This article first appeared on Boxwood Avenue. I’ve had the joy of knowing Chloe from Boxwood Avenue for a few years now, and was honored when she asked me to contribute to her blog with an article on what bloggers need to keep in mind to keep their blog legal. If you are a blogger, or even a business owner with a blog, each of these points will apply to you; but more than that, I urge you to head to Boxwood Avenue right away! I’ve watched Chloe build one of the most unique, thoughtful, and beautiful blogs over the past few years, and she is an absolute wealth of knowledge. Plus, any visit to her blog or Instagram will nearly guarantee that you’ll also see one of her adorable goats, horses, and other farm animals or stunning interior design, which is just one reason why she is one of my favorites to follow!
Before diving into the world of blogging, you need to have a few things on your website in order to be “legal”. Here’s what you need to know!
After years of blogging, and learning from so many generous people in this industry, I think it’s due time I begin paying it forward by sharing some of the knowledge I’ve acquired.
In this new business series, I will cover blogging for beginners, growing your blog, making money from your blog, and anything else blogging or business related that I can think of!
If you have a specific question you’d like answered, please just let me know in the comments! I will aim to get a business post up every other week, and I hope you enjoy it!
When you first begin your blog or small business, it can feel a little daunting! Questions like: do I need to pay taxes?, do I need an LLC?, or how do I form an LLC? run through your mind and can prevent you from taking the leap.
Today, I want to share with you an important aspect of starting a blog: making your website legal. Often times blogging is the foundation of a small business, so I figured this would be a great place to start!
I reached out to my friend Paige from The Creative Law Shop to help me answer some of these questions. Paige, formerly a litigations lawyer, began her small business a few years ago, and it is an invaluable resource for creatives!
The Creative Law Shop is where I source all of my legally binding contracts for my business: Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, contracts, etc… I love Paige, and I am so grateful for the invaluable asset she’s created for bloggers and small business owners.
Since these contracts are not free, or cheap (I believe you get what you pay for here), I am really excited to be able to pass on a discount to you!
What that said, let’s talk about what you need to have in order when you begin your blog.
After you’ve picked your name, you’ve set up your domain, you’ve made your site live…you need a few things in order to make sure your website is “legal”:
Paige was gracious enough to answer some questions about the importance of these elements on a website, and I think you will find that her explanations are easy to understand. I hope after reading this, you feel empowered and ready to blog!
A Terms & Conditions is the contract that governs your website, which means that anyone perusing your website automatically agrees to your terms, that you have set.
Why is it important that people agree to your terms? Well, your terms can mandate things such as that no one can take any content (such as copy, or photos) from your site without your consent, for starters.
Terms of Conditions act differently in different scenarios- for example, if you just have a website, you just need a Terms & Conditions (users automatically agree to the terms by using your site); if you have an online shop, you must have a Terms & Conditions of Online Sale (and customers must click something such as “I agree to the terms of sale” to be applicable); a Terms & Conditions for Online Courses if you have an online course, and so on and so forth.
That’s correct – everyone with a website should have a Terms & Conditions, no matter what.
One of the often-overlooked liabilities of blogging is the need for disclosures. If you’re giving any sort of advice in a blog post that involves an industry requiring a license (such as the medical, legal, financial, etc type industries), you must have a disclosure stating that the reader shouldn’t rely on your advice.
If the blog itself often has posts on this subject, you should have the disclosure in your Terms & Conditions, but it would also be wise to include that disclosure in the post itself.
Note from Chloe: Disclosure also needs to be made any time payment or free product is exchanged for promotion of a product. This applies to: social media, blog posts, amazon shop pages, etc… Even if you do not receive payment for the post, but you did receive free product, a nice dinner, a free stay, etc…the endorsement should be disclosed.
For example, “swipe up links” on instagram should be disclosed as #affiliate links. Any social media post made in exchange for money or promotion of a product needs to include a discourse. This disclosure can be something as simple as #partner or #affiliate, but it needs to appear as the first hashtag in the post.
In a blog post, it should be at the top of the page, so that the viewer understands the nature of your advice or endorsement before they read the blog post. Scroll up to the top of my page and check mine out if you’d like! You’ll notice some bloggers have this at the very bottom of their website or on a different page entirely, this is technically unacceptable to the FTC.
It’s best practice to place a clear disclosure above the fold, on the same screen as the claim/product/endorsement. Remember, it’s all about being transparent, so as long as the average reader or viewer clearly understands the relationship, you’re good.
Maybe…but you really have no idea if it contains the language needed to actually protect you.
For example, most people don’t know, but if a paragraph in a contract (here, your Terms & Conditions) is invalid according to the laws of your state, then the entire agreement becomes invalid, unless you’ve included specific sever-ability language.
When it comes to your business, it never pays to gamble with anything free on the internet (it’s probably free for a reason); especially when it comes to the legality of your business.
Great question! Like I mentioned before, disclosures, if your business requires them; as well as all the terms that turn your Terms and Conditions into a legal document.
Aside from that, bloggers are typically in the industry of creating beautiful imagery and copy, and you must set yourself up to have recourses available if that content is stolen or copied from you.
A Terms and Conditions can provide you with a breach of contract cause of action if or when you need to protect your work, which may sound a bit complicated now, but will be exactly what you want to have in those types of unfortunate situations. Be proactive by setting the foundation now, so that you are prepared when it matters, rather than retroactively trying to play catch up when it’s too late.