Thinking about all of the things you could get sued for as a freelance writer is probably dead last on the list of things you actually want to devote brainpower to, or close to it. After all, you have good relationships with the clients and publications you’re working for. Plus, getting hit with a lawsuit isn’t the type of thing that happens to writers who are worth their salt, right?
Unfortunately, even the most experienced writers aren’t immune to legal action, warranted or not. The reality is that all freelance writers — those who have years of experience and those who are new to the scene; those who freelance full time and those who are freelancing off the side of their desk — take on inherent risk due to the nature of the craft.
So, what exactly can freelance writers get sued for?
1. Intellectual property
Though avoiding copyright infringement is a fundamental precaution writers take, lawsuits alleging the illegal use of others’ work or ideas are far from uncommon.
There are, of course, bona fide cases where writers have failed to provide proper credit when using someone else’s intellectual property (and have felt the wrath of doing so); however, with millions of pieces of content being published every single day, it’s not hard to imagine how someone could make a case against a writer for publishing what could be construed as copycat content, albeit unknowingly.
Your subjects may not always like what you have to write (or tweet) about them. But there’s a fine line between freedom of the press/speech and what can be perceived as defamation of character, such as libel or slander. This is especially dicey territory if you write about high-profile figures, but the risk isn’t exclusive to this group alone.
No one messes around when it comes to their reputation and neither should you, which is exactly why we provide all writer insurance policyholders an expert team of lawyers to defend claims like these at no additional cost.
3. Using someone's name or likeness without their permission
Beyond defamation, you can be sued for using someone’s name or likeness without their permission for what the Digital Media Law Project calls a commercial or “exploitative” purpose. Again, this isn’t just for celebrities. It applies to everyone, from your neighbor to the next up-and-coming A-lister and even to people who are deceased.
4. Honest mistakes
Everyone is human, after all. Mistakes like online corrections are quick and easy to fix, but when it comes to a blunder with serious budget implications —something like a typo that requires a reprint or mistakenly sending the wrong file to print —you may find yourself in hot water if you can’t outright foot the bill.
The good news is you can protect yourself and your hard-earned cash with professional liability coverage that starts at less than $1/day.
5. Breach of contract
Maybe you have a personal emergency and miss a contractual deadline at the 11th hour, setting off a chain reaction that leads to missed sales opportunities for your client. Or perhaps you uncover you’re not seeing eye to eye on a signed scope of work, leading a client to sue you for not delivering content they believe they are owed.
No one likes to think these types of scenarios will escalate to the point of getting lawyers involved, but when they impact an organization’s bottom line, it’s more common than you’d care to imagine.
Whether a lawsuit is justified or not, all it takes is one allegation to send you down a time-consuming, nerve-wracking and very expensive path of defending your name in court and protecting your future business.
Knowing how important professional liability insurance is in enabling writers to protect themselves, Freelancers Union is partnering with Dinghy to offer affordable freelance writer insurance faster and easier than ever before. Learn more and get a free quote online in minutes.