Let’s talk about the legal side of blogging. Yes, this subject typically causes bloggers to fall asleep or run for the hills…but it’s super important to talk about it.
The fact is: your blogging business comes with some risk, and you must be proactive in protecting yourself, your blog, and your readers.
The better fact is: this part of your job doesn’t have to be complicated! Today we’re going to cover 5 simple ways to legally protect your blog…and they aren’t scary at all, I promise!
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Just some important lessons I’ve learned over my years as a blogger.
As an online business owner (yes girl, you are a business owner now), you are taking on some risk. There is the risk of someone stealing your content…the risk of being sued for stealing someone else’s content…the risk of someone being negatively affected by the advice you provided on your blog. Yeah, the risk list is real, and it goes on and on.
So, how can you legally protect your blog from these headaches? Here are a few simple ways:
CREATE YOUR OWN ORIGINAL CONTENT
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many new bloggers think it’s okay to copy/paste someone else’s content on their own blog. You’d be equally surprised by how many bloggers have stolen MY own content over the past few years.
For those that didn’t know, this is illegal, so you probably shouldn’t do that.
Instead, focus on creating your own original content, based on your own real experiences and expertise.
How does this legally protect your blog?
You will know with 100% certainty that your content doesn’t fall into any possible category of plagiarism or copyright infringement. If you don’t know what plagiarism and copyright infringement really are, then it’s important to do some research and make sure that all of your blog content falls within its legal bounds.
Here is a helpful article on plagiarism.
Here is a helpful article on copyright infringement.
You have your own copyright protection on your original content the moment that you create it. Yes, “your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form,” according to Copyright.gov (an excellent resource for my fellow U.S. bloggers, by the way)! This means that if you are creating your own original work, you are the legal owner of that content and no one is allowed to reproduce or distribute that content without your permission.
You’ll draw your own genuine readers to your blog. People that relate to YOU and YOUR content. People that trust your recommendations, share your work, and want to buy what you’re selling. All of this helps you to gain traction and authority as a blogger.
Throughout your blogging career, there will be times that sharing someone else’s content with your audience can really benefit your readers and followers!
Maybe it’s an infographic that someone else created, or an article they wrote, or a recipe they made. Or maybe it’s just someone else’s beautiful picture you want to share on Instagram.
Instead of copying their work or using their content without permission, it is always best to ask them if you can use/share their work. It only takes a quick minute to send an email or private message to your colleague and ask for their permission to share their work on your platform. ** The exception is if they post the content publicly and make it “shareable” in a way that still credits them as the original creator (such as Facebook sharing or using the embed option).
Most of the time, this leads to additional exposure for that blogger, so they respond with a resounding “sure, no problem!” But sometimes, for their own personal or professional reasons, bloggers don’t want their content shared anywhere but their own platform. This is their legal right, so it’s important to respect it.
This one goes hand-in-hand with getting permission to share someone else’s content with your audience. When you do have the privilege of sharing that content on your own blog or social media channels, it’s important to give proper credit to the original creator.
Keep in mind, you didn’t create this content, and failing to credit the creator could easily land you in the plagiarism/breaking the law category. You are essentially passing off someone’s work as your own, and that is NO BUENO.
So, always always always, give proper credit to the original source. If you’re not sure how to give them proper credit, ask them. Usually, proper credit simply involves mentioning the fact that this content belongs to someone else and sharing a clickable link to their own blog or social media channel.
If you fail to give credit to the original creator, they can take legal action against you for stealing. You can also get penalized by search engines…It happens alllll the time, and it’s kind of a big deal.
So, keep this in mind. When in doubt, ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT.
USE COPYRIGHT-FREE STOCK PHOTOS
So far, we have covered a few of the important ways that you can legally protect your blog. Basically, be an honest and good human. Create your own stuff and give people credit for the stuff they created.
But, what happens if you need some pictures for your blog and you don’t know how to take them yourself? Can you just hop on Google and snag the first great picture you see?
Remember, that content has copyright protection and you can get into legal trouble if you use it without permission.
So…what’s a blogger to do??
Thankfully, some companies provide stock photos to their customers with no strings attached and no copyright protection. Meaning, you are allowed to use their photos on your own blog, and most of the time, you aren’t even required to give credit to the creator. Yay.
It’s still important to be careful and choose your stock photo sites carefully. Just because someone says they have rights to share stock photos with you doesn’t necessarily mean they do.
Paying for a stock photo subscription is going to be your best bet, because that company has their own legal obligation to YOU, their customer. Here are a few of my favorite paid stock-photo sites (most of them give you a few free stock photos just for signing up)!
You can also snag free stock photos from free platforms like Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay.
GET YOUR LEGAL PAGES
We saved the most important one for last. As online business owners, we all have a legal obligation to our audience and our government.
These legal pages protect you and the readers who frequent your website.
If you want to legally protect your blog, you absolutely MUST HAVE these three pages on your website, easy to find and read, and drafted by someone who knows the laws of your country.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
At the end of the day, we all just want to have a successful blogging business, a legally protected website, and happy readers.
Following these five simple tips will be the key to reaching those goals and having the legal protection that you need for your blog.