Troll hunting: forum abuse and the law

A troll is defined in the Urban Dictionary as "one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument". The etymology seems to be disputed. My preferred explanation is that the usage comes - via the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban - from fishing, where trolling is the practice of trailing a baited line behind a moving boat, as in "trolling for mackerel".

10 things you should know about ... publishing law

The law relating to the publication of books, journals, newspapers, magazines and their electronic equivalents is, I think, one of the most interesting areas of legal study. Although the core principles of publishing law are enduring, change is a constant. The manifestation of the principles of publishing law in legislation and case law reflects both the march of technology and the deep currents of our literary culture - as well as passing parliamentary and judicial fashions. In this way, publishing law holds a cracked mirror to our literary culture; and the reflections we glimpse aren't always pretty.

Writing an SEO contract

Success or failure in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can make or break a business. With serious money at stake, all SEO consultants and agencies need to be conscious of the legal risks that their work entails. One of the most important ways of managing those risks is through the use of a good contract. In this post, I look at those matters which are particular to SEO contracts.

Internet marketing for lawyers: good, bad or ugly?

In the good old days of legal practice, effective marketing meant being good at your job, and once in a while taking clients out for long, expensive and boozy lunches. That, at least, is what a senior partner at an international law firm once told me. Those days, if not entirely mythical, are long gone. In this post I'm going to look at the nexus between internet marketing and legal services. I'll consider how the peculiar features of legal businesses affect the marketing of legal services online.

Non est factum in the 21st Century

Pottering around in some of the dustier corners of the law of contract this morning, I happened on the doctrine of non est factum ("it is not my deed"), a species of mistake I haven't given any thought to since law school. The doctrine was developed by the English courts to protect those who signed legal documents mistakenly. Where the doctrine applies, a person who mistakenly signs a contract or deed is not bound thereby. The classic situation involves a blind person who executes a document after it had been incorrectly read to him or her. As well as the blind, the doctrine may protect anyone who – through no fault of their own – has no understanding of the meaning and effects of a document: the ill, the infirm, those of low intelligence, the seriously under-educated, and those unable to understand the language of the document.

101 ways to NOT get sued

Legal action can be catastrophic for a start-up or SME. When you add up lawyers' fees, court fees, damages and lost management time, the loser can be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of pounds of losses, sometimes more. Even if you win, the victory may be pyrrhic – for you if not for your lawyers. So read this list, and you might just save your business.

Transferring IP rights in software

It's axiomatic that intellectual property rights are transferable. A change of ownership of physical property can be evidenced by a change of possession; not so with intellectual property (IP). For this reason, IP transfers should always be embodied in a written instrument. Indeed it's often is a legal requirement that IP transfers be in writing. This short post is about the use of such instruments to transfer the IP rights in software.

Cookies, consents and browser settings

The UK ICO's last-minute revisions to its official guidance on the cookie laws focused on the possibility of "implied consent" for the use of cookies. This softening of the ICO's position was sensible, notwithstanding that the whole cookie law saga brings EU tech law into disrepute. There was, however, another option open to the ICO. They could have taken the position that consent could be indicated by browser settings.

Contracting with children under website T&Cs

Many websites are aimed at children, and many that aren't aimed at children are used by them. Although not all website operators seek to enter into contractual relationships with users, many do; and there lies a problem. The general rule of English law is that individuals under 18 years of age - minors in the legal jargon - are not bound by any contracts that they may enter into. In some circumstances, even where the child is bound, such contracts are voidable at the option of the child.

Prize competitions and the law: navigating the labyrinth

The laws of England and Wales on prize competitions can seem labyrinthine. But for most prize competitions, the route through is reasonably straightforward. There are three main stages. First, design the competition in such a way that it isn't in danger of becoming expensively ensnared in the gambling law regime. Second, mark those areas of illegality that are the domain of unfair trading law and consumer protection law, and steer well clear. Third, follow the path laid down in the CAP Code.


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