A disclaimer of endorsement is a legal statement that absolves a person of liability for seeming to endorse statements he has published. A person may use a disclaimer of endorsement when he publishes a satirical article or another person's sincere endorsement in a media outlet he owns. A disclaimer doesn't automatically void a person of legal responsibility for any misleading statement he makes. Rather, the legal validity of a disclaimer depends on how prominently the disclaimer is displayed and how misleading the endorsement statement would be without it. Writing a disclaimer requires legal expertise.
- Skill level:
Choose your medium of publication and publication content carefully. A sufficiently misleading statement of endorsement could nullify a disclaimer, depending on the circumstances. For example, if an established newspaper columnist widely known for feuding with a politician were to falsely state of that politician, "It is well known that this man illegally poached blue whales for profit from 2000 to 2006," he could still be liable for the statements in spite of a disclaimer. This would especially be so if the false statement were included in a series of persuasive and true statements, and if the target suffered financially from what was published.
Hire a lawyer. Though it is possible to write a disclaimer statement on your own or with the use of a template, the validity of a disclaimer will depend on the statement you have published. Particularly if you have written an endorsement statement that could be construed as libellous or fraudulent, you will need a lawyer to ensure that the disclaimer statement is properly worded and prominently displayed.
State that endorsements published by others on your blog or publication do not necessarily reflect your own views. If a guest blogger writes an article on your blog stating his endorsement of a candidate for U.S. president in 2012, that does not necessarily mean that you endorse the candidate. So unless you sincerely wish to to endorse all content on your publication or to hold someone else accountable for your words, disclaim any responsibility on your part for anyone else's words and vice versa.
State that time-sensitive content is not meant to be taken as valid after the date and time of publication. One of the key components of a libellous statement is that the statement must be demonstrably false. However, previously true statements can become false with time. For example, if you correctly write on Sept. 2 that John Doe is facing rape charges, but that article remains on the front page of your blog until Sept. 5, at which point the charges against Doe are dropped, you could face an accusation of libel if the date of publication is not prominently displayed. Disclaiming time-sensitive content is advisable for this reason.
State that any fictional depictions are not meant to represent any real person, dead or living. Though many satirical writings and films clearly caricature real people, the authors can hold themselves harmless for any offence caused by these depictions provided that the fictional intent of the piece is clearly stated. For example, a political cartoon can depict a hypothetical "George W. Bush" saying something George W. Bush did not say, provided it's clear that the person in the cartoon is not meant to represent the former president accurately. If any possible ambiguity exists about the fictional nature of a satirical piece, include a disclaimer.
Conclude by stating that you do not intend to malign any religion, ethnicity, company or organisation. Though you might think that disclaiming fictional characters and statements is sufficient, if it can be proved that a fictional lampoon of a person was intended to defame or malign that person's religion, sexual orientation or ethnic group, you could still find yourself in trouble.
Tips and warnings
- This article does not constitute legal advice. Before you publish any political endorsement for which you intend to hold yourself harmless, consult a lawyer.
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