Blogging can be a great way to share your thoughts and expertise with the world, build a community, and earn money. However, there are certain legal risks associated with blogging, especially if you want to earn money from it. This makes it important to learn how to legally protect your blog.
👉 In this guide on how to legally protect your blog, I’ll share:
First, though, I need to do some legal protection work of my own with a disclaimer: I am not a legal professional. The content of this article is based on personal experience. It is meant to give you a place to start when seeking legal advice. It is not meant to replace professional legal advice. If you want to fully ensure that your blog is compliant with all relevant laws, please consult a lawyer in your region.
Legal do’s and don’ts
- Do provide disclaimers
- Don’t use copyrighted images without permission
- Do disclose sponsored posts and affiliate links
- Don’t violate someone’s trademark
- Do follow privacy and data laws
- Don’t run illegal lotteries
- Do register a business
- Do report all blogging income
1. Do provide disclaimers
Disclaimers tell readers how your content is meant to be used and, more importantly, how your content is not meant to be used. For example, at the beginning of this article, I shared a disclaimer stating that I’m not a lawyer and that this content is not meant to replace legal advice.
👉 There are three main situations where you’ll need a disclaimer:
- To state that information shared on your blog is the personal opinion of the author. This is especially important if you run a multi-author blog and don’t want to be held legally responsible for the opinions of other writers.
- If you’re sharing legal, financial, or medical information and you don’t have qualifications in the relevant field, your disclaimer should state that your articles aren’t meant to replace professional advice. For example, if you’re blogging about mental health, you might include a disclaimer that your article/blog is not meant to replace therapy or psychiatric treatment.
- If you’re sharing information from a dangerous experiment or activity that shouldn’t be replicated at home, you’ll want a disclaimer telling people not to attempt these activities without proper supervision and equipment. For example, if you’re running a fitness blog, you’ll need a disclaimer that people should seek help from a professional trainer and/or advice from their doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
In most instances, disclaimers are short and placed at the top of individual articles. However, if you post a lot of content that needs a disclaimer or you need several types of disclaimers, you may want to have a separate disclaimer page.
2. Don’t use copyrighted images without permission
One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is assuming that because they found an image online, they can use it. In most instances, however, images you find online, through tools like Google Search, are copyrighted. You can end up in legal trouble if you use them without permission. Doubly so, if you don’t provide credit for the image used.
Luckily, there are many sites where you can find images that are free to use for blog posts, such as images with a Creative Commons license. You can also use a tool like Canva to create your own images quickly.
3. Do disclose sponsored posts and affiliate links
Sponsored posts and affiliate links are great ways to make money blogging. However, there are certain best practices you need to follow to be legally safe when earning money this way. Specifically, you need to make it clear to the reader that you may (or will) earn money from the content they are reading.
Disclosures should state exactly how you’re making money from the content you’re publishing and be placed in an obvious location. If your primary method of making money is affiliate links, you may also want to create a separate disclosure page with more detailed information.
Along with laws around disclosure, you should also look closely at the affiliate programs you’re participating in to see if they have their own disclosure requirements. For example, Amazon Associates has its own rules about disclosure .
4. Don’t violate someone’s trademark
The next thing to consider in how to legally protect your blog is to pay attention to trademarks.
Many companies trademark their brand name or other key aspects of their branding. You can get in a lot of trouble if you encroach on that trademark in any way. Moreover, encroaching on a trademark doesn’t have to be using the exact same elements as an existing brand in the same way. Even having a similar brand can land you in trouble, especially if the company your brand is similar to is highly litigious.
The first step you can take to avoid violating another company’s trademark is to search the USPTO trademark database. However, this only tells you that the exact terms (or other elements) you’re searching for aren’t trademarked. To fully ensure that you don’t create something similar to a trademarked brand, you may want to consider working with a lawyer who specializes in trademark law.
5. Do follow privacy and data laws
One of the most important steps in how to legally protect your blog is to ensure that your blog is compliant with privacy and data laws. The most notable of these is the GDPR, a sweeping privacy law enacted in the EU in 2018. This legislation applies to all businesses, including those outside the EU.
👉 There are a few key things you need to do to be compliant with the GDPR:
- Add a Cookies bar to your website. This informs users about your usage of cookies and allows them to choose how much information your site collects. You can add this to a WordPress site with CookiePro.
- Use GDPR-compliant privacy policies and terms of service statements. You can find templates for these online, though it’s often best to work with a lawyer to create them, especially if you’re collecting sensitive data.
- Only add consenting users to your email list. One of the best ways to ensure this is through a double opt-in, where users are required to confirm that they’ve subscribed by clicking on a link in your welcome email.
- Put an address in your email newsletters. If you don’t have a business address, you’re willing to share, invest in a PO box so you don’t have to share your personal address.
- Make sure users know how you intend to use their data. Be as specific as possible. For example, if you’re collecting emails for a newsletter, tell users exactly what they can expect to receive from your newsletter.
For more information, check out this checklist for GDPR compliance.
6. Don’t run illegal lotteries
Running a raffle sounds like a great way to promote your business and maybe earn some money, right?
Not really, at least if you’re concerned about how to legally protect your blog. Many governments only allow nonprofits and charitable organizations to run these types of events, and it’s unlikely that your niche blog will qualify as being a charitable organization. Choosing to run one illegally can lead to massive fines and other legal penalties if you get caught.
Moreover, these rules are often decided by state or provincial governments rather than federal governments, so you have to look up the rules in your specific location. If you’re in the US, you can check out this breakdown of raffle laws by state.
7. Do register a business
If you plan to make money from your blog, your blog will be considered a business. In most places, that means you’ll need to register it as a business. In addition, you’ll have to complete all the associated paperwork and pay any related fees.
Luckily, you should be able to find out what your local requirements are with a quick Google search. You can even register your business online in many places.
8. Do report all blogging income
Taxes are an essential thing to consider when learning how to legally protect your blog. This means reporting all income earned through your blog, irrespective of the source. Whether it’s through sponsored posts, affiliate links, advertisements, or any other method, you need to report it.
How and when you need to report your income varies from region to region and on your citizenship. So, be sure to look up your local laws. You should also consider working with an accountant or a licensed tax professional to make sure you’re reporting everything correctly.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of how to legally protect your blog, let’s take a look at the legal pages you’ll need to stay compliant with your local laws.
2. Disclosure statement
One of the most important steps in how to legally protect your blog is to create a disclosure page.
A disclosure statement informs users about any financial relationships you have with companies you recommend. This page is also sometimes referred to as a disclaimer page, but for the purposes of this article, we’ve separated these two pages.
👉 There are three things you need to state in your disclosure statement:
- What your relationship with these companies is/how you make money from them
- That these financial relationships do not affect your opinion of the products/services you’re recommending on your blog
- That the views expressed on your blog are solely your own and should not be seen as the views of the companies you work with
As we’ve already discussed, many affiliate programs have their own disclosure statements that you can put directly on your website. You can also find blog disclosure templates online . However, for full legal protection, you’ll likely want to consult a lawyer for help in drafting this document.
A disclaimer page ensures that you won’t be held liable for people using the information shared on your blog in a specific way. This page includes more detailed information than the disclaimers you include with a specific article, making sure that you’re more fully protected.
👉 Your disclaimer page should state:
- That blog posts, and also blog comments, are solely based on the opinions of their authors
- That your blog is accurate to the best of your knowledge, but may have information gaps due to your limitations as a human being
- That your blog should not be used to replace professional advice, especially legal, medical, or financial advice
- That you reserve the right to change how you manage the information on your blog at any time
There are also other types of disclaimers you may want to consider based on the types of content you share. For example, if your blog offers advice or strategies for achieving specific outcomes (e.g., weight loss, career success), then you’ll want to include a “results disclaimer.” As the name suggests, this disclaimer will notify your site visitors that individual results may vary and that the information provided is not a guarantee of achieving similar results.
4. Terms of service
The final thing I want to talk about in this guide on how to legally protect your blog is adding terms of service. This page is also sometimes referred to as the “terms and conditions” page on your blog. It details how your content and any products/services you own can be used.
👉 Terms of service pages can include a variety of things depending on the type of content you publish, but there are some basics that should always be included:
- The date on which these terms take effect
- The legal jurisdiction your blog falls under
- Contact information
- Liability limitation and disclaimer clauses
- Rules of conduct
- User restrictions
- Information on why accounts can be terminated
If you plan to sell services or products through your blog, you’ll also need to include information regarding payments, returns and exchanges, and delivery and shipping details.
You can use an online terms and conditions generator, but this is one place where you’ll often want to hire a lawyer . This is especially true if you’re selling products or services directly.
Final thoughts on how to legally protect your blog ⚖️
Setting up a blog is easy, but it can also expose you to serious legal trouble if you don’t take the proper precautions. Make sure you follow the steps listed in this article to protect yourself. If you have any concerns or questions, be prepared to hire a lawyer for professional advice.
Now that you have a good overview of how to legally protect your blog, you should think about other key aspects of starting a blog. One of those is choosing the proper font pairings to make your content resonate better with your target audience. For help with that, check out our rundown of the best fonts for blogs.