It should come as no surprise that I get LOTS of questions about the legal side of running your blog and online biz. I try to provide helpful responses to my emails, questions in my Facebook group, on social media etc. But I also find myself answering the same or similar questions, so I figure why not do a little post with some of the most frequently asked questions so I can share with everyone! Here are some questions I’ve gotten over the years so hope you see one of your questions addressed here!
(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.)
Sooooo where do I even START with getting my blog / biz legal?!?! Help!
I get a version of this question at least a few times a week, so if this is you too – don’t worry, you are in good company! I know the legal side can be intimidating but don’t get frozen in fear and end up taking no actions. The main things you need to address are legal statements for your blog or website, getting up to speed about taxes, having contracts in place if you do collaborations and understand how to legally do sponsored content and run your email list.
I know this sounds like a A LOT but once you take the time to get everything legal, you really can “set it and forget it” until if or when something changes in your business. If you’re a blogger, a great way to get started is my free Legalize Your Blog course. If you are running a biz or your blog is more on the biz side of things, get the free Legal Biz Foundations course.
What do I do when someone steals my content?
This is a huge bummer, right? You work super hard to create unique content or work and some jerk face steals it. Not cool. But it’s probably going to happen to all of us at some point because of the nature of the internet. So what to do about it?
Generally your original work product is copyright protected from the moment of creation, even without you formally filing for copyright protection. This is the good news. So you have a few options if a baddy uses your stuff without your permission. First, ask nicely that they remove the content or give you appropriate credit. If that doesn’t work, the next step would be to attempt to have that person’s internet service provider remove the content, by issuing a “DMCA Takedown Notice” which basically advises that person’s ISP that they are in violation of copyright laws. As a last resort, you can contact and retain a lawyer to help you out, but this is obviously the most time consuming and expensive method.
Having solid copyright statements in place now will help to avoid having issues in the future where you need to go after anyone for using your work. Additionally, of course make sure that you’re acting appropriately with regard to your use of other people’s work.
I know I can’t copy someone’s content, but is it okay to link to other people’s blogs or do I need their permission?
I get this question a lot, I’m guessing because once people start thinking about the legal side, they get a little worried about potential for issues. For the most part, there is no legal issue with just linking to someone else’s blog post or website. Plus the fact that you are sharing someone’s content, so they will probably be totally fine with it.
However, if you want to quote a large portion of someone else’s blog post, you might want to ask permission. There’s no solid clear line of how much you are allowed to quote before it moves into copyright infringement or plagiarism issues. So if you want to quote a large portion of someone else’s work, be sure to get permission first.
Am I allowed to use images I found on Google?
This is a HUGE topic and I’m working on a post all about this topic. But here’s the short answer – do not just go to Google, search for pics and reuse them on your blog. Unless you know that the image has specific indications that it is open for reuse. You can also use one of the many stock photo sites, so you can be sure you are only using photos where the copyright owner has given permission for reuse.
What about celebrity photos or images on store websites?
Someone most likely holds the copyright to these images so, unless they’ve been designated for free and open use, you would be in violation of copyright laws if you were to use and post these types of images on your website. Yes – tons of people do this and yes – tons of people get away with it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s actually legal. And it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Do I need to register my business or do anything formal right now?
If you haven’t yet done anything with regard to “officially” starting your business, this means that you are a sole proprietor. Some people think this isn’t as “professional” but it’s a legit business form. So if you are just starting out, it’s totally fine to operate as a sole proprietorship unless you feel you need more legal protections. At that time you can then form an LLC. Learn more about these two important business forms with my Quick Guide to Business Entities.
I’m a _____ and want to blog about what I do – how do I make sure to do that legally?
I get questions from people involved in lots of different kinds of professions – nutritionists, nurses, moms, cooks, etc. People want to start a blog talking about their expertise and interests but get worried about how to protect themselves legally. One way to do this is to have disclaimers in place. A disclaimer reminds your readers that any info presented on your blog should be taken “as is,” meaning that you are sharing this info but aren’t guaranteeing results or saying that this is expert advice.
Having disclaimers isn’t a 100% guarantee that someone won’t try to come after you, but it’s still good to have this kind of language in place on your blog or website. My Terms and Conditions Statement Template includes great language related to disclaimers.
Any questions you DIDN’T see answered here? Let me know and your question could inspire a new blog post or be added to the next FAQ post!
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.