Can you believe that 2017 is right around the corner? If you’re like me, you’re spending this time taking stock of the last year and also looking forward into the new year. There’s lots to think about. Of course, I want to remind you that the legal side is super duper important. Probably the most important thing to think about for your blog for the coming year.
In order to get you on the right track, I created a simple checklist for you to make sure you’re keeping your blog legal. This checklist isn’t all inclusive but is an excellent start with the basics to make sure your blog is legal and legit. So here are the legal must haves you need for your blog.
(Disclaimer: I’m a US-based attorney so this info is directed towards US bloggers, but it may also apply to international bloggers. Check your country’s laws for more information about laws and regulations in your country.)
Related Post: How to Create Your Blog Privacy Statement
Terms and Conditions
You can think of terms and conditions like the “rules” of your blog. This is where you tell your readers what type of behavior is acceptable on your website – both by you as the website owner and actions by visitors or readers of your site. You can let them know your policies and also advise that things like offensive comments won’t be tolerated.
Having solid terms and conditions can help protect and also legitimize your blog. Learn more about creating your own terms and conditions statement.
Copyrights are the legal system that protect creative works. Copyrights give the creators of the work control over the copying, reuse, selling, etc. of their original work product. Your blog content and any original work, such as your photos or graphics are automatically copyright protected in the US, even without you formally filing anything for that protection.
Even though you have that automatic protection, it’s still a good idea to remind others of your copyright rights over your work product. You should do this by including a short general copyright notice on every page of your blog, with your name/your business name, the copyright symbol and years of publication. You should also include a longer copyright statement somewhere on your blog, indicating that you aren’t (or are) okay with others taking and using your work without your permission.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the governmental body that protects consumers from unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising. This includes online marketing where brands pay bloggers to promote their products. Under the rules, you must always disclose whenever you have a vested interest and are promoting a brand or a product. This is true whether it’s a sponsored post, you received a free item in exchange for your review, you get an affiliate or commission fee if someone buys through you or you have any other sort of relationship with a company.
Generally, your disclosure needs to be “clear and conspicuous” and should be as close as possible to the thing you’re promoting. The purpose is to let consumers know about your vested interest, so that they can make a fully informed decision. So basically – don’t be shady and always let them know.
Money Tracking for Taxes
No matter how much (or how little) you’re making with your blog, you need to be keeping track of the money. First off, if you’re earning money, you need to report this to the IRS and pay the appropriate taxes. However, you can also be eligible for some tax breaks by getting deductions for qualified expenses of keeping your blog running. Anything that is a “reasonable and necessary” cost of running your blog can be deducted.
But you can only know these numbers if you’re keeping track of it all. You can check out the different accounting programs out there or even start out just using an Excel spreadsheet.
A disclaimer is basically your way of saying that the content of your blog should be taken “as is,” you aren’t providing professional advice and you won’t be liable or responsible if someone takes your blog content as advice and then has a problem.
This might seem like common sense but it’s important to put this information out there. You can include a disclaimer statement in your blog’s terms and conditions. Having this sort of statement isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never have issues arise, but it never hurts to have a clear statement in case a situation does come up at some point.
Of course you’re going to be marketing your blog in a variety of ways – through social media, guest posts, giveaways, your email list, and more. When it comes to giveaways, you need to be sure that you are complying with the laws of every state and country where your giveaway is open.
Next up, for your email list, you need to make sure that you’re following laws surrounding email marketing, mainly that you are being honest, aren’t spamming people (meaning you’re only emailing people who have given you permission) and you’re including a physical address.
Related Post: Email Newsletters and the Law: What You Need to Know
I know that this can be a lot to remember and can seem really overwhelming, especially if you’re a newer blogger. But these are super important things to keep in mind. To help keep you on track, I’ve created a handy dandy printable checklist to keep you in line! Just enter your info below to download.
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.