legal issues for bloggers

Six Tips to Stay Legally Fit When Blogging

In Blog, Copyrights 101, Online Business Necessities, Trademark 101 by Shannon Montgomery

Lately, a lot of my articles have been single item focused, and that is great. But today I wanted to take a look at the wide world of blogging, and some things you need to ensure your blog is doing things the legal way.

Content marketing is one of the best long-term strategies for gaining clients and exposure. But, just because you don’t make money off of your blog doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to consider before starting one and posting.

So let’s look at the top things you need to stay legal!

blogging the legal way

 

Privacy Policy:

I’ve written about this one before, pretty in-depth too so if you want to check that out you can do so here. But the basic fact is this. You absolutely need a privacy policy for your website. Most blogs collect some form of personal information whether that be names and credit card info for a product purchase, or email addresses through an email list sign up. Also, if you’re into using Google Analytics and using it on your blogs cookies are in use and you need to tell your readers about this. All the information on what needs to be disclosed and in the privacy policy is in that other article so go check it out.

Terms and Conditions or Terms of Service:

Something else I’ve written about in the past, and it is still important to have. These are basically the rules or guidelines to your website and blog. You want this written out and put somewhere on the site that your readers can easily find. This should include things such as the types of comments that are or are not allowed, what happens to people that violate the terms, and quite a few other things like intellectual property considerations and DMCA takedown issues.

Having strong terms of service will protect your blog on multiple levels. If you need help drafting one I know an attorney that would love to help.

Sponsored Posts and Disclaimes:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in charge of protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising. And, they’ve been cracking down in the last few years on social media influencers and what they post.

If you are paid by a brand to post about a product or service the FTC requires that you disclose that relationship. Boldly, clearly, upfrontly (I know it’s not a word but I am making a point here) and loudly as possible. Again, I have written on this before when I discussed the importance of influencer agreements.

So whether you are paid to post or received a free gift to post you still need to comply with the FTC guidelines on influencer marketing. The best practice is to be upfront with the disclosure prior to writing anything. You want to let consumers know that you may have a biased opinion on the product or service due to the relationship you have with that brand. You can read the guidelines yourself, but just know being shady can get you in big trouble with the FTC. No blogger wants to shell out $10,000 in fines due to an oversight now do they?

Money coming in must be tracked:

Another important thing to keep in mind is that if you do make money from your blog you should be properly tracking. You are obligated to report earnings to the IRS #taxes and make sure you pay the correct amount. So some practical tips for this are to a) have separate bank accounts for your blog earnings 2) save 15-20% of what you earn each time you earn whether it be on a post by post basis or some other way and 3) pay your taxes quarterly if you can.

Work with a CPA or a bookkeeper or some type of accounting software like QuickBooks to make sure you pay the right amount, deduct what you can, and are staying on top of the issue. The IRS has more power than you know, so it’s smart to stay on their good side.

Intellectual Property: 

Copyrights and Trademarks are my favorite topics. When it comes to blogging you will no doubt be creating tons of content that instantly becomes your intellectual property. The title of your blog or the brand you are creating can be trademarked, and individual posts and pictures or videos you compile are copyrightable. That said, you gain common law protection of both types of IP the second they are created or used in commerce, so you don’t have to do much aside from just create! But, if you intend to assert your rights in the work you create using a copyright notice on each page of your blog or the TM symbol next to the name of your blog are great ways to put people on notice that these items are yours and not up for anyone else’s use.

There are some nuances with what symbol to use where, what having a registered vs not registered copyright or trademark means, and how to keep others from infringing on your rights and all of these subjects have been written about a time or two so sift through my past articles!

Finally, don’t use other people’s copyrights or trademarked material on your blog without permission. If you didn’t create it, ask for permission to use it, and if you can’t get permission don’t use it anyway. That’s all I’ll say on that for now…

Other Disclaimers:

A disclaimer should be used on your blog as a way to let your readers know that the blog should be taken as is, not as professional advice on a certain situation. I put mine at the end of each blog because although I am an attorney, this isn’t meant to be legal advice. Because, well I don’t know you or your situation. It would be unethical for me to claim this is legal advice when it very clearly isn’t. And, although you may not be an attorney you still might be giving advice on a particular topic and your readers need to know that you don’t mean for it to be taken as more than anecdotal information from you.

This is just the beginning…

These are just a FEW of the thing you need to keep in mind when starting and running a blog. There are other issues that can’t be overlooked like running a giveaway, email marketing, and the CAN-SPAM act and what to do when you’re collaborating with another blogger.

Don’t worry though there are a ton of great resources out there to help you navigate the legal side of things, and if you ever have questions feel free to email me at Shannon@montgomerypllc.com I would love to chat!

Happy blog building!

 

Please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge on the given topic