need your help in getting See Jane Write where she needs to be before we can start showing her off to the rest of the country. 

3. Have a See Jane Write conference.
I would really like to have a See Jane Write conference one day but the idea is so overwhelming it ties my stomach into knots. But with your help, I believe a See Jane Write conference could be fantastic. As author Jen Hatmaker says, instead of being overwhelmed let’s be awesome. 

If you’re interested in helping with any of these projects, please email me at I will be hosting a small planning party in the coming months. 

Let’s do this! 

And the winner is…

The winner of the free all-access pass to the Strength Mitzi Jane Media Social Media Conference is “Katie – Hems for Her.” Please email me so I can get you set up with your prize. 
If you didn’t win remember you can still get a $20 discount on the full conference rate until 10 p.m. tomorrow by using the code jane. Click here (affiliate link) to register. 
*I used Random Number Generator to select the winner. “Katie- Hems for Her” was the fourth person to enter.
True Random Number Generator  4Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Win a Free Pass to the STRENGTH Social Media Conference

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We writers may like to believe that wise and witty words are enough to bring readers to our books and blogs, but sadly, that’s just not true. We must market our work as well, and these days one of the best ways to do so is through social media.

“Social media, partnered with blogging, is a tool to strengthen your personal brand, connect with current and future readers, network with other writers, and share stories,” said Mitzi Eaker of the social media consulting group Mitzi Jane Media. “For writers, blogging highlights their talents and gives them a platform to share their writing.”

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Mitzi Eaker of Mitzi Jane Media

Next month you’ll have a chance to learn how to improve your social media skills at STRENGTH, a Mitzi Jane Media social media conference for small businesses. If you think this conference isn’t for you because you’re a writer, not a business owner, think again.

“I think all the sessions are beneficial to writers, especially if they want to create a business as a writer, monetize a blog, or market a book,” Eaker said.

Eaker believes so strongly that this conference is beneficial for writers and bloggers that she is offering a discount to See Jane Write members and giving away an all-access pass to one lucky Jane.

Workshops will be held every Monday evening during the month of April from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The conference takes place at Danberry at Inverness, 235 Inverness Center Drive.

During the first session Eaker will give a broad introduction to social media and later author and blogger Teri Lynne Underwood will share how she used social media to promote her blog and sell her books.

For the second week Eaker will share the steps to building a social media strategy and veteran blogger and designer Karla Archer will share how to create strong social media content and a blogging calendar.

The third week will cover Google Analytics and SEO. Week four will delve into branding. In the final session Emily Lowrey of Magic City Post will help attendees learn how to be more productive with their time online.

Other things you can expect to learn include: how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest strategically; steps to ebook publishing and how to connect with small businesses for marketing promotions.

Early bird registration for the full conference is $129.99 and available through March 8. After March 8 the full conference rate is $169. The cost per night is $39.99.

Click here (affiliate link) to register.
To receive $20 off registration for the full conference use the code – jane. This code will expire Saturday at 10 p.m.

To enter the giveaway for the free full conference pass leave a comment telling us what your greatest social media training needs are. Also, to be eligible to win you must follow See Jane Write and Mitzi Jane Media on Twitter or Facebook. The contest will end Friday at 5 p.m. and the winner announced shortly after.

Mitzi Jane Media on Facebook

Mitzi Jane Media on Twitter @mitzijanemedia

See Jane Write on Facebook

See Jane Write on Twitter @seejanewritebhm

Blog Like a Girl, BFW 2013 Edition: Abby Hathorn of Vintage Inspired Passionista

Abby Hathorn of Vintage Inspired Passionista

Look out Tavi Gevinson! Birmingham may have its own teen prodigy in the world of fashion blogging. Abby Hathorn started her website Vintage Inspired Passionista about a year ago when she was only 16. 

“I wanted to show that teenage girls did not have to be sixteen and pregnant, but sixteen and successful,” Hathorn said.

Hathorn not only blogs but also works part-time as a stylist for Mississippi-based Town and Gown Magazine and writes for Real Story Publishing. 

“Juggling my blog, writing for Real Story Publishing, styling for Town and Gown Magazine, and finding time in the day to homeschool is quite a challenging task, but thanks to my iPhone and Claire Massy at Town and Gown Magazine and Joseph St. John at Real Story Publishing, I am able to find time in the day to do what I love-fashion and writing,” Abby says. “It is great to be able to collaborate with them via text and email.  I am originally from Mississippi and have family and friends close to Starkville and Columbus which allows me to travel there as often as I am needed.”

This past week Abby was busy covering Birmingham Fashion Week, but she still made time to chat with See Jane Write about blogging and the Birmingham fashion scene. 

Abby at the BFW 2013 Kick Off Party

How did you put together the outfit you wore to the Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 Kick Off Party? 

I love mixing patterns! When I spotted the printed dress and chevron cardigan at Banana Republic, I knew they were meant to be in my closet! I felt the basic navy needed a pop of color, so I sported my favorite pair of Michael Kors heels with it. I adore handmade jewelry and Etsy so I topped off my BFW 2013 Kick Off Party ensemble with handmade earrings by Rachel Leathers (of Hearts of Stone Jewelry) and a luscious stone ring by Lisa Hamilton (of Beadsoul).

Why do you think it’s good for Birmingham to have an event like Birmingham Fashion Week?

Events such as Birmingham Fashion Week help to boost tourism and draw attention to the area’s awesome attractions, shops, and dining. It brings attention to and supports nonprofit foundations like Alabama Forever and Camp Smile-A-Mile. It also shows off the South’s fashionable talents! And what shopaholic doesn’t love a preview of spring fashions?

Why do you think it is important for local bloggers to cover Birmingham Fashion Week and how can they do it in a way that will fully engage their readers?

It is a fantastic and fashionable way to support the community! Easy ways to fully engage readers during events like BFW is with photos and interviews. Readers love to be involved, so ask them which design/event was their favorite.

How did you get interested in fashion?

My fascination with fashion began at a young age. I was always playing dress up in my mom’s closet! Well, I suppose, I still play dress up.

What was the inspiration behind the name of your blog?

I am inspired by all things vintage! Vintage clothes, music, movies, and cars! There is nothing better than putting on a vintage Frank Sinatra record while brainstorming about blog ideas.

How did you get your gig with Town and Gown Magazine? How do you manage to work for them while living in Birmingham?

Claire Massey, the editor of Town and Gown Magazine, discovered and contacted me to do a fashion article for the November 2012 issue. Since that article, I have been working as a stylist for Town and Gown Magazine.

Town and Gown is a wonderful publication with which to work! Claire Massey, the editor, and Divian Conner, the photographer, make planning and conducting photo shoots easy.

What tips would you give to bloggers (not only fashion bloggers) looking to build their brand and a community?

Social media promotion is key! Create a Facebook Like Page, Twitter, and Instagram page for your blog to draw in your readers, and be sure to post often, but not overwhelmingly. Early on in my blog, I decided that I needed a logo that not only represented the VIP, but also was catchy!  Thanks to Amy Shaw for creating a fabulous logo for me. Another super easy way to grow a blogging brand is with business cards. I always have lots of business cards with me, and I hand them out everywhere I shop, eat, and hangout.