Want to protect yourself and your blog from all the legal complications? Want to know what to do if your blog content is scraped?
If you are having similar queries and want to learn how you can protect your blog legally then you are at the right spot.
Legal protection is something that has become the utmost importance, and you need to pay close attention to it if you want to safeguard yourself, your blog, and your readers legally.
However, it is just a blog! Why do I need to “Legally” safeguard it?
A blog is something that needs to be legally safeguarded even if you are running a blog for free or for a free community. When you are posting online, you are making statements that can later be used to perform some action, and the repercussions of those actions can be traced back to you.
On top of how complicated our copyright laws and right to speech rules are, the internet has only made it more complicated. Moreover, as a blog makes you legally abiding, it is wise to legally protect yourself from all the lawsuits or content theft that may or may not happen.
An Example of how legal protection can help you is the 1992 case of Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald’s.
In 1992, Stella Liebeck visited a McDonald’s drive-thru and ordered a 49 cents cup of coffee. She wanted to add some cream and sugar to her coffee, but unfortunately, she didn’t have access to a cup holder, so she decided to hold her cup between her knees.
When she tried to pull the lid off, she accidentally spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. This spillage resulted in third-degree burns and a lawsuit followed as well.
Initially, Mrs. Liebeck only sought $18000 in compensation for injury and losses, but McDonald’s refused to pay. When this case went to the court, it was declared that McDonald’s was guilty of “Gross Negligence” and the judge awarded Mrs. Liebeck with $600,000!
Was the coffee hot? Of course! We all know that.
Was that supposed to be hot? Yes!
However, you know what the problem was and why McDonald’s was found guilty for “Gross Negligence”?
Because they did not put a label saying “Caution: this is hot!” on the cup.
Would doing this prevented or everted the incident? Probably not. However, it would have shifted the blame on Mrs. Liebeck.
So, in a nutshell, a few words of caution would have saved half a million dollars!
Here, I will be talking about the same regarding how you can save yourself from this kind of situation and how you can safeguard yourself from any lawsuits or content thefts.
In this list, you will find all the things and prerequisites that can help you in safeguarding your blog from any potential issue.
1. Privacy Statement or Policy
Yes? Good! We now only need to check whether it meets all the requirements or not.
- Any information about the users who are visiting your website.
- If you are sharing the user’s information to any third party advertisers, you need to share that.
- Methods you use to collect the information of the users like cookies, comments, forms, signups, etc.
- Include the mentions and links to every other advertising program you take part in.
- Mention how users can opt out of third-party advertisement programs.
Also Read: Why You Should Use WordPress?
2. Terms and Conditions Page
When you talk about the Terms and Conditions of your blog, you talk about the “rules” or “guidelines” for the code of conduct of your blog. This is the place where you lay down what is acceptable and what is not acceptable on your blog. You need to write down the terms and conditions from both the perspectives. From the visitor’s perspective and the owner’s perspective as well.
Here you can add the things that you think are necessary to be said, so you do not end up in any trouble. For example, if you wish to block the users who post indecent comments, you can add a clause which can say something like “Offensive comments will not be tolerated”. There are many other things that you can add on your terms and conditions page or the terms of service page that you think is necessary to be disclosed before you end up in some legal trouble.
If you do not know how to start your Terms and Conditions page, you can refer to an attorney to be more secure or legally protected. You only need to be sure that you are writing everything needed in terms of conditions page and an excellent legal attorney can quickly help you with that. If you do not have a budget for a legal attorney, you can always find a good guide to create a TOS page online. Just search it and you will have access to loads of resources to learn from.
I would not say googling for TOS page is the ideal choice that you should go with, and you should always get an expert involved when you are handling technical matters. Although these are powerful legal suggestions, yet none of this constitutes any legal advice.
Think of copyrights as a protector of creative work. Copyrights give the creators the powers to have control over the usage of their work and how it is used. With copyright, the creators have control over copying, using, selling, etc. of their original creative work.
If you are living in the US, all your original work or blogs are automatically protected even if you have done nothing to protect it from getting copied. Even though it is evident that the law protects all your original creative work, it is ideal for reminding others that you hold the copyrights over the product.
This can easily be done by adding a small general copyright notice at the end of every page of your blog. It should have your name or your business name, the copyright symbol, and the year of publication.
Other than this, you need to add a complete statement on what is your take on the usage of your content telling your readers whether you are okay or not okay with others using your original work without your prior permission.
4. Keeping Track of Your Money and Transactions
Since you are running a blog, you might be having a flow of money. No matter how small or huge piles of money you are making, you need to keep track of your money and transactions.
If you are making money off your blog, then you definitely need to report your incomes to the concerned income tax authorities.
If you do not have the budget for a bookkeeper, you can keep track of your cash flows by keeping a journal ready for your accounting purposes; later you can work with an accountant to prepare your financial statements. This way you can have more control over your bookkeeping.
If you are not preparing your financial accounts and are not submitting your returns to the concerned tax authorities, you might get into trouble regarding tax evasion and not keeping proper books of accounts, and that is something that we do not want.
Also, you need to record every transaction that you have done. Even if the money is not yet involved and you have provided the service, you need to record that. For example, if you are working on a project and haven’t got the payment but you have provided the full service, you need to record that. In this case, it will come under “unearned income” because you have provided the service, but the payment is not yet done.
So, to summarise your transactions, you need to keep track of your expenses, and you need to report your income to the IRS if you are in the US or the concerned income tax authorities.
Disclaimers help you to transfer the burden of any sort to the user or the other party. If you are giving any professional advice in general on your blog, it is advisable to add disclaimers on your content so that you can free yourself if any legal dispute arises.
Remember those “Do not try this at home” disclaimers on videos which have risks involved such as mountain climbing or a nature survivor eating live insects. Who thinks that we all have a massive mountain in our backyard which we can climb? I mean you must have thought, are those silly warnings even necessary? The truth is that they actually are necessary.
There is a very slim chance but any action done resulting in harm can be traced back to the professional advice you gave on your blog.
This might seem like common sense, but it is important to add those warnings and disclaimers to protect yourself from any possible lawsuit. You can add a simple disclaimer that you do not hold responsibility for any problem which may or may not arise in the near future. Doing this does not guarantee that a problem like this does not arise but it will definitely give you an edge over, and it does not hurt to have a disclaimer up and running on your blog.
6. Use Copyright Material Legally
One thing is to copyright your material and content you have on your blog. Using data and content which is from another source is another part of the copyright laws. When you are using content or data from another source, you need to check whether you have the permissions to use that data or not.
You need to be clear about this since if you end up taking data or content from another website without checking, you can end up in copyright infringement problems and that is something that can cost you a lot.
So, how do you make sure this does not affect you. First off, you need to understand and see the content you are taking. You need to confirm if you have the permissions to use that content or not. If you are not sure about the content, you can always contact the author and check whether you can use the content for your own purpose or not. Once you have the confirmation from the author, you can use the content for the respective permissions.
Copyright Free Content
If you do not get a copyright usage allowance, you can always use a copyright-free content for your website. This type of content is free of any sorts of copyrights which does not require any permissions from any author. One of the best examples of this type of copyright free media is the Copyright free images. These type of images are freely available, and you can download them and use them for your blog and other promotional activities.
Although these images are copyright free, there are still some conditions related to the usage and distribution of the images. You need to check whether you are not breaking any permissions and are using the media while keeping the rules in mind.
When it comes to copyright free images, you can get them at websites like Unsplash.com and Pixabay.com. These websites are well known for offering copyright free media.
7. Marketing and Promotion
Since you are running your blog, you need to market and promote it to get more viewers and readers on your website. This is an essential part of blogging, and there are many ways to promote your blog. While all that is necessary, you need to focus on the legal aspects of that.
If you are doing promotional giveaways, you need to check whether you are complying to the giveaway rules of the countries and regions where the giveaways are going to take place.
Apart from giveaways, you need to make sure that the emails and newsletters. You should not span your subscribers with emails. Also, you should make sure that your emails are being sent to the people who have really opted for the email notifications and not to people who have not subscribed to your mailing list. One of the best ways to do this is by using the double opt-in sign-up form. It ensures that the user actually wants to signup for the newsletter and is not being spammed.
Also Read: Things You Need to Know About Blogging!
8. Sponsored Content
There are rules and legal obligations that the US has made to protect the users from deceptive marketing. Promoting other products in exchange for money or any other barter is considered as promotional content.
If you are promoting a product or service and getting paid for it, then you need to tell your users that it is a promotion in a “clear and conspicuous” manner. If you are teaming up with a company or a brand for promoting their product, you need to state clearly that you are promoting their product.
In all, if you are promoting any product or service on your website, you need to tell your users about it loud and clear. If you are promoting products in return for affiliate commission, you need to disclose that to your users as well.
The sole purpose of this is to save the users from ill marketing practices and letting them know about your interest so they can make an informed decision.
9. Prepare Solids Contracts with Vendors or Brands
When you are trading something like service or blog post for money or any other monetary benefit, you should always put an agreement in place to protect yourself from things going wrong.
Also Read: How to Make Money From Blogging?
If you are working on small dollars, you can even write your own contracts. You just need to make sure it has all the required details. Some of the details that needs be there in the contract are –
- You need to add in-depth details of all the services and product and monetary benefits that are needed to be provided from both the parties or all the parties involved. Try to add as many details as possible especially all the necessary details.
- Add the payment deadlines and all the other payment-related details such as payment mode, installments details, etc.
- Also if necessary, add the clause for the return policies and things which can lead to termination of the agreement.
- Also, add the details of how either side of the party can end the contract if the relationship between the parties is not working out.
- If there is a product need, write down who owns the copyright and trademarks of the final product.
If you get a contract served to your ready-made, but you don’t understand a single word what it means, then it is a good idea that you get a lawyer involved to make sure everything is right. Moreover, you are sure of what all things you agree to, and you can get your own custom contract that is as per your needs and terms.
Summing it up!
Working a blog legally is not that hectic and is really important. Usually, we do not pay attention to details, but legal protection is something that you need to pay attention to when it comes to protecting yourself from lawsuits and notices.
All these points are critical and need to be taken care of with utmost care, and if you are not sure about any point and feel lost, I would recommend you to get a lawyer or a professional involved.
While I assure you that all these tips and suggestions are good to go, and the text and information provided here is general informational purposes only and does not constitutes any legal advice. This article does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The company is not liable for any damages or losses for actions incurred by failure to activities related to the text in this article. As I have said before, if you need individual legal advice, go consult a lawyer who can help you with that subject matter.
Do let us know what you think of all the points listed in this article. If you found this article worth reading, do share it with other bloggers as well.