Last month former Journalism.co.uk reporter Judith Townend conducted a survey into UK independent online publishers’ experience of media law.
It’s worth reading the findings from 71 respondents in full, especially the answers from participants on how they get legal advice and help. For independent sites (or those with a staff of fewer than 10) the reasons behind setting up the site have a strong influence on how they handle with legal complaints, as one publisher explained:
One publisher said a potentially tricky problem went away without any response on their part, after they were contacted by a company that had been the subject of a user’s comment on the site: “Chose to play dead and not respond to [the email] and wait and see… [we] would have removed item if legally threatened – not close enough to our own cause to be worth a big fight. Have heard no more though.”
For those writing for a campaigning purpose or who are highly critical of others in their writing, legal issues aren’t going to deter them from continuing their fight, it seems. For others, libel, copyright and other issues haven’t yet been a problem because their subject matter or publishing style hasn’t yet caused these conflicts.
Many others use a network of peers and through social media to source legal pointers and advice, often avoiding costly fees. But there’s a sense from respondents that this ad hoc approach, while useful, may not stand greater legal stress or develop as quickly as a publisher’s own needs.