Google Reverses Ban on Porn on Blogger Sites

Censored by Peter Massas from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Censored by Peter Massas from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last month Google announced an upcoming change in its terms of service that would ban all pornography from Blogger sites. (Blogger is Google’s blogging platform.) This change would have been retroactive and impacted some users who have used Blogger to post sexually explicit material for over 10 years. Users reacted hard and fast, saying that posting pornographic material on their sites is an expression of their identities.

Within days, Google made a second announcement saying that they won’t ban all porn on Blogger sites but rather they will be more diligent about their existing policy banned “commercial porn,” meaning porn that is posted online for significant commercial gain. If you have a Blogger site and you want to sexually explicit material, you’re required to mark those posts as “adult” so Google can put them behind an “adult content” warning page.

I found the initial announcement banning porn on Blogger puzzling. Why would Google, a company that serves an international community of amazing creative people, consider such a conservative policy change? I’m a huge advocate for preventing sexual victimization, child pornography, and revenge porn but those are very different issues than the voluntary creation of legal adult content, produced by adults for an adult audience. Blogger is a blogging platform so I assume most people have little or no financial gain from running their sites.

This is a topic where each person may have a slightly different belief regarding what is art and what is pornography based on personal and cultural differences. In the conservative U.S., a topless woman is considered explicit but in other countries, topless models (men and women) are used in mainstream advertising and anyone can go topless at the beach. Google made the right decision in regards to this by requiring everyone who uses Blogger to mark their material as “adult” and the consumers can decide for themselves what they’ll read and view and what they will block from their children’s access with parental controls.

Companies like Google that provide services to a worldwide audience have to decide how policies should be written, which appears to be a challenging task. I’m pleased to see in this instance that Google listened to its users and the culture of the internet in general and repealed this ban.

If you want to talk more about free speech, censorship, and the internet, please connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or send me an email.

The Undeniable Tour Update – Everything’s Coming Together

This was the view from my hotel in San Francisco last weekend. I'm so glad it overlooked the water.

This was the view from my hotel in San Francisco last weekend. I’m so glad it overlooked the water.

It’s hard to believe that The Undeniable Tour is less than a month away. At this point I feel like all the pieces are starting to lock into place. I booked my flights and most of my lodging. I’m going to be staying in hostels and couchsurfing for most of my trip. I’m really excited to meet so many new people – law students, lawyers, other social media movers and shakers, and fellow travelers. I’m also looking forward to spending a lot of time near the ocean, which is something I only get to see and pictures since I live in the desert.

This tour will give me the chance to connect and share ideas with others in the legal industry about what it means to be a lawyer and how we can better use social media to create professional opportunities for ourselves. I feel like I got a good primer in both of these areas this week by being a guest on the Human Social podcast hosted by fellow lawyer Mitch Jackson and at networking event for lawyers who work in eat-what-you-kill environments. The internet has provided the opportunity for the legal industry to break out of the stuffy ambulance-chaser stereotype and show prospective clients that there’s more than one way to be an effective lawyer.

I feel lucky to be a lawyer who gets to travel and attend non-legal conferences as part of their job. I spent last weekend in San Francisco at the Dad 2.0 Summit – a conference for men who blog about fatherhood. (I was on hand to answer their legal questions related to their blogs.) Being out of the office for a few days and getting away from my everyday routine was refreshing. Meeting a new group of people and listening to some of the topics that were important to them (how men are depicted in the media, gender roles, and what it means to be a man and a father) got the wheels in my head turning in new and different ways. And these guys were the masters of fun. I’d never attended a conference before where I got to shoot Nerf guns and take a field trip to LucasFilm. It so important to periodically take a break from the norm to prevent falling into a rut. I got all that out of a 3-day trip. We’ll see what a difference of 14-day trip will make.

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve added another speaking gig to the tour yesterday (just after I filmed this week’s video update. I will be speaking to the Solo and Small Practice Section of Washington (State) Bar Association via webinar on March 27th from Los Angeles. I think this will be the first time that I do a webinar that is strictly audio which will be a new challenge for me not to use visuals and to not have immediate feedback from the audience.

Recently, I sent out the contracts to my sponsors and as soon as I have their commitments I will be announcing them on the site – hopefully next week!

Planning this tour has been an exciting, stressful, and to be honest an exhausting endeavor. I’m so glad I’m doing it because it’s teaching me so much about myself and giving me the opportunity to connect with so many people. If you have any questions about the tour or if you live along the west coast and you want to meet with me during this trip, please connect with me via Twitter, Facebook, or send me an email.

Invest in Yourself with a Monthly Self-Meeting

Stargazin by Zach Dischner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Stargazin by Zach Dischner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

How much time do you devote each month to your own professional development? I’m serious. When was the last time you took a step back to look at your business as a whole and not just focusing on whatever task is in front of you? I want to share an activity that my business mentor ingrained in me very early in my career as a business owner – a monthly self-meeting. It’s been a pivotal part of my business success. Here’s how I do it:

Within a week of getting my company’s bank statements, I reconcile my accounts and run the following reports for the previous month: profit and loss, cash flow, and balance sheet. I also pull the list of all my income sources from the previous month. I’ll need these for my meeting.

For my self-meeting, I block out 2 hours and remove all distractions. This is my time to focus on me and my business. I start my meeting by writing down (by hand) the celebrations since my last self-meeting. These might be things like a successful end to a client’s case, reaching one of my financial goals, or being selected to speak at a conference. It’s always good to look back and see the progress I’ve made, especially since I’m the only person at Carter Law Firm. It’s easy to focus on what I could be doing to improve that I forget to give myself kudos when it’s earned.

I also look at my networking activities from the past month, what networking events I have coming up, what business ideas I’m toying with, what concerns I have, what opportunities might be on the horizon, and whatever else comes to mind. This is my time to look at my business and process how things are going and where I want to see them in the future. By the end of my self-meeting, I have a list of things I want to accomplish by my next self-meeting. At the subsequent meeting, I will review this list and acknowledge my successes and also look at where I came up short and what contributed to that happening. I also make a list of reflections and write out things that I’ve learned in the last month and what issues are currently important to me.

Then I shift my attention to the company’s financials. I look at where my work is coming from – which tells me what marketing techniques are being effective, what type of legal projects are bringing me the most revenue, and I review my expenses. I maintain two spreadsheets: one tracks how much money I’m making from each type of legal work I do and the other tracks my spending. These spreadsheets help me see month-to-month how money is coming and going from the company and by the end of the year it gives me a clear picture of the state of my business affairs.

Sometimes it’s hard to make my self-meeting a priority, particularly when I’m busy. However, it is enormously helpful in terms of my business development as well as understanding who I am and my priorities as a business owner.

Do you do a periodic self-meeting? What’s your process like?

Top Three Legal Tips for Dad Bloggers from Dad 2.0 Summit

Awesome Bo-Gos at the Dad 2.0 Summit 2015

Awesome Bo-Gos at the Dad 2.0 Summit 2015

I had an awesome time at Dad 2.0 Summit – an awesome conference for dads who blog. I was invited to the conference to hang out in the Knowledge Bar during the breaks to talk with people about the legal dos and don’ts when it comes to their blogs. One gentleman asked me what three tips I’d give to the conference’s audience. Here’s what I said.

1. Be Thoughtful about what Images you Use on your Site.
Unfortunately, a lot of people think they can use any image they find online as long as they give an attribution and a link back to the original. What you’re likely doing is committing copyright infringement and telling the artist what you did. I recommend getting permission from the person to use their image or only use Creative Commons images for your site. I only use images that come with the license that lets me modify and commercialize them.  For more information about this topic, check out this post and/or watch this video.

2. Register your Trademarks.
This is my soapbox issue for the year for bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters – register your trademarks! If you don’t, someone else can start using it, register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and they could essentially shut down your site. You’d have to decide whether to fight them for it or rebrand. It’s easier and cheaper to protect yourself by registering your brand first. Then that way you’ve secured your rights to your name, logo, and slogan everywhere in the U.S. For more information about this topic, check out this post and/or watch this video.

3. When you get Free Products or Write Sponsored Posts, Disclose It.
Federal law requires you to only give true and accurate reviews when you do product reviews and you must disclose when you are compensated for giving your opinion. You have to tell your audience when you get products for free, participate in campaigns for compensation, or have sponsors. This rule applies to blogs, review sites, and anywhere you post on social media when you’re compensated for doing so. For more information about this topic, check out this post.

The laws regarding blogging and social media are still developing so it’s important that you stay abreast of changes as they occur when they apply to you. I will do my best to create content on developments in social media and internet law. If you’re looking for a resource that reviews the laws that apply to bloggers, please check out my book, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. You can always send me an email if you ever have questions, and please stay connected with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.

If I don’t see you before then, I look forward to re-connecting with you at Dad 2.0 Summit next year!

The Undeniable Tour Update – Building my Schedule

Fort Point by Tom Hilton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Fort Point by Tom Hilton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m starting to get really excited about The Undeniable Tour. I booked my flights and I’ve locked in five main speaking gigs, and talking with two groups about organizing two more. Now that I’ve locked in those speaking dates, I’m shifting my focus to what I want to do on the other days of the tour – I’m going to be on the road for two weeks total.

Because my brain works in a very systematic way, I’m building my calendar day by day starting with my first day in San Diego and the last day I will plan will be my last day in Seattle. This trip is giving me the incredible opportunity to reach out to so many people I admire and either want to meet again or meet in person for the first time. I have a short list of people I really really want to meet and I’m wondering how many times I have to tweeted them or message them before they respond – if only to tell me to shut up. And when it comes to this trip, I’m going big. I’m trying not to be so intimidated by anyone that it causes me to not attempt to contact them. As my friend Jason Zook says, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” (If you haven’t read his book Creativity for Sale, go buy it immediately. It was because of his book and his course on How To Get Sponsorship For Anything that I was inspired to do The Undeniable Tour.)

I’m getting close to solidifying my lodging for each night. When I said I was handpicking where I wanted to stay each night, I meant it and I only reached out to places where I really really wanted to stay. (What is with me and “really really” today?) I know a lot of these awesome hotels and B&Bs probably get a lot of solicitations like the ones I sent asking for a free or reduced fee night in exchange for giving them exposure. I know I get plenty of opportunities to speak and write for free and I generally turn most of them down because I just don’t have the time, so I’m not offended that a lot of the places have declined the opportunity to give me a free night as part of The Undeniable Tour. There are a few places that I like so much that I may pay full price and stay with them depending on my final budget, and for the other nights, I’m looking into more economical options like couchsurfing and hostels.

I’ve never couchsurfed with strangers before and I’ve never stayed in a hostel. I’m using my upcoming trip to San Francisco to experience hostel life for the first time. I’m really curious to see what it’s like to stay in a dorm room with strangers with the communal bathroom down the hall. It may be the closest I get to camping, and if I like it, I can absolutely see myself traveling more often and using hostels instead of hotels. When I go on an adventure, I don’t really care about where I sleep as long as it’s warm, dry, and safe. Why pay $100-200/night plus a fee for Wi-Fi when you can stay in a hostel for $25/night or couchsurf for free?

 

Does Your Business Need Cyber Liability Insurance?

Guilty Viewing Pleasures: Hackers by Ingrid Richter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Guilty Viewing Pleasures: Hackers by Ingrid Richter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Anthem Health Insurance was victim the latest cyber attack to hit the news. Approximately 80 million customers’ health records were compromised by this security breach. When you hear about these hacking stories, do they make you wonder about your company’s security system? Do you assume that you probably have nothing to worry about because hackers are only interested in big companies like Target?

I attended a workshop last month about cyber liability insurance where the presenter said that a 2011 study revealed that 95% of all credit card breaches were against small businesses. We only tend to hear about the security breaches involving bigger companies but any size company could be at risk. Data breaches can occur through hacking, theft by unauthorized access , employee errors, and stolen or lost paper or electronic files, laptops, smartphones, flash drives.

Any business that handles or stores private business, customer, or employee data should consider getting insurance to cover them if a data breach occurs. This data includes social security numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and email address. Additionally, you should take a look at your company’s policies and procedures related to data security. Are you taking the following precautions?

  • Secure sensitive data
  • Restrict access to data
  • Dispose of data properly – i.e., wipe laptops before donating them, shred paper files
  • Use effective passwords
  • Use encryption and secure remote access
  • Make sure your employees understand how to protect data and why it’s important

There are many benefits of having cyber liability insurance. Your provider should offer risk management services to help prevent a data breach from occurring. If a breach occurs, they will can professional assistance for damage control and regulatory compliance as well as cover the response expenses for mailing notification letters, credit monitoring services, and public relations. Your cyber liability insurance policy can also cover your defense and liability expenses if you are sued because of the breach.

This is a serious issue that can affect any company that uses the internet for business or commerce. If you have a traditional business liability insurance policy, read the terms carefully; it may not cover cyber liability. If you need a cyber liability insurance policy, contact a cyber liability insurance specialist to discuss your needs and options.

If you have questions or want to chat more about these issues, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or you can send me an email.

The Undeniable Tour Update – Working on Logistics

Redwood Dawn by Rob Shenk from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Redwood Dawn by Rob Shenk from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

There is so much that needs to be done before the beginning of The Undeniable Tour. It seems like my to-do list is getting longer every day as I think of more things that need to get done. Even though I’m uber busy right now, I am enjoying the process.

Last weekend I planned out the basic structure of my trip, figuring out which city I need to be in or want to be in on each day and researching where I want to spend each night. I initially thought that I was going to have to go old school and put different colored push pins through my map of California to help me visualize my plans, but I was able to figure it out with a little help from Google Maps.

One of the most enjoyable things I’ve had to do in the last week is a research hotels and bed and breakfasts where I might want to stay. I purposely looked for independently owned places that had a rich history or something particularly unique about them. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find places that weren’t your run-of-the-mill hotels.

I spent most of yesterday crafting emails to each hotel where I hope to stay, explaining who I am and why I’m doing The Undeniable Tour, and inquire if they would be interested in hosting me for a night in exchange for the exposure they would get from me on this blog, my YouTube channel, social media, and I would post reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor. So far I’ve had one place accept – Casa Bella Sera (so excited to stay with you!), two places declined, and one asked whether I would need a room with one bed or two. I was a little bummed when the hotel that is made out of converted railway cars declined to be part of the tour, but that just means I get to stay with someone else that night.

If there is a city where I can’t find a hotel or B&B to host me, I’ll look at my options for a cheap hotel, a hostel, and I might consider trying couchsurfing.com. My friend Liesl couchsurfed across Australia, staying with strangers, and didn’t die. It would definitely make my adventure more colorful.

If you have any suggestions for things I should see, people I should meet, or places I should stay during The Undeniable Tour, please let me know!

Man Convicted of Running a Revenge Porn Site – What This Means For You

Cell Block D by Sean Toyer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Cell Block D by Sean Toyer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last week a San Diego court convicted 28 year-old Kevin Bollaert of 27 felony charges including identity theft and extortion for running multiple revenge porn websites. He could face up to 20 years in prison. Here’s how the sites worked: people would post nude photos of their former lovers (often with the victim’s name, city, and a link to their Facebook profile) and the victims could get the images removed, if they paid a fee. These sites have since been taken down.

Prosecutors described Bollaert’s sites as a business based on blackmail. At the trial, several victims testified that they were humiliated and faced other repercussions because their images were posted on these sites without their consent. This appears to be the first conviction for an operator of a revenge porn website, but hopefully it will not be the last. The article did not state whether any of the people who posted the revenge porn images in question have also faced criminal charges or civil lawsuits.

This case should serve as a warning to anyone who is operating a similar website. If you encourage people to post revenge porn and charging the people in the images to get them removed, there is now legal president that this is a type of extortion.

This is also a legal gray area. It’s one thing to create a platform where people can post images and stories on your site, activities that are often protected by the First Amendment and copyright laws; but the person creating the posts could cross the line into invasion of privacy, cyberharassment, and revenge porn depending on the material posted. Depending on the circumstances, the owner of the site could also face criminal or civil liability, but often times simply providing a platform is not enough to hold the site’s owner responsible for what other’s posts unless there is additional evidence that implicates them.

I’ve been getting more questions recently about people who are being threatened with revenge porn where the image or video hasn’t been posted yet. Sometimes I’m unsure if it’s a situation where the would-be poster is saying, “I’m going to post your nude photos online” or trying to use the images as way to manipulate the person by saying, “If you don’t do XYZ, I’m going to post your nude photos online.” I’m conversing with the Phoenix Police Department about this issue to better advise my clients who are in this situation.

If you suspect you’re the victim of revenge porn, call your local law enforcement agency. I do not blame the victims in these situations, but I caution people, especially young people to think before they create or send sexually explicit material. If any of this content is released on the internet, you have no control over who might see it, share it, download it and even if you can get the original removed, it could still be out there on other sites. When in doubt, don’t send naked selfies, take intimate photos in the bedroom, or create sex videos. If you’re thinking about posting revenge porn, don’t.

If you have questions or want to chat more about these issues, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or you can send me an email.

The Undeniable Tour Update – Getting Excited

California One by Thibault Martin-Lagardette from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

California One by Thibault Martin-Lagardette from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It is about 6 weeks before The Undeniable Tour starts – and I’m starting to get really giddy-excited about it! There is so much to do, so little time, and so much to schedule.

The Undeniable Tour will be a two-week road trip from San Diego to Seattle that includes at least 5 large speaking engagements at law schools and bar associations, and I plan to use my so-called “down time” to meet with fellow awesome lawyers and hopefully some of the people and organizations that I admire professionally. The list of people I want to meet with is growing every day.

I also plan to use The Undeniable Tour to have some much-needed fun. For years I’ve been fascinated by a website called Roadside America. You can enter any city or state in the U.S. and it will tell you what weird, quirky, or unique things are in that area. I’m really want to see the giant Fork in the Road in Pasadena, California. I’m a big fan of the Yogi Berra quote, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” Some of the other places I hope to visit during this trip are the Legal Grind coffee shop, the Redwood Forest, the Hat Creek Radio Observatory where they do SETI work, VooDoo Doughnut, and Ballard Locks (fingers cross that at least one of The Deadliest Catch boats will be there).

Since I haven’t gotten a “concierge” sponsor to cover my lodging, I’m beginning to make a list of hotels, B&Bs, and the like where I might want to stay. I want to find independent and unique places that have a good story behind them. My plan is to offer to feature them in a blog and video in exchange for them putting me up. Some of the places on my dream list are the Railway Inn, the Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort, and the Jupiter Hotel. I need to figure out where exactly I’m going to be on each day of the tour to determine where I want to stay each night.

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

Did you see the awesome t-shirts that Brand X Custom T-shirts in Tempe made for me? My motto for this tour is “Hustle Your Face Off.” This will be the mantra that drives me every day and also the message I hope to pass along to my audience. I’ll be wearing one of these shirts at each of my large speaking engagements. (Hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk for coining this phrase and giving his blessing to have these shirts made.”) If you want to have your own Hustle Your Face Off shirt (or anything else) made by Brand X, use the code 4TRV-16VSL-3 to get $5 off your order (expires 4/3/2015).

One of the walls in my office is covered by 4 large sticky notes right now – one for each region I’ll be hitting during the tour with color-coded ideas on each one. These are definitely helping me stay focused and organized. I included them on this week’s video update.

If you have any suggestions for things I should see, people I should meet, or places I should stay, please let me know!

Bloggers & Vloggers: Register your Trademarks!

Registered by tup wanders from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Registered by tup wanders from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Ever since I heard about the Turner Barr story in 2013, I’ve been on everyone I know – including recreational bloggers and the vloggers – to register their trademarks in at least their sites’ names with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If this isn’t on your to-do list for this year, take a break from reading this post and go add it right now.

For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, Turner Barr started an awesome blog called Around the World in 80 Jobs where he writes and creates videos about his travel adventurers and how he works from place to place. It was a simple but brilliant idea. He didn’t register his trademark. I bet the thought never crossed his mind. I bet he never thought that another company would register the trademark “Around the World in 80 Jobs” and essentially shut down his site. Thankfully, Turner was able to resolve the situation in part by publicly calling out the people he suspected stole his idea. He has since registered the trademark for his blog.

When I saw this situation where it looked like another company ripped off an individual blogger’s idea and name for themselves and basically (temporarily) stole it out from under him by registering the trademark, I became scared for every person I know who has an amazing blog or vlog. I don’t want to see them in the same predicament. It also reminded me to be a diligent about reminding and re-reminding my clients who are startup entrepreneurs about the importance or registering their trademarks so they don’t end up in the Burger King situation.

This is the type of situation potentially where someone can steal your idea and you will have to fight to try to get it back. And it’s the type of situation that is easily prevented by registering your trademark first. Once you have a registered trademark with the USPTO, you can stop other people and companies from using a name that is confusingly similar to yours in your industry.

Compared to the heartache, headaches, and what you will pay a lawyer if you end up in a situation like Turner Barr did, filing at trademark application is cheap. The USPTO recently lowered their filing fees so if you did your application yourself (which I don’t recommend) it may cost you only $275. If you’ve never filed the trademark application before, I suggest you at least consult a trademark attorney in advance just so you understand the trademark process including what information you have to give the examining attorney to prove that you’re using your trademark. It may not be as expensive as you fear.

And just to show that I put my money were my mouth is and that the shoemaker’s children have shoes in this situation, I recently submitted a trademark application myself for my personal blog, The Undeniable Ruth. I want to be able to call myself “undeniable” for the rest of my life and this is the first step to ensuring that.

If you have questions or want to talk about your trademark needs, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or you can send me an email.