How to Legally Protect Your Blog from Lawsuits and Content Theft

If you have been following along on my series on how to create a blog, you have come a long way, my friend. So far you have learned how to sign up for webhosting, installed WordPress, created a blog post and graphics for your blog, and have learned about marketing your blog and SEO. Now it’s time to learn how to keep your legally protect your blog from both liability and theft.

Protect Your Blog

I have had my fair share of jobs that involve strict adherence to laws and regulations. I have performed contract work for the federal government, worked for a large mortgage company, and worked as a technical writer in manufacturing.

What have all of these positions taught me? You have to protect your assets! You have to be up front with people and explain to them the consequences of their actions, even if you think it is obvious. But it’s much more than that; You have to be able to PROVE that you were up-front with them, just in case.

In Case of What?

You can be held liable for a number of reasons. A reader could potentially do something after reading your blog that causes physical injury. They may suffer from financial losses from a product you recommend. The possibilities are endless.

The fact is, you will be held responsible for their actions. It’s a reality for small businesses. Just because you exist as a virtual business does not mean you are exempt from liabilities and lawsuits. You need to protect your blog from potential damages, regardless of how silly they may seem.

What Do You Have to Do to Protect Your Blog?

The answer to this is pretty simple. You need to behave ethically and provide documentation so there is no possibility for confusion. Provide your readers something, in writing, to cover any potential legal issues. You may ask, what does this have to do with blogging? The short answer is everything!

You may have started a blog as a hobby, but it has evolved into a side income. That means you are now operating a business. As a business owner, you are responsible for keeping your readers (aka customers) informed of their rights, as well as your own.

The best way to do that is to create several statements and make them easily accessible and visible from every page of your blog. In this post, I will review these statements, as well as some other legal liabilities you should also consider.

protect your blog

Protecting Your Content

In a perfect world, when you write something, no one would steal those words and use them as their own. Our world is not perfect. People will steal your material, which is copyrighted from the moment it is published. They may even try to pass it off as their own.

No, this is not cool. You have worked hours to craft that content and someone takes credit for it? Yeah, you should be angry. The good news is that if you plan ahead, you can save yourself a lot of stress when filing complaints. It this happens, creating a permission statement before any problems arise will be worth its weight in gold.

Write a Permission Statement

A permission, or terms of use statement, will protect your blog and its content. Anyone who visits your website will have access to this statement which lets them know how they can use your content. It informs the visitor that all of the content, including written content, photographs, and media on your website belongs to you.

You also need to outline your terms of use to include how others are allowed to cite your work. Peg Fitspatrick has been through several situations where her content was taken by other writers. She specifies how much of her content can be used and lays out specifics for its use in her legal statement.

It is an excellent example of the things that you should consider in your own permission statement. Be sure to include your graphics, logo, content, and all other portions of your blog within your permission statement. If you are in doubt about whether to include something, include it just to be safe.

Write a Legal Disclaimer

If you are affiliated with any organizations and are compensated for affiliate links or other promotions, let your readers know. You are running a legitimate business, so it is important to be transparent with your audience.

Jackie of Jade & Oak is a blogger and attorney who offers some awesome legal advice for bloggers on her blog about this type of a disclaimer. I highly recommend that you read her post and use it as a bases for creating your own disclaimer.

Privacy Policy

If you have an email list, track your analytics, or use cookies to collect any information, a privacy policy is a must. It has a few advantages. It lets your readers know that your website uses cookies to obtain information and informs the reader how this information will be used.

You need to ensure your email list that you won’t spam them and will only provide them with the emails they have requested. Also, inform your readers that the cookies on your website are used to help create better content for your readers and that you are not sharing that information.

This will go a long way to reassuring your readers that you are the real deal and not some scam artist trying to make a buck with their info. It will also protect your blog from any allegations that you misused reader’s information.

protect your blog

Other Considerations

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

If you use any content from another website or individual, you must have permission or link back to their original post. When you do use content or graphics, use them within reason. Don’t use large amounts of text and expect the copyright owner to be okay with a small link somewhere in the text.

If in doubt, contact the copyright owner. Ask for permission and explain how you wish to use their work. Most will be okay, and even pleased, that you are using their content. If the copyright owner says no, simply avoid using it.

Remember; When in doubt, don’t use it. There is no sense in risking the loss of all of your hard work for one piece of content. If you violate copyright, you risk being asked to remove the content (aka a cease and desist) or your webhosting service may remove the post or your entire website.

Your Newsletter and Emails

Almost every website has a newsletter or some form of email list that you can sign up for. This is a great way to market your blog posts and communicate with your readers directly on a regular basis.

Emails, however, require certain legal consideration to protect your blog. In a guest post from Jackie of Jade & Oak on Gemma Bonham-Carter’s blog, she mentions that you should always include a PO Box or physical address for your email communications as well as an opt-out feature.

The good news is that most email services include this in their templates, although you can remove them. One of the reasons I love MailerLite is that it saves my info for this section, which makes this part of my email marketing a breeze.

This is yet another reason why I love their service and joined their affiliate program. I absolutely love and stand by their service.

Use Copyright Free Stock Photography

Don’t go onto Google Images and download any image you like and use it on your blog. Most of those images are copyrighted and you can’t use them without permission. If you have done this in the past, don’t worry too much about it. Try to remove as many of those images as soon as possible to protect your blog.

Going forward, only use stock images that are free of copyright. Note that you may have to provide a caption to credit the source on some of these stock images.

Where to Obtain Stock Images

I am going to mention a few companies that I have no affiliation with in this section. They are simply well-known companies you may use for high quality stock photography.

I personally use Pixabay for free, high quality stock images. Their images are completely free and rely on volunteers to submit images others can use free of copyright. These images do not require any citation, making them easy to use for bloggers.

Paid websites such as Shutterstock also provide copyright free images. The benefits of using a paid site are that your images will not be as common and you will have many more, professionally styled options. Canva, a free photo editor, also sells copy right free images. Their images are very inexpensive (usually around $1) and are great for the new blogger who doesn’t want to shell out a ton of cash.

Prioritize Your Blog’s Legal Protection

It is important to protect your blog by writing legal statements that will make your intentions and responsibilities clear. Disclosures will protect you in the case of stolen content and if anyone ever tries to sue you for damages. Therefore, these short disclosures should be a priority on your blog.

Provide links to these disclaimers on every page of your blog. You need your readers to have quick and easy access to these disclosures. It will help to rule out any possibility that your readers were not informed, should there be a legal problem in the future.

Once you have these forms active, go back to older posts and link to these forms whenever appropriate. This will help create additional awareness of your policies and clarification.

A Penny for your Thoughts?

If you have any suggestions about how to protect your blog, in addition to the ones above, please leave those suggestions in the comments to share with others. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to sign up for the email list below or in the main menu at the top of the website.

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Thank you so much for reading!

Protect Your Blog

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