In our Bloggers Facebook Group (join here!) a little while ago, I asked what people were struggling with.
One of the questions that came up was a bit more clarity regarding the legal aspects of blogging: What you do and don’t have to do to cover your butt when working with sponsors, doing giveaways, and making money.
Luckily I knew exactly who to turn to for that stuff – Jackie from Jade and Oak.
Jackie is a lawyer in her day job and blogs on the side, and I have been following her blog for years. I sent her a message to see if she’d be willing to pop on over here and share some of the blogging legally basics…. and lucky us, she agreed!
I’ll let her take it away…
Blogging is big business and I love that more and more people are treating their blog like a business. Being a business means that you also need to make sure you’re covered on the legal side of things. So I’m so happy Gemma invited me to post today about the legal basics of blogging.
My name is Jackie and I’ve blogged at Jade and Oak for over 4 years and have been an attorney for over 6 years. I provide legal info and tips for bloggers and small biz owners on my blog, so today I’m here to educate on the legal basics you need to know as a blogger.
(PS >> Although I am an attorney, I’m not your attorney and this post does not create an attorney-client relationship. As an American attorney, this post was written with US laws and regulations in mind. If you live in another country, research your country’s laws. This post is legal information and should not be seen as legal advice. If you need legal advice, be sure to consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and jurisdiction.)
1 // Legal statements on blogs
It’s also important to include a terms and conditions statement, which basically lets people know the “rules” of your blog, including what kind of behavior is/isn’t okay.
Lastly, disclosure statements are necessary anytime you are working with a company or brand and are being compensated in any way (through a sponsored post, getting a free product or getting paid an affiliate commission).
It’s important to have these statements to show that you are running a professional blog and you understand legal requirements to have a legit business. This will help to put your readers at ease because they know you’re educated regarding the law and aren’t running a shady operation. Definitely a good thing.
2 // Copyright issues
In the US, your work is actually copyright protected the moment that it is created. As a blogger, that’s great – it means your work is protected without needing to formally go out and do anything. BUT that won’t necessarily stop anyone from stealing your work (the internet is obviously an easy place for people to take other people’s work).
So it’s a good idea to include a general copyright statement on every page of your blog – with the © symbol and/or “copyright,” your name/blog name and year or years of publication. Mine says: Copyright 2012-2016 Jade and Oak.
You should also include a longer statement somewhere on your blog indicating what you are/aren’t okay with others using.
For example, if you want people to use your stock photos for any reason, indicate that. But if you don’t want anyone to reuse your work or you require a link back, lay all of that out as well. (You can read more about copyrights here.)
3 // Linking to other content
Speaking of links, as a blogger you will likely be linking to other people’s content or blog posts.
Most people are more than happy to have you refer to their content if you are providing a link to their site. Just sharing a link isn’t a copyright issue, but if you are sharing someone else’s photos, graphics, videos or quoting a huge section of their blog post, you need to email them and make sure that they are ok with it.
4 // Your email list
If you are using email marketing for your blog or business, there are a few things to consider to make sure you’re not breaking the law.
The most important thing is to include an address in every email newsletter (physical address or a PO Box). This is to help prevent spam. In general, you want to avoid being spammy with your email list and want to make sure you aren’t emailing people who have opted out.
You can learn more about email lists and the law on my blog.
5 // Protecting yourself from liability
Blogs are an amaaaaazing source of info – I love that you can learn so much from fellow bloggers. However, you should be careful to make sure you won’t be held liable for something that could be seen as professional advice. Just like how I included a legal disclaimer at the top of this post, consider if you need any disclaimers for info that you provide.
For example, if you write about weight loss on your blog, it’s important to remind your readers that you aren’t a health professional and your blog posts are for informational or entertainment purposes only and should not be relied upon for health advice. (And if you are some sort of professional, remind people that you aren’t acting in your professional capacity and providing them with any specific or personalized advice.)
Most people will realize that your blog posts are informational in nature and aren’t medical, legal, health, tax, etc advice. But it doesn’t hurt to just remind people that you aren’t providing professional advice, so include a clear disclaimer as necessary. If someone could maybe mistake it as professional advice, err on the side of caution.
6 // Money issues
Yay you’re making money on your blog! Now you just need to make sure that you’re properly reporting it to the IRS for taxes.
In general, once you are making more than $400 per year, you need to start reporting that to the government and pay taxes as necessary. However, you can also take advantage of legitimate business expenses or deductions for your blog as well (things like your hosting service, email service provider, graphic designer, etc.)
Whether you’re a brand new blogger or you’ve been making money for awhile, start tracking your income and expenses right now so you can be ready when it’s tax time.
(**Canadian bloggers –> This is the same for us! You need to claim your income and any gifts received in your income taxes.)
Free Email Course
I know the law can be daunting and overwhelming. These are some legal basics to get you started but there is more to know! If you are interested in learning more, sign up for my free email course, Legalize Your Blog, to get legal tips sent straight to your inbox.
Also check out my blog Jade and Oak for even more about running your blog and biz legally! If you have any more questions about the legal side of blogging, let me know!
Thanks a mill, Jackie for popping in here and giving up some Legal 101 Scoop! Guys, be sure to head over to Jade and Oak for all your legal questions.
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