Category Archives: Blogging

New Photo Resource for Bloggers


I often get questions about blogging logistics from lawyers, and I’m consistently surprised by  the lack of awareness of basic copyright issues.

No, you can’t wholesale copy someone else’s blog post.

No, you can’t clip photos from wherever online and post them on your blog.

No, linking to/attributing the original source does not make it OK.

As I point out on the blogging resources page, there’s no excuse for abusing copyright when it comes to photos.  It’s very easy – and far more authentic – to use your own photos vs simply picking the top stock photos.  And there are plenty of free/very low cost options for licensing photography.

And now, Getty Images has added a new option with lots of potential.  They’ve opened up the doors on a vast trove of photos, new and old, and made them available via embed code.  Easy, simple, and free.

Simply go the Getty Images website, search for a photo, and click on the little embed icon in the lower right corner under the image (it looks like this: ““) and copy the embed code that appears into your blog post.  Not every image on Getty is available via this method, but apparently millions are (including the “Queens Counsel” photo, above).

Is it a perfect solution?  No.  But if you need that perfect picture, it’s nice to know there’s about 35 million options available at Getty Images.  And it’s far better than ripping photos off the web and hoping you don’t get caught.

Ethics and Rude Blog Commenting?

In several Socially Awkward resource pages, I’ve highlighted problems that can come from anonymous commenting that involves deception or is related to pending matters an attorney is involved with.  But what if the commenting is merely rude, mean-spirited, or sexist?

Could Above The Law even exist if rude comments raised ethical concerns for lawyers?

FLP photo

Apparently one lawyer thinks they should. University of Denver lawprof Nancy Leong has asked Illinois bar regulators to investigate the ethical propriety of comments on her blog posts that she believes were made by an Illinois attorney  under the pseudonym “Dybbuk.” 1

The comments don’t involve pending matters or self-interested fabrication.  The examples I’ve seen run to juvenile  humor, sexism and slams on law professors.  They may reveal an unhealthy interest in Professor Leong, latent rascism, sexism, or both.  Or perhaps “Dybbuk” has discovered a soft target that reacts in a way he(?) finds gratifying.

But again – would this merit an ethical violation, assuming Dybbuk is a lawyer?

Jim Grogan, Chief Counsel of the Illinion ARDC (and one of the most pragmatic, reasonable bar regulators you’ll find), hones right in on the First Amendment issue:

When does personal life stop and the ethics code applies?

Indeed.  And it doesn’t stop short of what “Dybbuk” has written here.  While some might argue that considerations of civility should come into play, it’s important to recognize that there’s no free-floating requirement that attorneys be civil.  While a lack of civility could raise ethics issues in an ongoing matter (e.g., under ABA Model Rule 8.4(d) as being prejudicial to the administration of justice), that’s a far cry from anonymous blog commenting.

And that anonymity is an important factor.  A lack of civility is a problem within an adversarial proceeding because the advocates are known, are representing clients, and may create real-world problems for their clients through a lack of civility.

But anonymous commenting on a blog?  That’s a well-known milieu for trollish behavior, and – absent threats, defamation, or the like – is a risk to nothing but the sensibilities of the blog post’s author.

This isn’t an endorsement of “Dybbuk’s” sophomoric comments, but rather the right of the commenter to make them without fear of government involvement.

And as with so many matters involving speech, it’s a problem best handled via the “more speech” remedy.  The First Amendment should prevent Dybbuk from government consequences to his license, but it doesn’t shield him from professional or social consequences.  Professor Leong is sure enough she’s found her man to ask for the bar to take action.  The better – and more speech-affirming – option would be to simply expose him publicly.  Of course, taking such a course would presume that Professor Leong is a strong defender of First Amendment rights.

Update: Carolyn Elefant – a practicing attorney and long-time blogger – has just posted a great perspective on this.

Notes:

  1. A Yiddish word for a parasitical evil spirit, which should be a clue to the tone of “Dybbuk’s” comments.