First, BIG disclaimer. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. ;)
This is not legal advice but just a few things I’ve picked up along the way that are accurate to the best of my knowledge.
I’m sharing because I get asked these questions SO often! But for more info please check out the resources I’ve linked to throughout this post.
Is Your Content Copyrighted? Are Other Blogs?
As soon you as publish/write your content, it IS copyrighted to you and you own the rights to that tangible expression of your ideas so no one may legally copy it without your permission.
This applies to everyone else, too. It’s NOT okay to copy a post from another blog, an article from a website, or retype something you found offline and post it to your blog–unless you’ve got explicit permission from the original author. This permission may be included with the article or post (as in, a note at the end that says “Feel free to republish this article if you include…”) or you may need to write or email and request permission. If you don’t have that permission, assume it’s not okay to copy.
If you want to know how copying content from other bloggers hurts everyone involved and why it’s just not cool, legal or not, then please take a few minutes to read this blog post.
And, even though your content is owned by you, it’s still a good idea to include on every page “(c) 2013 – Your Name. All Rights Reserved.” or similar language to notify people that it’s YOUR content and NOT okay to copy.
So what do you do if someone steals your content? Here are some tips… and how strongly you react is up to you and your comfort level with confronting them. This is where a law called DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) comes into play to help you protect your content.
What’s the Deal with Disclaimers?
If you’ve read one of my sponsored posts or are subscribed to my ezine you’ve likely noticed I’ve got disclaimers all over (there’s one in the sidebar on this page, too).
So what’s the big deal? It’s about being up front and transparent.
First, it’s just the right thing to do to let your readers know if you’ve got a relationship with the person or product you’re blogging about or sharing, or if you stand to profit in some way from sharing it.
Second, it’s legally required and the FTC isn’t who you want to end up in trouble with. It’s like taxes. No one loves paying them, but we don’t want the IRS after us!
Here are some of the things you need to disclose (just mention it!):
- If you’ve been paid to write a post
- If you’ve received something free (like access to an ebook, course, etc) for a review
- If you have a personal or business relationship with the person/business you’re writing about
- If you’re an affiliate and stand to make a commission
- If you own stock or shares in a company you’re writing about
- And things like that…
Here’s a resource for disclosure statements: http://www.freenetlaw.com/
And here’s a helpful disclosure policy generator you can use: http://disclosurepolicy.org/
I chose to just put a disclosure in a widget so it’d be automatically included in the sidebar of every blog post I write, and I also try to note clearly when I’m promoting something as an affiliate or for a friend.
Are You Protected Legally?
Since blogging is just sharing our thoughts, opinions, ideas… it’s easy to forget that there are disclaimers and notices we need to post to protect ourselves.
At the bottom of all my pages you can see I’ve got a bunch of “legalese” and it’s not because I like that kind of thing but because it’s important to include!
Michelle Shaeffer · 3110A East 40th Ave · Anchorage, AK · 99508
Copyright © 2005-2013 Michelle Shaeffer · All Rights Reserved
My legal documents are licensed from Legal Forms Generator which makes it easy to add these documents from a lawyer (and it also means I cannot give you permission to copy and paste them, so don’t ask, k?). If you’re a business blogger, look into them and protect yourself.
You can also find free document generators for privacy policies, terms and conditions, etc. Just Google for them. But be sure they’re written by actual lawyers and that they do allow you permission to copy/use them.
For More Information About Legal Issues for Bloggers
Here’s a more in depth legal guide for bloggers, which I highly, highly recommend reading through: https://www.eff.org/issues/
And this is my favorite resource for legal advice for bloggers/internet entrepreneurs: http://www.amazon.com/Internet-Laws-Protect-Business-Website/dp/1460942094
Whew! Enough of THAT.
Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences with any of this in the comments. I’d love to know what resources you rely on for staying compliant with legalities.