With the rise of blogging, anyone can be a published writer but not all bloggers understand their exposure to lawsuits.
Too few understand what content can expose them – such as that which can be considered copyright infringement, libel, slander or defamation –and most do not have the resources to protect themselves against these claims.
Tom Hext, executive vice president of program and product development for CalSurance Associates in Orange, Calif., says instances of bloggers being sued for these types of events are increasing. In the event of a lawsuit, the cost of defense can be devastating and if found guilty, a blogger’s personal assets can be at stake.
Hext says many smaller and individual bloggers do not believe they can be targets, but that isn’t always true.
“People and corporations are more aware of the information that is out there and a lot of corporations are out looking for [illegal blog] activities,” says Hext.
Last summer, CalSurance, a division of Brown & Brown Program Insurance Services, launched a blogging insurance program with Arch called BloggerShield that offers a policy aimed at smaller bloggers with a minimum premium of $250. The coverage includes protection against claims of libel, slander or copyright infringement with limits starting at $100,000/$300,000.
Hext says in developing the product, they looked at the makeup of the blogging community and found that most are “mom and pop folks” generating little income or people blogging as a hobby.
“There are more than 30 million bloggers in the U.S. and not all of them are big bloggers that can afford a media liability policy that costs $2,000 to $3,000,” says Hext.
The most common claim against bloggers, according to Hext, is for defamation but copyright infringement is increasingly common as well. Activities like posting a picture of a copyrighted sports stadium on an individual website could solicit action from a corporate attorney, which most bloggers do not anticipate.
“They don’t want a site to profit from using their name in a blog,” says Hext.
Posting copyrighted music without prior approval can also instigate action.
Hext says BloggerShield covers pretty much any blog content – from food to political to travel to gossip blogs – but there are some they typically avoid, such as undercover activities or content obtained with hidden cameras. The coverage can also extend to “microblogs” or a social media page like Facebook that serve as an an extension to a blog or link to a blog.
The underwriting process includes looking at the content of the blog and whether it includes appropriate links, attribution and original source credit for quotes or information. But CalSurance doesn’t monitor what is published. The policy does address instances of intentional defamation in a blog as well.
The policy is sold entirely online through bloggershield.com.
Hext says they have been marketing the policy through blogging conferences, online blogging information sites and also by becoming more involved in the blogger communities.
Hext says he expects that as the blogging community continues to grow and becomes more accepted, more exposures will crop up. CalSurance is working on educating bloggers on these exposures through the company’s own blog on its website, through posted articles, and by speaking at blogging conferences.
“There is definitely an education process that needs to take place,” he says. “The majority of bloggers out there aren’t aware of the exposures they have.”