When I first started my blog, the legal side of things didn’t cross my mind once. I decided on my niche, got a domain and happily started typing away. ReneeHalfway.com was basically a lawsuit waiting to happen. If you’re not sure whether you’re blogging legally or not, stop what you’re doing and read this post.
The legal side of blogging.
If you’re anything like me, blissfully oblivious to the fact that not blogging legally could turn into a complete disaster at any point, take some notes.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a super complicated, technical article. I’m just an ordinary blogger telling you to get your legal shit together. It’s VERY important to implement all of the things I talk about in this article: They’re not optional if you want to avoid a lawsuit.
I know you might be thinking: “I’m just a small blogger with one website. No one’s going to sue me.” However, you’re going to need to take this very seriously. These lawsuits are very real, and they can happen to anyone.
By taking the simple precautions mentioned in this article, your blog should be protected so that you can continue blogging without any problems!
1. Legal documents
Your visitors should be able to access these documents on your site. Usually, bloggers will put them in their footer menu. This is how I did it:
The reason you need these documents, is to protect yourself from any claims. This is what each document entails:
Terms & conditions
Bloggers often collect data from their readers and costumers. For example, having a subscription form is a way of collecting email addresses and names.
You should use disclaimers to shield yourself from legal liabilities. Again, having a disclaimer on your site will protect you from expensive lawsuits.
The Legal Bundle
I’m just going to make a wild assumption here and guess you’re not a lawyer. Or at least not a very good one (because what are you doing here?).
Luckily, you don’t need any legal knowledge to be able to get your legal documents. Amira, CEO of A Self Guru, has done the work for you! Amira is a lawyer and has created amazing legal templates for your blog. The templates are comprehensive, easy-to-use and protect your blog internationally.
2. Images & Video
It is important to know that as a blogger, you can’t simply take any image or video you find online and use it on your site. When you do use an image that is someone else’s intellectual property, you could receive a copyright claim.
So what are you options?
Definitely not all bloggers use their own images and videos on their websites. We’re bloggers – not photographers, after all. If you don’t want to create your own image content, but also don’t want a potential copyright claim, you can make use of stock images.
Stock images are a GREAT staple for those who want to make sure they’re blogging legally. There are both paid and free options available. The benefit of using paid stock images, is having more original content. In other words, your blog will seem more authentic.
Of course, the huge benefit of free stock images, is that they’re free. These are usually pictures taken by photographers that have removed any copyright, so that you’re able to use them on your site!
I’ve compiled my favourite resources here: 12 Websites With Free Stock Images for Your Blog.
3. Copyright Law
We already touched upon this in the previous section: Copyright Law. Copyright law is a Federal law that protects creators of original work. It includes:
- Writing (aka your blog posts!)
- Images & Video
Once you create something, it is immediately protected by copyright. That means you don’t have to register your work anywhere.
Although your work is automatically protected by copyright, it is still a good idea to make it clear somewhere on your website that the blog is your intellectual property. Most bloggers simply add the copyright symbol (©), the company name (your blog’s name) and the year. Now, when someone makes use of your work, they won’t be able to say they didn’t know it was copyright protected.
My blog runs on a theme by 17th Avenue, which does this for me!
As we just discovered, written work is automatically protected by copyright. That’s something to keep in mind when you plan on posting guest contribution to your blog, like I do.
Related: Hear from our Guest Experts!
Because of Copyright law, you can’t just post someone else’s article to your site, because the piece is their intellectual property. (Even if they tell you it’s okay to post it.) To legally protect yourself, it’s important that you have the contributor sign a document agreeing that the article will become your intellectual property. Once this is signed, you can go ahead and post without any fear of a lawsuit!
Amira from A Self Guru has also created a handy Guest Blogger Agreement to make this whole process much easier. All you have to do is fill out some of your info and the contributor’s, and you’re all set!
I love using these templates, because they make me feel secure in my blogging career! I know they have been created by a real lawyer, so I don’t need to worry at all about my legal protection.
4. Affiliate disclosure
To be blogging legally, bloggers must disclose their affiliate links and partnerships. (Affiliate marketing is a way to make money by recommending products or services. Once someone makes a purchase through your link, you receive a commission.)
Here are some important things to know about disclosures:
- If you’re an Amazon Affiliate, this needs to be placed somewhere visible on your blog. I’ve added it to my blog’s sidebar. You can simply copy and paste the sentence Amazon provides you with.
- You need to place a good disclosure in EVERY post that has an affiliate link in. For an example, see the one I placed at the top of this post.
- The disclosure needs to be clear and visible. It’s not allowed to turn your disclosure the colour of your background, or make the words very tiny, for example.
You’re all set to start blogging legally!
Blogging is serious business, so it’s important that we also take it seriously! By taking these 4 steps, you’re sure to be protected from expensive lawsuits and other kinds of legal trouble.
Did you know all of this, or have you learned something new today? For me, the importance of a Guest Blogger Agreement was something I found out pretty late in my blogging career…
For more blogging tips and advice, room my site and connect with me on Instagram, @ReneeHalfway. I would love to see you there!