Please note this is a guest post: Ever wondered what blogging mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars making you lose your sleep? The ones where you take the legal risks of getting sued or fined for not complying with the laws!
There are legal risks in every business and blogging is no different. After all, blogging is a business that you are building from home, so you must protect it legally.
As an experienced business lawyer and blogger myself, I’ve seen tons of blogging mistakes and most of them have to do with taking legal risks you could have easily avoided!
Before we get started, here’s my legal disclaimer:
Disclaimer: Although I am a lawyer by profession, I am not YOUR lawyer. This article is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.
So let’s get into the 5 blogging and legal mistakes you can avoid easily.
Please note this post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase through my link at no extra cost to you. Please see full disclosure here.
Everyone has heard about GDPR already.
It stands for General Data Protection Regulation and applies to you whether you are in the European Union or not.
GDPR is a data protection law that changes the way you collect, store and use personal information from others on your website. It allows people to have more control over how their personal data is used.
Personal information could be anything like your name, email address, credit card information, phone number, address, etc. The most common way you are collecting personal information is through your email opt in forms when someone subscribes to your email list.
For example, take a look at Google, YouTube, Facebook and other privacy lawsuits here. You will see all sorts of examples, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner blogger or a big company like Google.
The law applies to everyone equally and you risk getting sued if you are not complying with the laws.
Also, the GDPR violations are quite serious too. You could face serious hefty fines for not complying with it leading up to 20 million Euros or 4% of the annual revenue, whichever is greater.
It’s not worth taking these legal risks in business and losing your sleep.
It’s very easy with this template.
But what if you could have the same quality of legal pages for far less?
Blogging Mistake #2: Never Copy Anyone’s Blog Content or Images
The second blogging mistake I see is bloggers thinking it’s legal to copy other people’s content or images. It’s not!
That’s copyright infringement and you will get sued.
For example, I had a client who took someone’s image from Google, and he ended up paying $8,500 in damages to the copyright owner of that image! Ouch.
That’s a lot of money for one image, not to mention huge lawyer fees and tons of stress!
Another example, I know a popular YouTube influencer and blogger who got into legal trouble because he used someone’s music as background music in his videos. This is another huge blogging and legal mistake.
He ended up paying almost $14,000 in damages to the rightful copyright owner for this. This doesn’t even include thousands of lawyer fees he also had to pay.
Remember copyright violations are taken seriously.
Under copyright law, you have the legal right to control how you want others to use your content. You get copyright protection instantly for the work you create whether it’s a blog post, photo, music, etc. This means others can’t use your work without your permission.
That’s why I cringe when I see the following posted in some Facebook groups:
New Blogger asks this question in a FB group:
Some bloggers respond like this:
“Look at top bloggers in your niche and copy their legal pages or get a free legal template.”
This is such bad blogging advice! It’s so wrong and these kind of Facebook threads mislead bloggers thinking it’s okay to copy other people’s content when it’s clearly against the law.
So don’t be the one making this blogging mistake.
You can’t copy anyone’s legal pages or any other content without their permission.
When in doubt, always seek permission from the copyright owner to use their stuff and get that in writing to protect yourself.
Same thing with images, look for free stock photo websites that give you the license to use their images such as Pixabay, Unsplash, Pexels or invest into paid stock photos like Shutterstock instead of grabbing any image from the internet.
As a blogger, avoid the legal risk of violating copyright law and paying thousands of dollars in legal fees and damages.
I send cease and desist letters on behalf of my clients for copyright violations all the time. If someone steals or copies your content, feel free to grab my free cease and desist letter template here to send to the infringer.
Blogging Mistake #3: Not Having Affiliate Disclosures and Blog Disclaimers
The third blogging mistake I see is not having proper affiliate disclosures and blog disclaimers on your website.
If you are going to use affiliate links on your blog to make money (which most bloggers do!) then you must comply with the FTC’s legal requirements and give affiliate disclosures.
Otherwise you assume the legal risk of getting audited and fined by the FTC like these 90 Instagram influencers did.
You must give a proper affiliate disclosure in your blog posts and something like, “this post contains affiliate links.” is not legally sufficient.
It doesn’t tell the reader where to go to read your full affiliate disclosure policy.
So before you use the affiliate links, make sure to give an affiliate disclosure like:
“This post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase through my link at no extra cost to you. Please see full disclosure here.”
Then make sure to link to your disclosure/disclaimer page at the end. This is the legal page where you explain your affiliate relationships in detail and provide the proper disclaimers.
This is the second legal page you must have on your website! Add this legal page to the footer section of your website. It is included in this Legal Bundle.
Unlike affiliate disclosures, blog disclaimers are where you “disclaim” or “deny” legal liability for the content you publish.
For example, I‘m sure you don’t want to be legally held responsible for the affiliate products you recommend on your site, right?
This is why you must have an affiliate disclaimer on your website!
Depending on your blog’s niche, you will need different kinds of disclaimers on your website.
Another example, what if someone takes your blogging advice and suffers a negative consequence, do you want to be legally responsible for that? I think I know the answer.
Blog disclaimers protect you for the inaccuracies in your content and ensure that nobody takes everything you publish as actual “advice” and hold you accountable for it.
I’m sure you must have seen medical disclaimers on health blogs all the time telling you “not to take anything as health or medical advice but to consult a professional or doctor for your needs.”
This is another kind of disclaimer you must have if you are writing about medical or health care topics on your blog.
Since I’m a lawyer, I gave you my legal disclaimer at the beginning of this post to prevent legal liability. But if you are not a lawyer, you don’t need to include this disclaimer on your blog.
Similarly, if you publish income reports or testimonials to showcase results on your blog then you also need disclaimers for that.
Blog Disclaimer Template
The easiest way to ensure you have all the proper blog disclaimers on your site is through this Legal Bundle.
These are the legal pages Suzi trusts and uses on her website too.
Disclaimers are not easy to write because as I mentioned above, there are so many different kinds of disclaimers you may need depending on the content you are publishing. Also there’s lots of legalese and limitation of liability language that a well drafted disclaimer must have to protect you.
With this template, you get everything you need to ensure legal compliance with the FTC. You also get bonus disclaimers for sponsored posts because if you write sponsored posts or are planning to start in the future, then you need to have those disclaimers on your blog too.
Blogging Mistake #4: Not Having Terms and Conditions on Your Website
They dictate how others can use your website. Think of them as your website rules- what you allow or don’t allow.
For example, they protect your intellectual property rights to prevent copyright infringement. This is the third legal page where you outline how others can use your content.
Another example, if you sell a product whether a free or paid course or ebook, I’m sure you don’t want others to copy or steal your work. In your Terms and Conditions, you need to outline those legal rights letting people know they can download your course materials but can’t copy or sell them as their own.
So many times bloggers run into customer disputes over their products having to issue refunds and lose money. This legal issue could be easily avoided if you had proper terms and conditions on your website!
Also, if you get into legal trouble, where would you like to resolve that legal dispute? If you live in California, you don’t want to go to New York to fight the lawsuit.
These are all important legal considerations that you probably don’t think about but you should. This way, you avoid making legal mistakes that could cost you a fortune down the road.
Terms and Conditions Template
Just like the two legal pages we discussed above, your Terms and Conditions is also a legal page on your website. It’s super important and you don’t want to make a blogging mistake of having incorrect legal pages that don’t protect you legally.
If you haven’t noticed, a comprehensive terms and conditions template is already included as part of this Legal Bundle and it also comes with 3 awesome bonuses.
Discounted Legal Bundle For Your Website
A Legal Bundle like this is a very cost effective way to make your website legally compliant. You don’t compromise on the quality of your legal pages because these legal templates are professionally written by an experienced lawyer who also blogs just like you!
In 30 minutes or less, you get done with all 3 legal pages you must have on your blog and know that your blog is now legally protected. Plus you receive 9 bonuses worth $1,175 for free!
You can see what’s included in the Legal Bundle and watch what others have to say about here.
Blogging Mistake #5: Not Using Legal Contract Templates to Work with Others
As you may know, I work full-time as a business lawyer during the day and blog at nights and weekends. So I see bloggers and entrepreneurs making this legal mistake all the time where they don’t use proper legal contracts to work with others.
In other words, if you are going to work with someone in your business then you should always use a legal contract to protect yourself financially and legally.
And did you know it’s so easy to do that these days with legal contract templates written by a lawyer?
Just like paid legal templates, there are all kinds of affordable legal contract templates you can get from a lawyer to work with others.
Sponsored Posts Contract Template
For example, let’s say you are going to collaborate with a brand to create sponsored content for them such as writing sponsored posts, posting on Instagram, Twitter, creating videos, and getting paid for it.
Did you know you need to enter into a sponsored posts contract with them?
If you don’t then you take the legal risk of not getting paid (or not getting paid on time!). Just imagine spending weeks or days creating the best sponsored content and then not getting paid for it.
Also, who owns the legal rights to the sponsored content you create for the brand?
Did you know you have the option to retain those legal rights? There are so many legal issues you have to think about when it comes to writing sponsored posts and you also have to ensure legal compliance with the FTC requirements.
So don’t make the blogging mistake of working with brands without a lawyer written sponsored posts contract in place, especially when you can easily grab this template that covers everything you need!
Freelance Contract Template
Another example, let’s say you are a freelancer or virtual assistant looking to work with clients. As a freelancer, you would be working as an independent contractor and not an employee of the client that hires you.
This is so important for tax and legal purposes because your independent contractor status has a huge impact on how you will be taxed!
So both you and the client have some legal obligations to each other.
You both need a well written legal contract that clearly defines:
- the scope of work,
- payment terms,
- your independent contractor status
- ownership of intellectual property
- governing law
and much more!
Earlier this week, I had a client come into my office whose an online entrepreneur and blogger. He has his online shop where he sells physical products, so he hired a freelancer to help him with the business for a few months.
Things went south and the freelancer sued the entrepreneur for $40,000! He also learned all the business trade secrets of my client and shared it with his competitors.
When I asked my client to show me the legal contract they entered into to assess the gravity of the damage, guess what his response was?
He said he had nothing in writing!!
I have been seeing this blogging and legal mistake for years now.
Why do things have to get ugly and expensive for entrepreneurs to learn how important it is to protect their business legally?
Hopefully you won’t be that person making this blogging mistake!
All this pain and financial trouble could have been easily avoided with an affordable legal contract like this.
If you are a freelancer looking to get hired or if you are a client looking to hire a freelancer, make sure you both enter into a proper legal contract that protects you both.
Both the freelancer and the client need this freelance contract template to work with each other.
Protecting yourself and your online business legally is not hard or expensive. It’s easy if you take action in the beginning and do things the right way. But if you wait, then it might be too late and you’ll end up hiring a lawyer to represent you.
I’ve shared the 5 most common blogging mistakes and legal risks you can easily avoid without spending thousands to hire a lawyer.
These 3 legal pages are the bare minimum you need before you launch your blog.
Then once you start working with others, whether to collaborate on a sponsored posts project or to hire a freelancer to help you, you must remember to enter into legal contracts that clearly define those terms and relationships.
Did you find this post helpful? Are you making any of these blogging mistakes? Tell me in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to add cookies on my blog?
Short answer: It doesn’t hurt to add a cookie banner/popup to your website as an added insurance/security measure if you have visitors from the EU that you market to.
WordPress Cookie Plugins
You can use an easy plugin to ensure compliance (such as CookieBar, Cookie Consent, Cookie Notice, and others that you can search in WordPress). This is the easiest way to ensure compliance and that’s why you see tons of websites using these cookie banners.
Long answer: The EU’s Cookie Directive (also known as Cookie Law) is the reason behind these cookie banners/popups because it requires people in the EU and websites that specifically target the EU to include a cookie consent. This law has been in place before the GDPR and people in the EU have had to comply with this for a while.
The law is not always black and white and that’s why sometimes we don’t have clear directives. Here’s a helpful article on this topic with more info!
Amira Irfan is a business lawyer and six-figure blogger from Florida. She blogs at ASelfGuru.com where she teaches you how to protect your online business legally along with the business skills you need to become your own boss!
Grab your free business and legal checklist here.