Bloggers Must Know These Legal Tips to Avoid Trouble

Written by Wesley Henderson

October 25, 2021

Whether you are writing a blog about your personal life or your professional experience, it is important to consider the legal aspects of running a blog. While blogs have been around since the  mid-1990s, it is a rapidly changing field, so here are some legal tips to help you charter through this vast territory.

Your Blog Name 

After you have decided what you want to blog about, you have to choose a name for your website. Your name should be engaging and specific to your blog’s purpose. Once you have a  name picked out, it is important to check its availability. The United States has trademark laws to prevent the same name from being used by two separate entities, so you need to investigate. You can do this by searching:

U.S. Trademark name database

– Local business registries

– Google for any similar names being used

Images 

Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words and many bloggers choose to enhance their blog by adding photos. However, if you are looking to use someone else’s images, you must take a  few precautions to ensure you are not violating any copyright laws. There are thousands of pictures on google, but it is recommended that you use stock sites such as Getty Images or  Shutter Stock and use the stock images provided. If you can’t find any images there, then you can visit Flickr to find royalty-free images. These images are free to use by the public, but some may require credit to be given on your blog.

If you choose to use an image that you found on Google, you should research the image’s origin to see if the owner copyrighted it. If it was, you would have to reach out to the image owner to seek permission to use it. If you do not have permission to use the work and include it in your blog, you are at risk of being sued  (for up to as much as $150,000 per image in the most egregious situations).

If you created the image, you might want to consider copyrighting them to prevent another party’s unwarranted use of your work. Copyright laws are designed to protect a creator’s rights,  and just by creating something, you have the rights over it. However, these rights are hard to enforce legally, so applying to officially copyright your work may be necessary. You can do this by visiting https://www.copyright.gov/registration/ and filling out the corresponding paperwork.

Blog Posts 

While piracy is most commonly associated with the seven seas, bloggers often face a battle with copyright pirates. Similar to copyrighting an image, a blog can also be copyrighted to prevent theft or plagiarism. Bloggers have two options when it comes to copyrighting their blog.

1.) You can file for registration on copyright.gov. Copyrighting your blog through official registration will provide you with a basis to sue a party for any unauthorized use of your work.

2.) You can include a copyright policy on your blog by having a small caption at the end of your  blog that includes your name, the word “copyright,” the publication year, and the phrase “all  rights reserved.” You may also choose to have the symbol © to put your viewers on notice that your work is copyrighted. See the disclaimers at the bottom of this page to see an example of our copyright notice.

Allyson Haynes-Stuart, a Law Professor teaching Internet Law says that “while copyright is created automatically and will protect any original work, it makes sense to register a blog to increase your protection and give notice of that copyright to others. Registration of blogposts with the U.S. Copyright Office is even easier now that they have implemented an online group registration option for multiple short online literary works. See https://www.copyright.gov/ registration/literary-works/”

Terms of Use 

Websites have increasingly employed Terms of Use to officially set out how visitors may use their website. It may be beneficial for bloggers to include a section outlining their expectations.  Things bloggers may reference in their Terms of Use include how visitors can properly utilize the blog, what behavior is expected in the comment section, and what is expected from ads and sponsorships.

It’s important that your Terms of Use are consistent with your business. Once you can afford it, hire an attorney to customize these. In the meantime, use terms of service drafted by an attorney (and preferably for your industry). See here for some options:

 

Selling Items 

As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, many bloggers are looking to get involved in the action. Selling products can lead to more blog visitors and can also create a revenue stream.  However, there are a few things to consider if you decide to sell items on your blog.

1.) Although there is no legal difference between Terms of Use and Terms of Service, there are some elements that you must include if you are selling any items since you are participating in eCommerce. For example, you would want to address shipping, returns, privacy disclaimers,  payment requirements, and liabilities. Again, this will help protect you, your blog, and your business from potential legal action.

2.) Since payment deals with sensitive information, you should use a reputable gateway. This could include third-party vendors such as PayPal, Stripe, or WePay. If you choose not to use a  third-party gateway, you should pay close attention to the local data protection standards and ensure you comply with those regulations.

3.) Additionally, you should include a Privacy Policy on your blog to protect you and your blog.  A privacy policy is a statement that governs the blog on how a reader’s information is protected.  Protected information usually includes names, emails, phone numbers, birthdays, etc. Having a  privacy policy helps protect you from legal liability caused by any potential privacy breach.

4.) As online marketplaces, such as Etsy, continue to grow in popularity, many bloggers use their blogging platform to promote items. If you are sponsoring any items on your blog or are an affiliate, you must disclose this information on your blog. This can be done by putting an affiliate disclosure clause near the sponsorship where it can be clearly seen. By informing your viewers of your association, you protect yourself against fines from the Fair Trade Commission.

For more information regarding sponsorships and the Fair Trade Commission, please visit  https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/advertising-and-marketing.

For more information regarding Etsy’s legal policies, please visit https://www.etsy.com/legal/ section/sellers.

Wesley Henderson

Hi, I'm Wesley! A business attorney turned entrepreneur devoted to simplifying how you protect your business and your assets. Like you, I'm an business owner so I get it and I started Drafted Legal to help you put in place simple and sound legal strategies so you can focus on your business and not worry about getting lost in legal nuances.

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