6 Important Legal Issues Bloggers Need to be Aware of
Whether you write about your financial services or your travel destinations, you want current and potential clients or followers to find your website, get all the info they need and choose you over your competitors.
Regardless of the size of your audience or the type of information your website provides, you need to stay informed if you want to avoid legal issues for bloggers.
What you say online can be used against you!
Here are 6 ways bloggers can stay on the right side of the law:
1. Disclose any material relationship with a brand or advertiser.
Don’t pretend that you’re not being paid to write a branded post or talk about a new product.
Some examples of products or services you should disclose in a related article include:
• Free tickets to a game or concert
• Products or services you’ve been asked to review
• Gifts from companies
In addition to helping you blog without breaking the law, disclosure also help you build and maintain trust with your audience – it makes good sense all around.
2. Avoid making promises.
You’re bound by law to talk about what people can generally expect rather than to make outrageous claims. You can’t tell people they’re going to lose 10 pounds overnight by drinking a brand’s tea or look 15 years younger by using a special cream.
It doesn’t work to put a “results not typical” disclaimer in the fine print, either. In most cases the company will be the defendant of a consumer-driven class-action suit, but you could still be singled out by unhappy clients or even named in a lawsuit.
3. Understand copyright laws.
These protect the original creator of a work – from text and images to audio clips. Many bloggers have gotten in big trouble for using content on blogs that they didn’t create and didn’t ask permission to use.
Your best bet when it comes to finding images, audio and video content is to look for sources that provide royalty-free licensed works or works licensed with Creative Commons licenses.
4. Know the specific laws around your business.
For example, if you’re an attorney, it’s essential to know that from a legal standpoint, giving advice online is considered practicing of law.
Only a licensed attorney may give legal advice, and he or she must have formed an attorney-client relationship with whomever they’re giving it to. You’ll need to give your website visitors information that solves their problems without it coming across as legal advice.
5. Respect privacy.
If you’re going to send an email newsletter, make sure you ask people before sending them anything. Also, give them a way to opt-out on every email. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) and the UK’s GDPR makes it the law to do so or potentially face financial consequences.
6. Watch what you say.
Many site owners write content around their personal experiences and opinions. However, if you publish untrue information about anyone or anything that could negatively affect a reputation publicly, you could be sued for libel.
If you don’t have concrete proof that the negative info you’re publishing is 100% true, don’t publish it.
Ignorance isn’t a viable defense when it comes to legal issues for bloggers. No matter what your area of expertise is, it’s your responsibility to learn and follow the rules in order to blog without breaking the law.