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Blogging is a fantastic pastime and even a better business model. It allows many to earn a living from the comfort of their home. However, the fact that blogging takes place online, and is different from the traditional brick and mortar businesses lull people into a misconception that they don’t have to comply with legalities.

However, you will see that this cannot be further from the truth. There are several legal mistakes that bloggers make that can impact their blogs and leave them open to liability. Blogging is a real business. If you don’t take all the precautions that you usually would in a traditional brick and mortar business, you’re just asking for trouble.

Disclaimer: Even though I am a licensed and practicing attorney in the United States, I am not your attorney. Nothing on my website should be construed as legal advice. Your presence on my site does not create an attorney-client relationship or privilege. Every piece of content I present to you is for educational and informational purposes only. If you need specific legal advice, please consult with an attorney in your area.
 

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Bloggers Make the Mistake of Not Having The Necessary Legal Policies On Their Websites

There are several legal mistakes that bloggers make over and over. Some bloggers don’t even realize that they are making those mistakes. Other bloggers might know that what they are doing is wrong, but don’t think it’s a big deal or plain don’t care.

One of the most common mistakes is that many bloggers, beginners, and even advanced ones, don’t have the necessary legal policies on their websites. When I say legal policies, I mostly refer to the three most important policies that a website must have (regardless of the fact whether they blog or not).

It’s ok if you don’t know which policies I am referring to. However, I hope that after reading this post, you’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it.
So let’s explore the legal mistakes bloggers make in connection with their legal policies.

 

Legal Mistake #1-Some Bloggers Do Not Have the Necessary Privacy Policy

A Privacy Policy is not only essential to have, but it’s also legally required. Your Privacy Policy is arguably the most crucial policy on your website because if it’s not there, you will become exposed to legal liability.

A Privacy Policy lays down the terms of data processing, the rights of the individuals whose data you’re going to process. This policy notifies how you collect information, what information you collect, what you do with the data or information, whether or not you sell it to any third parties, etc.

There are many requirements that an adequately drafted Privacy Policy must contain to not make you, the owner of the website, liable.
Moreover, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), there are many other clauses that a privacy policy must contain to fully protect you. If you want to learn about the CCPA and find out how it might affect you, then read my post here.

So one of the biggest legal mistakes that many bloggers can make is either not to have a privacy policy at all, or not to have a legally compliant privacy policy.

The fact of the matter is that if you’re not trained to know what to look for in a legal policy, what clauses must be there to protect you, then any policy you find off of the internet will sound right to you because they are heavy on legal gibberish.

Let’s bring a famous example from a movie that I am sure most of you have seen. I am talking about the movie Legally Blonde, where Reese Witherspoon’s character decided to attend Harvard Law School to get her boyfriend back.

Remember, there is a scene where she accompanies her manicurist friend to get her dog back from her ex-boyfriend. Do you remember that scene where she started using all these Latin words and phrases such as “subject matter jurisdiction,” “habeas corpus,” “equitable division of property,” and others? She did not make sense!

Sure, those are actual legal terms, but what she said, the context she said it in, did not make sense. The same is true for legal policies you find online.

They are filled with legalese and phrases that sound right; however, in reality, they are not. You must be sure that your Privacy Policy touches upon essential clauses such as data information, processing information. It must also address the individual’s rights concerning their own data, what they can do, how they can make requests, how they can get in touch with you, and more.

Does your Privacy Policy address Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) or explain what will happen if a child accesses your website, etc.
All of these are important and mandatory clauses that a Privacy Policy must contain. Moreover, what’s stated above is not the complete picture. There are many other sections that you must have in your policy.

When I started blogging about the legal aspects of blogging and entrepreneurship, I quickly realized that there was a need for easy and affordable legal policies and contracts that bloggers could use.

Don’t test your luck and stop going after free policies. This is your business. You must invest in some things, and properly drafted legal policies are one of those things. Get your Privacy Policy template.

Here is a better deal for you-you can now get all the necessary and recommended website policies in one affordable bundle.

Legal Mistake #2-They Don’t Have a Disclaimer Policy With Proper Disclosures

If you’ve been blogging for any period of time, then you most likely heard the terms disclaimer, affiliate disclosures, and more. This is because a well-drafted Disclaimer Policy that also contains all the necessary disclosures in it is the most important policy to have on your site to protect you from liability.

First, a disclaimer policy serves to provide notice to other people on several matters such as professional disclaimer, earnings disclaimer, medical disclaimer, general disclaimer, etc.

Second, a Disclaimer Policy provides notice so that you’re “off the hook” if something doesn’t go the way your readers or visitors want.
A Disclaimer Policy must also include disclosures in it, such as affiliate disclosures and sponsorship disclosures if necessary.

 

DISCLAIMERS

It’s important to know that not every single disclaimer will be necessary for everyone. The types of disclaimers you need will be dependent on what you blog or talk about on your website.

For example, I am an attorney, and I blog about legal topics most of the time. This means I have to have a legal disclaimer in place to absolve me from liability. If you’re a medical or health professional, you will need to have a medical disclaimer in place to absolve you from liability

What does this mean, and what does this disclaimer look like?

Well, simply put, you have to let people know that what you talk about is not advice (in your field) and should never be considered advice. You provide information, and your posts are for educational or informational purposes only. If your reader needs specific advice regarding their particular issues, they should consult a professional in that field in their area.

The language may vary a little bit; the phrasing can be different. However, that’s the gist of it.

One of the most critical disclaimers to have in your contract is the results disclaimer, also referred to as earnings disclaimers or guarantee disclaimer. This is extremely important because, with this disclaimer, you’re telling your audience that not everyone will get the same results, or earn the same amount of money you did. That actual income and results are dependent on many different factors.

Why is this important?

Well, let’s say you created an online course (or a blog post), and you tell people that this course covers the exact steps that you followed to make $15K in 5 days. This sounds very enticing, and many bloggers or entrepreneurs just getting started will love the idea of making $15K in 5 days. So they invest in your course, but they don’t make anything close to that amount.

Some of those people who got your course might come back to sue you for promising that they’ll make $15K. This is the exact situation for which you need the disclaimer in place to warn and put them on notice that you’re not guaranteeing that they will make that amount.

 

DISCLOSURES

Disclosures are when you disclose something to the people reading from your site, visiting your site, or buying from your site. Disclosures are about transparency. You cannot hide material facts from your audience.

For example, one of the most important disclosures is the affiliate disclosure. This means that if you’re recommending a product or service on your website, then you must disclose whether or not you stand to gain any monetary benefit. If you’re an affiliate for that product or company, then you have to be transparent and let your audience know.

This transparency requirement is part of the Federal Trade Commission or FTC guidelines. FTC is very active and is not scared of suing businesses (big and small) if they are not compliant.

An affiliate disclosure will look something like this:

[Your website name or URL] is an affiliate for [the business or company name], and we will get compensation at no cost to you if your purchase with our links.

Some programs have specific languages that they require you to use word for word. One of those programs is the Amazon Associates program. You need to use the language that Amazon wants you to. Otherwise, they will consider you non-compliant with their terms and will terminate your Associate account with them.

Click here to get an attorney-drafted Disclaimer Policy to grow your business in peace knowing you’re protected.

 

Legal Mistake #3-Some Bloggers Don’t Have a Terms of Use Policy

The third website policy-related legal mistake that bloggers make is to forget about the Terms of Use Policy, also known as Terms and Conditions.
Terms of Use is not a mandatory policy to have, unlike a Privacy Policy or the Disclaimer. However, a Terms of Use Policy is essential, and I highly recommend you get one if you don’t have it.

A Terms of Use Policy is a legally binding policy or contract between you and your users, and your users must agree to the terms if they want to use your site. Most Terms of Use Policies state that if the user does not agree with the terms stated, then they should close it and exit out of your website. However, if they continue to use your website, then it’s assumed that they agree to your terms.

So why is this particular policy so important? Because this is where you lay down your rules. This is where you tell your audience what they are allowed to do on your site or with your resources, and what they are not allowed to do.

Moreover, and most importantly, your Terms of Use Policy is where you state and establish your Intellectual Property rights. As a blogger, your content and resources hold value. This is how you generate traffic, earn income, and have your business overall.

You own the copyright to your content, whether it’s your blog posts, emails, images (if you take them yourself). Therefore, you need to clearly state all of this in your Terms of Use Policy.

The purpose of the Terms of Use Policy is twofold: 1) you clearly state the rules for using your site and therefore can hold others liable or even get compensation if they breach your rules; and 2) you put others on notice that you own the entire intellectual property on your site, such as copyright and trademark.

Your Terms of Use Policy should address what action you will take if someone uses your content without your permission. This is the situation of copyright infringement. You need to state that you will take action, including legal action, if necessary.

So if all this sounds like it’s important, you’re absolutely right. Get your Terms of Use Policy and become the master of your website.

 

As stated above, legal policies are no joke. It’s a necessary part of doing business, and you should treat it as such.

Even though you might get lucky and not get caught or sued without the proper policies, it’s still not good enough reason to not have them. Most, if not all, affiliate programs and ad networks will not work with you if you don’t have the required policies in place.

Above I provided you with an easy and affordable option to get your policies and be at peace once and for all. Take advantage of the products, make your website legally compliant, and start concentrating on growing and thriving your business.

 

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Mariam Tsaturyan is a licensed and practicing attorney in the United States. For family reasons, she had to close her office and become a stay-at-home mom for her little one. After a while, she started blogging to keep busy, but it soon turned into an actual career. Now Mariam uses her skills and knowledge as an attorney to help other bloggers and online entrepreneurs to become and stay legally compliant, have all the necessary policies and contracts in place, and scale their businesses the legal way. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have used Mariam’s services, either by buying legal policies or booking a 1-on-1 session. Either way, Mariam’s purpose is to help others thrive in their businesses, all the while knowing that they are legally protected.

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