Good morning! How was everyone’s weekend? I had a blast participating in an amazing virtual conference and presented a webinar called the Legal Aspects of Blogging. Now that’s a huge topic for just one hour. But it reminded me that just being aware that there are legal aspects to blogging is really important. No one will ever know everything about the law (my brain was ready to explode at the end of 3 years of law school and that was just skimming the surface of how much there is to learn!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t educate ourselves.
It’s all about getting started. Since the legal side of things can be daunting, I created this list of 20 legal things you need to know as a blogger right now. I’ve included some links for further learning as well since this list obviously isn’t all encompassing. Hope you learn a thing or two (or 20) in this list! (But there is an exciting announcement at the end of this post too – so don’t miss it!)
(Oh and before we continue on – just so you know, I am a licensed US attorney, so this will mainly apply to US bloggers. But many of this info is also great best practices for bloggers who live anywhere. Also this post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.)
1. Your work is automatically copyright protected (at least in the US). This means it’s copyrighted even if you don’t include the © – this symbol just makes it clear that you are affirmatively claiming copyright protection.
2. You need to include your address in your emails to your email list. If you don’t want to share your home address, you can get a PO Box.
3. Your email list needs to have an easy way for people to “opt out” and you gotta respect those opt outs. This means “buying” or sharing email addresses is a bad idea.
4. Giveaways with too many entry requirements or really time consuming entries could actually be considered an illegal lottery. (And only the government can run lotteries, not you!)
5. You should provide your giveaway winner with a Form 1099 if the prize is more than $600.
6. If you collect any personal information (including email addresses for leaving a comment), you need to have a privacy statement, even if you just have a hobby blog.
7. US law requires that you disclose anytime you have a monetary relationship with a brand, such as in a sponsored post or using affiliate links.
8. Including your disclosure at the END of your blog post is not enough to comply with the law.
9. Even if you aren’t making money on your blog, including a Terms and Conditions statement is important to convey to your readers the “rules of conduct” of your blog – what behavior by your readers is acceptable. This is also where you let your readers know things like you don’t share their private info, your work is copyright protected, legal action may be taken for violations and more. It’s a good way to share what is and isn’t okay behavior on your blog.
10. Bloggers are considered “self employed” and should pay self employment tax.
11. If your blog earns less than $400 per year, your blog can be considered a “hobby” and you don’t need to report the income on your tax return.
12. However, if your blog makes more than $400 a year, even if you consider it a hobby, it is now a business in the eyes of the IRS and you need to report the money on your income taxes (even if you spent more than $400 to start or run your blog).
13. If you are making money with your blog, but you have legitimate qualifying expenses, those expenses can be used as deductions to lower your tax liability.
14. Once your blog starts making money, you are automatically a sole proprietor, even without filing anything.
15. As a blogger / sole proprietor, this means you gotsta file taxes. Talk to an accountant or use a program like Turbo Tax. You’ll file your blog’s earnings right along with your personal income tax filing.
16. Being a sole proprietor means you don’t have limited liability, like you would with an LLC. This means if your blog/business gets sued or has debts, you are personally responsible for them.
17. You can claim the trademark to your names (blog name, course name, etc) without registering with the trademark office. Using the superscript TM symbol is a way of putting others on notice of your claim to the right to use this name. Using the ® means you have formally registered your trademark name and had it approved.
18. Not all stock photos are open for free-for-all type use. When someone allows you to use their work, they’re giving you a “license” to use it, but not all licenses are created equal. Stock photos usually fall under a “Creative Commons” license, but some only allow you to use stock photos for personal use, some don’t want you to edit them, some are okay only if you provide attribution, some are totally free and open usage and some allow other different aspects. Read the find print before you use these photos.
19. Your blog should include a disclaimer – which includes info such as the fact that the blog is written by you, it’s your personal opinion, you aren’t liable for any mistakes, it shouldn’t be taken as health / medical / legal / financial etc advice. (I’m going to do a whole post soon all about disclaimers, so check back for more info!)
20. If your social media post is promotional or for a brand (such as you have affiliate links, like liketokn.ow or how it’s spelled or you were paid to tweet), your first hashtag should indicate this. Something like #ad or #sponsored of #affiliate should suffice to make it clear to your readers you were paid.
Whew that’s a lot of things to know and it’s not even every legal thing you need to know (obviously), but it’s a good start and will get you thinking about the legal aspects of your blog / business. If you’re wanting to learn even more about the legal side of things, then I have a really exciting announcement!
I recently released my biggest project ever – a legal ecourse called Blog and Be Legal which his all about the legal side of things that every blogger and biz owner needs to know about. I created this course with other bloggers in mind since I haven’t seen anything like this. Learn all the legal things you need to know, in easy to understand video lessons. Plus the course has some really amazing bonuses – worksheets, info guides, checklists and 3 of the templates from my Legal Marketplace (privacy statement, terms and conditions and disclosure statement) for free! It’s jam packed with tons of info and it’s the perfect all inclusive guide for bloggers and biz owners – I know you’ll LOVE it. Click here to learn more about the course, see all the lessons and check out what other bloggers are saying!
Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. The information in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. The author is not liable for any losses or damages related to actions of failure to act related to the content in this article. If you need specific legal advice, consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and jurisdiction.