An increasing number of UK beauty bloggers are being subjected to cease and desist notices; legal notices requiring them to take down a post that has been deemed to be defamatory in some way. Weirdly, it seems to be very small brands that take this stern stance and generally they are generated in the US. So a threat to hop over the pond from America to sue for ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ seems somewhat unlikely, as is the likelihood of a beauty blogger being able to pay such damages. It seems very much like a posturing stance, but it is enough to scare the living daylights out of bloggers who are expressing an opinion or viewpoint on a product.
But hang on, despite freedom of speech, you still need to be careful about what you say. Now that beauty blogging is such a huge entity, of course brands are taking far more notice than they used to. Collectively, we have a big impact and that can run two ways; good and bad. The ‘fun’ days of blogs being dismissed are well and truly over.
I don’t have any legal knowledge over above the very, very basics, but I do know it is a fine line between expressing a view and being slanderous. For example, you can say, ‘X Product really didn’t suit my skin and I won’t be buying it again’, or ‘in my view this doesn’t represent value for money and I didn’t like it’, but it is dangerous territory to say something that could impact on the brand’s reputation in a damaging way, such as ‘this product is filled with vile ingredients that will leave your skin in tatters’. The onus, in the event of a law suit, would be on you, the blogger to prove that this is the case, and wouldn’t be on the beauty brand to prove that it doesn’t.
It’s as well to always have a disclaimer on your beauty blog, stating that anything said is your own personal viewpoint, but this won’t protect you from publishing comments from blog readers that also could be read as legally slanderous. As editor of your own blog, its up to you to ensure that comments also don’t fall into slander territory; like any editor, the buck stops with you.
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However, throwing out C&Ds left, right and centre is using a hammer to crack a nut. News of a C&D notice is far more likely to find its way to thousands of bloggers via Twitter, pretty well ensuring that everyone bands together and vetos that brand.
So far, I’ve yet to receive a C&D; some bloggers have received them via email with no back up paperwork whatsoever, which makes me wonder if they are literally just copied with intent to scare rather than sue. I did receive a request recently from a brand anxious for me to take a post that had received some negative comments down. I refused, but am considering taking the comments down. There are comments of good and bad in equal measure, so the whole lot will go, if indeed, I do take any down. It is claimed that the negative comments are from a competitive brand anxious to ruin the reputation of the posted brand. Bloody hell…suddenly, bloggers having a bit of a go seems nothing in comparison to the behind the scenes action of brands. And, I’m not issuing law suits connected to my ‘freedom speech’ or siding with one against the other.
Neither am I issuing suits to the glut of anons (who never are quite as anon as they think) who take it upon themselves to help me understand that I am selfish, scary, misinformed, rude and a bully amongst many other things (and that’s the edited version!).
Should we not just brace up a bit? Bloggers and brands – we’re all taking personal hits somewhere along the line. The same rule applies to both really; if you put yourself out there, you’ve got to expect some detractors. It’s just life.
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