When stuff on this blog doesn't work like it should, I start thinking about maybe taking the blog off a shared server and putting on its own machine. The trouble is, it would cost a lot to have my own machine to host this blog, and while I'm happy to pay a little for what is basically a hobby, I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend what it takes to have my own hosted machine run by professionals. (I could run it at home, but I want it done right, and the upload bandwidth on my home line is rather puny.)
One solution many people adopt to defray the cost of a server is to run ads. I intend to resist that option unless I have no choice. There are two reasons.
First, I don't like ads, so I don't want to foist them on the people kind enough to follow my ramblings.
Second, I am pretty confident that my homeowners insurance policy covers my hobbies: Suppose, for example, someone were someone crazed enough to sue me for something related to one of my postings. Not only would they lose, but there would be someone who'd pay to defend me. (Otherwise I'd have to throw myself on the mercy of the EFF.)
The trouble is, I am not certain how my insurance would treat a hobby that had a revenue-producing component, even if I wasn't making a profit off it. Could it be considered a business, in which case it wouldn't be covered? I could imagine an insurance lawyer making that argument. Heck, if I were the insurance lawyer I'd make that argument. I think the counter-argument is better — it's a hobby that happens to bring a few bucks — but would I count on a judge inevitably seeing it that way? No I would not.
Then again, lots of other academic bloggers run ads. So what does it mean? There are lots of possibilities:
- I have a more restrictive insurance policy than most other bloggers
- Other academic bloggers have not thought about this aspect of blogging
- Other academic bloggers have thought about and are less risk-averse
- Academic bloggers as a class are judgment-proof1
Update: Turns out that Eugene Volokh not only had the same thought some time ago, but he actually did some research on the question, which pretty much supports my instincts (although laws do vary by state). And one of the trackbacks to that post, Antinome sounds knowledgeable and recommends David J. Marchitelli, Construction and Application of “Business Pursuits” Exclusion Provision in General Liability Policy,35 A.L.R.5th 375, which I will make it a point to read the next time I have insomnia.
1 To be judgment-proof is to have little or no property (or income) that a creditor can legally take to collect in the foreseeable future.