Is this blog dangerous?
July 12, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Can my blog about estate sales get me in trouble?

A couple weeks ago I started a blog about estate sales. In it, I post photos I've taken at the sales -- sometimes individual items, more often rooms -- with commentary that ranges from snarky to wistful. I'm already building up a bit of an audience.

These being estate sales, the occupants have usually passed away, but not always. I never post names, addresses or pictures of the house exteriors.

What I want to know is if I'm running afoul of any criminal or civil laws with this project. In a nutshell, can this blog get me in hot water, and if so, how much and how hot?

You may or may not be a lawyer. I'm asking here because this blog is just a hobby, and not yet worth the time or money to find one. If it helps, I live in Chicago.

Thanks in advance for any advice -- legal or otherwise -- you can share.
posted by Work to Live to Law & Government (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As for criminal, I can't imagine any criminal laws that you'd be breaking by taking photos of a deceased person's belongings. The courts have decided that dead folks have no right to privacy even if the photos depict the gruesome remains of that dead person (I forget the names involved in the case, but it involved a girl who was decapitated in an auto accident and photos of her body were splashed across the 'net).

For civil, I imagine the biggest risk you'd be taking would be getting slapped with a defamation suit, something that would be difficult for the Plaintiff to prove if you're not giving out names, addresses or exterior pictures. Also, if all you're doing is presenting an opinion about the person/his life on the basis of the room's decor and items therein, then a defamation suit wouldn't survive a motion to dismiss.

posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 3:54 PM on July 12, 2009

I'm not an attorney but I think as long as you stick to objects and away from any identifying information about who the objects belong to, you should be good.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 4:43 PM on July 12, 2009

Sounds awesome to me. I'm an estate sale junkie and regularly read Yard Sale Bloodbath. I think at times sellers don't want photos taken but the blogger hasn't mentioned any legal trouble.
posted by vespabelle at 8:26 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No, you will not get in any trouble. One could arguably envision a scenario where you make some defamatory comment about a living person present at the estate sale but that's a HUGE stretch. And any experienced trial lawyer knows that libel/slander/defamation claims are rarely economically viable for the claimant or the lawyer.

They are the shoals upon which young lawyers' idealism is wrecked.

Snark on and enjoy the freedom to speak your mind.

Yes, I am a trial lawyer.
posted by BrooksCooper at 10:23 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

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