Hello hello! Did my fellow Americans have a good Thanksgiving weekend? And did everyone else have a great weekend too? It was so fun hanging out with my family and get some relaxing time in, even though I was sick on Saturday and Sunday ugh. How do illnesses know to hit us on the weekend when we’re supposed to be relaxing? So rude. But I’m feeling better now and excited for Christmas coming up and excited that I got the decorations up before I got sick.
Anyways, so today I wanted to dispel some legal myths about blogging. There’s a ton of info out there and I know it can be super confusing. So today is all about putting those myths out there and sharing what you really should know!
Oh and before we get into it – as a reminder, I am an attorney, but I’m not your attorney. The information on this blog is not legal advice and you should contact an attorney for more specific technical advice.
You can use images as long as you link back
Nope. If you are taking someone else’s content and using it without their permission, this a copyright violation. Even if you provide a link back! Unless the owner of the image has indicated that she is fine with others using her work, you shouldn’t use someone else’s images. There are a ton of great free photo sites out there so check those out or subscribe to a paid stock photo site. Or even take and use your own images.
You don’t need to file taxes
If you are subscribed to my email newsletter, you’ll have heard all about this in this week’s email. Taxes are no fun, right? (Unless you’re getting a refund!) But once you’re making $400 a year as a blogger, you need to file taxes, even if your expenses are more than your earnings. The IRS wants to know all about it. Check back for more info about tax filings and deductions.
Related: Learn more in my ebook!
You can share email addresses with other bloggers
Nope. CAN-SPAM is the anti-spam law in the US. Although it’s more of a law about letting people opt out, it’s an industry best practice to get permission to add people to your email list. Whenever you collect people’s email addresses, you can’t do whatever you want with them. You should not be sharing email addresses with third parties and you must have a way for them to opt out.
Giveaways have no legal consequences
In the US, the federal government has laws regulating giveaways and different states also have different laws. Some states require that giveaways are registered with the states while some have other specific restrictions. So it’s a good idea to check out what your state allows when running a giveaway. And if the prize is for more than $600, the pesky IRS wants to know what’s going on. You will need to provide the giveaway winner with a Form 1099, so that the winner can claim the prize as income on her taxes. Giveaways can be a great way to get new blog readers and followers, so just be sure you’re doing it the right way.
Becoming a “business” is too hard
Chances are, your blog is already a “business.” Once you make any income from your blog, you are basically self employed as a sole proprietor. This is the default without you doing anything. It of course means you need to file taxes accordingly. But as your business grows, you can change what type of business it is by changing it to a partnership, corporation or limited liability corporation. These different entity types have different pro’s and con’s. You can speak with a local attorney to start your new business.
It’s only copyrighted if it says so
Nope. The second that something is published or written by an author, it is their material. Copyrights exist so that the author has the sole right on who can copy her material. For the most part, things are automatically copyrighted unless the author says otherwise. The use of copyright language or the © symbol is a way to specifically put people on notice, but it isn’t necessary. So if you want to use someone else’s work, the safest bet is to ask permission. As a blogger, you are allowed to quote other people’s work, but only up to about 100 words. If you’re getting close to that amount, you should get their permission. Also note that any information posted by governmental agencies is freely allowed to be used.
The internet is all about free speech
Yes, the United States Constitution says that your right to free speech can’t be limited… by the government. So this means that there is no constitutional right to free speech in private settings. That’s why if your Facebook post violates their terms and conditions, Facebook can take down your post because it is a private forum. Additionally, defamation laws say that you can’t publish communications that injure the reputation of a person, business or government. Easy rule of thumb: don’t say untrue or inflammatory things on the internet, since it can bite you in the ass.
Learn More: My free email course, Legalize Your Blog
Feel a little less scared and a little more knowledgeable about the law and blogging? See, it doesn’t have to be so scary (and boring), just like I promised. If you’re working on your business and are confused about the different business entities that exist, check out this nifty quick guide I created for you to download. Click below to download it and enjoy! Disclaimer: I am a licensed attorney but I am not your attorney. The content on this blog is general information for bloggers and small business owners, but should not be seen as legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am not liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. If you need specific legal advice, consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and your jurisdiction.