Professor Mark Pearson’s Blogging & Tweeting Without Getting Sued will be welcomed by anyone writing online … Melbourne media lawyer Leanne O’Donnell reviews this timely legal guide to a rapidly evolving media landscape

Mark Pearson’s new book Blogging & Tweeting Without Getting Sued: A global guide to the law for anyone writing online – is very accessible guide to laws relevant to the all those writing online.

Mark Pearson is a professor of journalism at Bond University, and co-author of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law.

Importantly for a book of this nature, the author also regularly blogs and tweets: and Twitter:@journlaw

Pearson has highlighted that his new book is not aimed at lawyers or academics. (This lawyer found it a very engaging read.)

In the preface, Pearson states “this book is for the countless bloggers and social media users who realise they now have the same legal obligations as large organisations, but lack their experience, knowledge and muscle.”

Refreshingly, Pearson is also upfront in confessing his bias as a strong advocate for “responsible free expression”.

Cutting through the legalese, Pearson gives a global overview of laws such as defamation, privacy, identity theft, contempt of court, confidentiality, breach of copyright, false advertising, hate speech and sedition as they operate in a range of countries.

As Pearson cautions, we can never be quite sure where our online words, sounds and images might finish up.

The book is also replete with interesting and memorable Australian and international examples – including tweeting from the court house in Julian Assange’s bail hearing in London, the super-injunction concerning an English footballer, Derryn Hinch’s breach of suppression orders, the unmasking of anonymous bloggers and the #twitdef threat of defamation action leveled at journalist and academic, Julie Posetti by the editor of The Australian.

Each chapter is introduced with a clever “twit brief”, that is a summary of the chapter reduced to the length of a tweet (140 characters), for example – Introduction: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the law: identifying and managing legal risks as a Web 2.0 publisher.

Usefully, Pearson (pic) has also added an “in brief” conclusion to each chapter giving a dot point bite-sized summary of the principles discussed in each chapter such as:

* Never forward or retweet material or links without reading and viewing them first.

* The rules on protection of bloggers’ and tweeters’ identities vary markedly between countries.

* If you have an anger-management issue or just can’t let go of emotional baggage, see both a psychologist and a lawyer before you launch a campaign of cyber-revenge.

* Get familiar with your rights at a national and international level, but understand that free expression is often trumped by other rights and interests.

For those who want further information in this rapidly changing area, Pearson provides a useful list of resources in keeping with the theme of the book.

They include twitter and/or facebook contacts of free expression non-government organisations, social media law and media law lobbyists and research centres, legal sites, social media “blawgers” and social media law “tweeps”.

The need for such a book is evident with the ever-increasing number of people writing online both in a professional and personal capacity.

I would certainly recommend the book to the growing number of people engaged in formal social media roles.

With the former cricketer Chris Cairns being successful in his defamation claim last month, concerning a tweet and a student in the UK being jailed for 56 days for a racist tweet, there will be no doubt plenty of material for a second edition.

Leanne O’Donnell is a senior associate at Herbert Geer where she specialises in copyright and media law.

Blogging & Tweeting Without Getting Sued is available as an ebook via Kindle, Google, W H Smith and some other providers.  It will be published in the UK in a print edition in August 2012 at a price of £8.99.

This book review originally appeared in the Gazette of Law and Journalism – Australia’s leading online media law journal.