Just because you own your own blog and you are the ‘ultimate keyboard warrior’ remember if you are a resident of the United States – or anywhere for that matter – there are sets of laws that you need to be aware of. Not understanding them or simply ignoring them is no excuse when it comes time for court, so before you get into litigation proceedings, understand the do’s and don’ts in the eyes of the law when it comes to your blog.
1. Copyright laws
When new content of any kind is created and published, the original author or artist owns the rights – be it in print, song or online. If you are repurposing, creating or using their work in any way, shape or form, then you need permission to do so – otherwise, you are infringing on their copyright. There are examples, such as Shutterstock that provide you images with a one-off fee that you can then publish it. So, should you have any questions, it’s always better to ask the original creator before you end up on the wrong side of the law.
2. Laws related to paid endorsements and material connections
If you are publishing paid endorsements or material, then the FTC requires you to act within the Code of Federal Regulations. In terms of your responsibilities within the CFR, check out the link to ensure you are doing the right thing, disclosing the right information to ensure you are not in breach.
3. Trademark laws
Before you start, ensure you are not using someone else’s name. If you use a trademark of someone else’s company, such as setting up a blog titled “Just Do It”, you could see some pretty heavy legal letters coming your way from a little company called Nike. Big or small, if you impinge on a trademark in any way, you will need to stop what you are doing and more than likely hand over anything you have done under that name to the owner – as you are breaching federal laws. This could include your blog, website, URL, social media accounts, marketing materials despite the costs to you – it’s serious business.
4. Libel laws
Defamation laws protect people from being the victims of false or damaging claims about a person that are published with malicious intent and result in negligence. Written defamation is libel, and if you’re found to have published false or misleading content about another person or content that harms the other person’s reputation, you could be sued for libel.
If you misrepresent someone or make claims that are false or misleading you may be in breach of Defamation laws. Although you are entitled to Free Speech under the constitution, you are not entitled to make claims about someone, if they are false. This could see you sued for liable and out of business. So be careful who you rip into and where your facts come from before you publish.
5. Email marketing laws
In recent years, email marketing has become one of the most effective and efficient marketing tools as it is cost-effective, simple and quick. However, people’s privacy has been called into question, especially when receiving unsolicited emails from third parties.
If people have opted in, then they want to receive your correspondence, however, if you are buying lists’ and contact people on them, signing them up to your MailChimp account without permission, you could be breaching the CAN-SPAM Act. Just ensure you list is filled with people who opt-in, not people who you simply add to increase numbers.
6. Privacy law
The protection of any and all private information of your visitors and/or clients is your responsibility. If you have databases that are hacked, shared or lost, then you have a duty to keep it secure or face potential fines or prosecution. The key is to ensure you store is safe, you don’t share it and you only use the information they provide, for the purpose they provided it – such as shipping information or birthdays.
7. Income tax regulations
If you get an income, you need to declare it, from anywhere and online is no exception. With the rise of the ‘gig economy’ and Freelancers, it has become harder for the IRS to detect the small operators. However, one thing you know about the IRS is eventually they will get you. Ensure that you a speaking to a tax professional and running your business by the letter of the Tax law or you could be caught out sooner than you think.