When I first started researching how to start my own blog I admit, I had completely underestimated the amount of work that went into creating a blog. Before I discovered the Jade and Oak blog I had no idea how much legal information you needed to know regarding your blog. I didn’t see a lot of people talking about the legal aspects of blogging and that surprised me considering how important it is!
I wanted to do a post that included the important legal information I feel all bloggers should be aware of, but I knew the best person to give the necessary information was Jackie, the creator of the Jade and Oak blog! I took a shot in the dark and asked if she would be willing to do a guest post on Love, Coco&Nilla and she was nice enough to agree! I so appreciate the information she provided, and I hope you all find it as helpful and informative as I did! Now, I’ll hand it off to Jackie.
First off, thanks so much to Liz and Carmen for hosting me today. As a long time business owner and blogger, I know that there is SO MUCH to do when you first start a blog. There’s tons of info on the internet to help you get started, but not much out there about the legal side of things. I’m an attorney on top of being a blogger/biz owner. I started as a blogger over 5 years ago and today I’m going to share the legal basics you need to know as a blogger.
Of course, this isn’t a 100% comprehensive list of everything that every blog should have, but these are the legal basics to get you start. First, we’ll discuss the legal statements you need on your blog.
(Disclaimer: I’m a US-based attorney so this info is directed towards US bloggers, but it may also apply to international bloggers. Check your country’s laws for more information about laws and regulations in your country.)
Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions are basically the “rules” of your blog. In this statement, you can tell your readers where kind of behavior is allowed on your blog, being both actions by you as the blogger and the allowable actions of your blog visitors or readers. This would be things like not allowing offensive comments, a longer copyright statement (discussed below), a privacy statement (discussed next), what would happen if there is a dispute, etc.
Having a clear and detailed terms and conditions statement can help to protect your blog and your readers, all while showing that you have done your research and you are a professional.
Very basically, in the US, copyrights are the legal system which give creators of original works the right to control the copying of their work. This means the creator has the exclusive right over her work (for actions such copying, reuse, selling, etc.) for a limited period of time. Others can’t use their work without permission.
In the US your work is automatically copyright protected from the moment of creation, without you needing to formally file anything. Even though you have that automatic protection, it can still be important to remind others of your rights over your own content so that it is very clear. You should do this by including a short copyright notice on every page of your blog and a longer statement somewhere else on your blog, probably in your terms and conditions as discussed above, indicating that you aren’t (or are) okay with others taking and using your work without your permission. For example, you may be okay with others reusing your work as long as they link and give you credit.
Collaborating with brands or companies can be a great way to monetize your blog. Typically collaborations involve things like paid blog post, affiliate links, or receiving something free in exchange for a blog or social media post. Under the rules of the US Federal Trade Commission, you always need to disclose when there is this type of monetary or other interest with a company.
Your disclosure needs to make it very clear to your readers whenever you have a vested interest. The disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous” (meaning it shouldn’t be hidden or written in such a way that it would be easy to miss). The disclosure language should be as close as possible to the thing you’re promoting and at the beginning of any sponsored posts. Generally, the purpose is to let your readers and potential consumers know about your monetary interest so that they can make a fully informed decision before they click on a link or purchase.
Disclaimers are important for letting your readers know that they should take the content of your blog “as is,” meaning that you aren’t providing professional advice. Additionally, the disclaimer makes clear that you won’t be liable or responsible if someone takes your blog content as advice and then has problems or bad results.
This might seem like common sense, but it’s important to include a statement like this as a clear reminder to your readers. You can write a simple statement and include it as a part of your terms and conditions. Having this sort of statement isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never have issues arise, but it never hurts to have a clear statement in case a situation does come up at some point.
If you have an email list or newsletter set up for your blog, you need to make sure that you are complying with laws about email marketing in the US. Generally, your emails must have a few things in order to be compliant. The main US law is all about avoiding spam, so the rules are mostly to ensure you aren’t spamming people.
Many countries have laws requiring that you can only add people to your email list when they have affirmatively signed up for your list. However, the US law doesn’t have this requirement but instead wants it to be clear and simple for people to unsubscribe or opt out. This means that you need an unsubscribe option in every email and that you need to actually unsubscribe people who ask. You could be adding someone who actually already opted out, so then you would be in violation of the law.
Additionally, every email needs to include an address for your blog or business (which can be a PO Box if you don’t have a business address) because this helps to show that you aren’t a spammer. Lastly, all of your emails need to be honest, meaning you don’t have misleading subject or “from” lines.
Lastly, I want to quickly touch on taxes. I am not a tax expert or tax professional, but there is one main thing you need to know about taxes as it relates to your blog. Even if you aren’t making any money yet with your blog or business, you need to be tracking money coming in and going out. There are rules surrounding when you need to start reporting your income but you need to first have a clear system for your income and expenses. There are programs for you to track everything or you can start with an Excel spreadsheet. There are appropriate expenses that can help to lower your possible tax liability as well, but the first step is to start tracking every penny!
Whew, right?! I know that the legal side can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be. A huge plus about the legal side is that once you’ve established many of the legal aspects, you don’t need to make any updates until if/when you change something in how you run your blog/business.
If you are just getting started thinking about the legal side of running your blog, check out my FREE email course to learn more – Legalize Your Blog (www.jadeoak.com/legalize-your-blog)
Jackie has been blogging for over 5 years and has been a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania for nearly 8 years. Jackie started her blog, Jade and Oak, as a creative outlet when she was working as a litigator. She now helps bloggers and small business owners make sure that they are keeping everything legal, all while working her day job. When she isn’t working, Jackie enjoys spending time with her husband and their two pugs, taking ballet classes and traveling.
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We are so appreciative of Jackie and we hope that this post will help to answer some of those questions you might have had about the legal aspects of blogging. Please be sure to check out some of her links she’s provided above, she has some great posts! Have a great week guys!
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