The Legal Side To Blogging - What You Should Know

Saturday, November 28, 2020

 Have you thought about starting a blog? If you’ve read all the tutorials and tips out there, you’re already on the path to success. You know that blogging success will take time, and you’re ready to get into the long game of devotion, writing, and digital marketing. But have you considered the legal side of it? Congrats, and welcome to the blogging world, where one link may result in losing a social media profile or a $50,000 lawsuit! Here are all the legal steps to follow for safe blogging, and how you can ensure you're complying with rules and regulations!

Privacy Policies & Terms and Conditions

Did you know you need to have a Privacy Policy on your blog? For example, if you want to share your views, or use affiliate programs, you’re obligated to create a Privacy Policy. Collecting any type of data will require a policy, so your audience knows what will happen to their data. A Privacy Policy is your legal statement on how you collect, handle, process, and remove visitors’ data. It explains whether you keep it or share it with third parties. You should read up this legal statement as it is likely to be required by law, regardless of your domain extension, or your place of residence. To make things clearer, these are considered personal data:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion

Do you have a Contact me form? You’re collecting data.
Do you have a Cookie banner? You’re collecting data.
Asking for a sign-up? That’s right – email is personal.

If you aim at a global audience, make sure you spend some time reading on how to best implement Privacy Policy on your blog to avoid hefty fines.

When it comes to Terms and Conditions, these serve multiple purposes. For one, ToC explains what is allowed and prohibited on your website. Combined with your Privacy Policy, it serves to protect you if any legal action is taken against you. You should reach out to a solicitor to create these, especially if you’re looking to make money from blogging.

Affiliate Disclosure vs. Disclaimers

Are you mistaking a disclosure for a disclaimer? You’re not alone. If you’re already in any affiliate network, you probably heard of FTC. FTC is an abbreviation of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is a government agency of the US, with the mission to protect its consumers. With this in mind, the FTC created many rules regarding affiliate disclosures, some of which are:

  • Everyone must disclose
  • All payments/compensations must be disclosed
  • If you're receiving compensation must be disclosed
  • You must disclose your gifts/ADs every time, for every post
  • The disclosure must be clearly stated and visible
  • It must be placed before any affiliate links

Some of the examples of acceptable affiliate disclaimers are:

When you purchase something using the retail links in our blog posts, we may earn a small commission. 
I get commissions for purchases made through the links in this post.

You may also link to a complete Affiliate disclosure page within the disclosure sentence. Don’t forget to follow proper SEO rules regarding interlinking.

You are now wondering what a disclaimer is. The disclaimer is a statement to limit your liability and let others know that you can’t be held liable for the information on your blog. It can find its place on the Terms and Conditions page, footer, sidebar, or you can create a separate page where you’ll explain everything in detail.

But why do you need it? As for anything else in life, nobody can guarantee that some visitors won’t try to come at you because of something you wrote that they took for literal truth or advice. People read what they want, see what they want, and do what they want. You can’t affect that, but your disclaimer can save you.

Copyright Notice Is a Great Idea

Whatever you write remains online, but that doesn’t mean that it belongs to everyone. That’s why you may want to secure your content. Clearly state that the content is yours by using copyright + your name in the footer of your blog. If you don’t want anyone copying your content, you can install the copyright protection plugin (WordPress). It disables the copy/paste feature, so no one can use what you wrote. If you’re on Wix, you can use the Right Click Protection app. For Blogspot, you’ll want to go to Add Gadget, choose Text, and type your copyright notice. Bonus point for registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office, and using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These will help get your content off of websites that steal it.

Be Careful With Personal Data

Another thing you might share without even knowing is your personal data. Since the online world is a crazy place, you should want to pay extra attention to what you share about yourself. Writing a blog post may discover more about you than you wanted, even if you’re writing under an alias. Mistakes happen, but luckily, you can secure your data by:

  • Using different passwords for different platforms/changing them occasionally
  • Backup your blog regularly
  • Use domain privacy
  • Be mindful of what you blog about

Royalty-Free Images and Licenses

Many bloggers end up paying for their ignorance when it comes to image use. Did you know that even if you credit the artist, you may still get sued? Yes, even with an official credit, you’re still violating their copyright if you didn’t get their approval. If you want to use another person's image, always reach out to them first. After all, a simple question won’t hurt anyone. You may get more audience or build meaningful connections. If they decline, you can always move on to another creator. This is also a great moment to discuss license types.

Rights managed license

In a nutshell, this license is very restrictive. It specifies the placement of the image, how long you’ll use it, size, industry, etc. It also excludes the possibility of a competitor using the same image.

Editorial use license

This license lets you use an image in a newsworthy story, not in any commercial way.

Royalty-free license

Royalty-free is a more flexible type of license, usually used for stock images. Nevertheless, it still has some limitations, for example, you’re not allowed to use it to create other products that will contain the image.

Royalty-free extended

Remember how royalty-free license won't let you use an image you purchased on products? With this license, you’re free to do so.

Creative commons license

Images with a creative commons license will need to be properly credited. They are also not available for commercial use.

Public domain

Finally, you have a public domain. Just like the name says, the creator gives up their rights and lets the public use the image in any way.

Cookies and Consent

Cookies are another aspect of safe blogging that you must consider, and these confuse a lot of people. What they do is collect information about every visitor that comes to your website. While cookies are handy for shopping carts or logging in, they can get you in trouble with various legal entities. You guessed it – it’s all about the compliances.

The privacy of users’ data must be respected at all times. In the US, you’ll have regulations on state and federal levels. In the EU, you’ll have few compliances to learn about. Back to the Disclosures – the compliances force you to explain to your visitors how you use the data your cookies collected and ask for their consent. What you must inform them on:

  • What data is collected
  • Their rights in regards to data
  • Notification process for policy changes
  • The effective date of your policy
  • Third-party access (widgets, social buttons, etc)

The current most important compliances you’ll want to know about are:

Are You Blogging For A Company?

In case you got hired to run a blog for a company, these are the things you’ll need to pay attention to:
  • Identify that the views written in the blog post are your own
  • Never share confidential information
  • Have a written consent to use your company’s logo/trademark
  • Speak respectfully about the company, employees, competitors, and partners
  • Remain professional, accurate, and knowledgeable
  • Remember that you’re legally liable for everything you state online

Social Media And Safe Blogging

The best advice you probably read so far is to have a separate, completely official social media account for your blog. That’s how you’ll avoid sharing something personal with your audience. If by any chance you decide to keep it all under one profile, you’ll have to pay close attention to what you post and adjust your privacy settings.

As always, don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts. With this in mind, keep your eyes open for possible scammers. Social media is filled with fake profiles, and the least they can do is spam. The worst – steal your info and wreak havoc on your life.  

Remember the affiliate disclosure? If you’re sharing any affiliate link on social media, you’re obligated to say that it's an affiliate. If you keep it on your profile, the rules are the same. Read the rules for each social media platform and you’ll know how to disclose your links. Stay in the know when it comes to social media rules and guidelines. Learn how to make your accounts private if necessary. Don’t accept every request, and don’t click suspicious links. One mistake can cost you a lot.

While blogging is a fun activity that can be made into a business, it’s not always easy to pay attention to every aspect of it. SEO takes a lot of your focus, but the legal part is what you must pay attention to enjoy safe blogging. Start with creating a Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. Then move on to learn more about cookies, affiliates, copyright, and compliances. For sure, there’s a lot to cover, but hey, blogging takes time anyway. Be careful when you use social media. The platforms may seem safe, but in reality, they hide many threats. Avoid sharing your private information in your posts, and engage only with people you believe are legit. And remember – once online, always online.

About The Guest Writer:

With many years of experience in freelance writing, Mileva can proudly say that she can craft an article on any topic, starting from travel, over medical all the way to the cryptocurrency niche. Her current focus is her blog, Inspiration Wise, where she talks about personal experiences as well as marketing, blogging, writing and motivation. She’s also a published author in Serbia, working on expanding to foreign publishing markets with her novels and poetry. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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  1. Thanks for sharing, these are important to keep us all safe :)

    Nic | Nic's Adventures & Bakes

  2. Such great information. Like me, I'm sure a lot of new bloggers are drinking from the fire hose with all of the information we're trying to absorb. I've been taking it one day at a time as far as legal requirements. My Privacy Policy has been in place since day 1. I planned on adding the others when I was ready to monetize. But, you did have some things in there I didn't consider.

    Your so right about focusing on SEO... I dream about it.

    Thanks again,