8 Keys Elements to Blog Legally Right Now
To blog legally, you must be fully compliant with the nuances of numerous complex laws, regulations, and requirements, many of which the average blogger is unaware of.
Between disclosures, disclaimers, privacy policies, and terms and conditions agreement, there are all sorts of legal considerations to take into account when blogging.
Unfortunately, plenty of bloggers are unaware of these legal requirements and simply blog as they see fit without giving a second thought.
This carefree approach is problematic as it may set up bloggers for potentially unnecessary lawsuits, lost affiliate commissions, and other legal drama down the line.
Table of contents
- 8 Key Elements Every Blogger Must Know
- Penalties for Non-Compliance
- How to Blog Legally the Easy Way
8 Key Elements Every Blogger Must Know
Here is a checklist of 8 key elements every blogger must be aware of to avoid unexpected legal surprises.
Whether you blog just as a hobby or as a serious business, you should definitely consider making updates to your blog if you're missing any of these items.
To ensure blog owners protect the information collected from their visitors and only use it as intended, the below statement from Mom Blog Society illustrates how it should be.
2. Disclaimers Protect From the Unknown
As a blog owner, there is a chance you may be sued for something you haven't even thought of before. And yes, you may be sued even if you run a personal blog as a hobby. But the good news is, the chances of you losing the lawsuit are significantly lower if you have a proper legal disclaimer in place.
Disclaimers are added to blogs to protect their owners against lawsuits, or rather mitigate legal liabilities.
Consider if you have a blog centered on investing, there should be clearly visible disclaimers on the blog stating the information provided therein is not official investment advice and is not guaranteed to make money for online visitors.
Thus, it is in your best interest to add a disclaimer to your blog to inform your online visitors that you are not publishing statements of fact or professional advice. Rather, the disclaimers make it clear you are publishing your personal opinions.
SociallyAware has a disclaimer statement explaining the blog is to display general information but not provide legal advice. Thus it helps protect owners from legal actions taken by their readers in case they misinterpret the information.
Though the disclaimers do not guarantee blog owners will not be sued, they certainly help defeat lawsuits. The disclaimers can be pointed to as an affirmative defense that greatly increases the chances of a lawsuit dismissal or a reduced payout to the plaintiff in the unlikely event of a loss.
Finally, the disclaimers also protect the blog owners in the context of publishing information from third-party websites.
So by adding an appropriate disclaimer to your blog, you will not be held liable for what third-party websites publish in the event that affiliate links are shared on your blog. This is an important point as most bloggers share at least some third-party links on their blog, often in the form of recommended affiliate products.
Expert tip: Take the hassle of writing your own disclaimer away with our disclaimer generator. It will save you hours of work and possible costly legal mistakes.
3. Disclosures are a Good Thing
Your blog readers deserve full transparency. If you earn any type of commission or compensation when an individual purchases something through your blog’s affiliate links, it must be disclosed to your online visitors.
All forms of incentives you obtain for publishing material, whether it is in the form of free products/services or financial compensation must be clearly disclosed.
There is a difference between legal disclaimers and disclosures. Disclosures are used to reveal affiliate endorsements, sponsorships, and relationships. This information is necessary to ensure online visitors can make truly informed decisions.
The FTC requires blog owners to disclose such affiliate connections for recommended products and services in order to guarantee online visitors are not subjected to misleading advertising.
Here how Tracies Fobe shows hers:
The affiliate disclosure has to be placed in a conspicuous and clear manner, presented in understandable terms, positioned near the affiliate links, and not hidden by graphics or text. It's a common practice to include disclosure statements as part of your disclaimer as well.
Failing to provide the appropriate disclosure and you will be more susceptible to lawsuits, fines, and other penalties from both online visitors and the FTC. Not to mention that you may also lose your earned commissions as many affiliate programs, such as Amazon Associates, require you to have disclosures in place.
4. Terms and Conditions Aren't Just for Businesses
It explains what is considered to be the lawful use of the blog. It is also helpful in that they can terminate another party’s use of your blog material. Moreover, it explains intellectual property rights to help avoid copyright infringement.
In short, terms and conditions should explain what your visitors are expecting when using your services or products. It must be clear and concise to minimize any misunderstandings that may arise.
To give you an idea, see this example below from Ben Green Field Fitness.
Expert tip: Take the hassle of writing your own terms and conditions agreement away with our terms and conditions generator. It will save you hours of work and possible costly legal mistakes.
5. Copyright Law is No Joke
Copyright law exists to ensure authors of original creations have legal protection for their work.
This law protects works ranging from books to arts, music, photos, blueprints, videos, and blog posts. It is imperative you do not publish content from other authors or creators on your blog.
It is a good practice to have copyright protection for your blog posts. Unfortunately, most bloggers do not think about it twice until they find their articles on someone else's blog.
The visibility of the copyright notice on your blog prevents infringers from successfully arguing they did not know your blog content was copyrighted.
In addition to the copyright symbol, it is in your best interest to add the word “copyright” to your blog along with the publication year, the statement of “All rights reserved” and your name.
Here's one example from At Home with Natalie a mommy blogger. The owner clearly displays her copyright symbol at the bottom of the page with all the necessary information.
For any contents that contain bits or elements of others' works, written permission must be obtained from the party prior to using it on your blog. Furthermore, credit must be given to the authors respectfully. The same applies to videos, photos, music, or other materials.
6. Mind the DMCA
DMCA is short for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is a United States law designed to protect copyrights in the digital realm. The DMCA extends to any type of digital intellectual property. The purpose of the DMCA is to prevent the illegal sharing of digital information.
If you accept guest posts or sponsored articles on your blog, the authors may use images without proper licensing which could lead to copyright infringement.
If the copyrighted material of another party is found on your blog, you may receive a DMCA takedown notice. This notice states that you must remove the copyrighted content from your blog and servers.
If you fail to remove the information in question or fail to send a counter-notice after being notified, you may be subject to a legal claim.
To avoid legal claims and potential financial losses, you should recognize the copyright holders' rights by placing a DMCA policy on your blog, and, of course, refrain from copying other people's works.
Expert tip: Take the hassle of writing your own DMCA policy away with our DMCA policy generator. It will save you hours of work and possible costly legal mistakes.
7. Defamation Lawsuits Are Real
It's incredibly easy to post all kinds of negative comments about others as everybody thinks they're anonymous and no one will ever know it was them. Well, not anymore.
Bloggers must be particularly careful when writing about other people, businesses, and entities. It is imperative that you are aware of defamation laws.
Defamation occurs when a false statement is published about a person or party that harms his/her/its reputation. In the context of blogging, defamation typically takes the form of libel.
Libel is the defamation of someone in written form through a blog post or other written material.
It is also possible for the blog owner to be sued for a form of defamation known as slander.
Slander is the oral form of defaming an individual. In the context of blogging, the verbalization of defamation occurs through an embedded video, audio file, or podcast.
8. Trademark Your Blog Name
While this isn't applicable to most people, if your blog has some serious traction and you want to protect your brand, you should definitely consider looking into trademarks.
Trademark law provides legal protection for a blog name as well as blog logos, symbols, and additional commercial signifiers.
The purpose of trademark law is to distinguish the blog name and other points of identification from those of third-parties, thus it will be easier for online visitors to distinguish your blog from that of competitors.
Once your blog name is legally protected, no one else will be able to use that specific name for their blog. Be sure to check to see if the blog name in question has already been used by another blogger or business.
By conducting a trademark search beforehand you will rest easy knowing your blog name does not infringe on another person’s blog/business name or brand.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
If you violate one or several of the laws related to blogging as detailed above, there is a chance you will experience some kind of financial loss.
Penalties for non-compliance with the laws, regulations, and requirements range from lost affiliate commissions, potentially financially devastating lawsuits to significant fines issued by the government and beyond.
As an example, a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is likely to result in a civil action from the Attorney General. This action includes a civil penalty of a whopping $2,500 per violation. Furthermore, if it is determined your violation of the CCPA is intentional, the civil penalty can increase to a financially crippling fine of $7,500 per violation.
Unfortunately, penalties administered by the Attorney General have the potential to apply to every single consumer affected by the violation in question. This means if 100 consumers are negatively impacted by the supposed violation, the civil penalty has the potential to rise to $750,000.
However, there is a chance the Attorney General will put a cap on the penalty as he or she has full discretion in terms of the civil penalty per violation.
Consumers of the blog content also have the legal power to seek damages they deem appropriate. Consumers are legally empowered to claim declaratory relief or injunctive relief if permitted by the court.
In other words, the penalties for non-compliance have the potential to add up to a significant sum of money, possibly reaching millions of dollars in the event that a considerable number of consumers are affected and take subsequent action.
The severity of the alleged misconduct plays a large part in determining the amount of money provided through statutory damages. Everything from the length of time the violation occurred to the number of violations and the supposed willfulness of the misconduct will be considered when tabulating the aggregate fine.
Intentional violations are punished particularly harshly. Even if you do not end up paying a considerable amount to these consumers in a court award or settlement, you will likely be on the hook for legal fees.
In short, you should ensure your blog is fully compliant with the nuances of all relevant laws from the start. Those who do not blog legally will eventually suffer a financial loss in the form of lost commissions, fine, or civil litigation.
How to Blog Legally the Easy Way
It is clear that there are numerous hurdles to blogging legally. The good news is our online generators will help avoid most of these issues much easier and without any hassle.
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At only a fraction of the cost a lawyer would charge, you will enjoy invaluable peace of mind knowing you are finally blogging legally.
- Updated on January 15, 2021