Blogging Legal Points: 10 Essential Things To Remember
Most people think the Internet exists somewhere outside the realm of the real world and when they’re working online they don’t have to answer to any laws. Some people think they don’t even have to listen to their conscience but that’s fodder for another post. Contrary to popular opinion you can get yourself in a heap of legal trouble if you’re not careful. Here are 10 essential legal points for bloggers to keep you out of hot water.
Start thinking of your blog as a legal entity
The first thing you need to do is realize that your blog is a business and as such there are rules, regulations and laws you need to abide by. If you always have this line of thought in the back of your mind you’ll be less likely to do something wrong.
Read agreements carefully before signing
You’re going to be asked to “check the box to agree” over and over again. Make sure you read the page first and understand what you’re agreeing to. In most cases, that site you’re joining is doing everything it can to cover it’s own behind with that agreement, not yours.
Create legal policies for your blog
At the very least you should set up a Privacy Policies page so your readers know what you’re doing with cookies and email addresses and so forth. But if you have some sort of content sharing site then it’s also important to legally establish who owns the content, what type of content you’ll accept, how disputes will be resolved and who can change or remove the content. Regardless of what type of content you have on your blog, make sure you and your business are protected.
Protect your copyright
Unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous bloggers out there who feel no remorse about copying your article and posting it on their own site. Protect your copyright by displaying a copyright notice on each page of your blog. It also helps to set yourself up with a Google Plus account and claim ownership of all your online content. Then, when issues of plagiarism do come up, you can send a DMCA notice to Google and they’ll be able to see you were the original author and force the other site to remove your content.
Don’t infringe on others’ legal rights
Contrary to popular belief, every image that comes up on a Google Image search is not yours for the taking. It’s also illegal to copy another blogger’s article word for word. And while it’s not illegal to steal an idea, it’s also not ethical. Eventually your readers are going to catch you at it anyway. If you can’t come up with your own original content then you shouldn’t be blogging.
If you state something as fact it’s always a good idea to be able to back it up with a link to a reputable source. And if you can’t then you shouldn’t be stating it as fact. Misrepresenting facts can leave you open to fraud charges, not to mention the fact that you’ll lose credibility.
Blog on your own time
Blogging while you’re at work is a definite no-no. Your employer isn’t paying you to run your personal blog and that’s not why he bought a computer system for the office. Not only can you be fired, you could also pick up a virus while you’re blogging away and infect your whole office system.
Guard your identity online
Be aware that your name is on your blog somewhere and if someone wants to find it bad enough they can. If you don’t want your true identity out there in Cyberspace then take the appropriate steps to blog anonymously.
Make sure others know the rules
If you’re allowing other contributors on your blog make sure they all understand the rules and policies you have in place. In fact, it’s a good idea to set up a page and have them click one of those little agreement boxes, just like you do when you join other sites. Each time you update your policies have everyone sign another agreement.
Ignorance is no excuse
Just like in “real” life, ignorance of the laws is no excuse. You can say you didn’t know you weren’t allowed to use that image but that other blogger can still legally force you to take it down. Step over the line too many times and your entire blog can legally disappear.
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