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What Every Blogger Needs To Know About Blogging Legally

Legal Blogging
The Legal Side To Blogging Every Blogger Should Know

The world of blogging is complex. I think we can all agree on that.

Disclosure: This page contains some affiliate links . Please know that I may receive a percentage or commission from a link included on this page, at no cost to you. I will only recommend a product or service that I have used or believe has substantial value to my readers.    

If you are a new blogger, this may be the first you are hearing the concept “blogging legally.”

In which case you’re probably thinking,  “wait I’m just writing words and sharing content with the world. Why do I need to think about the law?”

Or, perhaps you are a seasoned blogger and you know the basics to blogging legally already.

Either way, new blogger or seasoned pro,  adhering to the law while you blog is a must and it’ s still important to stay on top of changes with the law as it applies to the blog-o-sphere.

Did you know?

You need to claim income earned through blogging if the minimum amount within a calendar year is $400 or more?

That’s right. You need to pay taxes on that income earned, just like you would pay taxes at any other job you have had.

So…where does one even know where to begin with all this legal stuff? Have no fear, I have sourced the internet far and wide to roundup the most important rules when it comes to blogging legally.

Guidelines:

As mentioned early on in this post, staying on top of ever changing laws as it adheres to blogging is crucial.  Claiming that you did not know the law is not an excuse for not abiding by the law.

One helpful place to check periodically is the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) page (here) regarding rules for online marketing, advertising and endorsements.

The FTC requires all blogs to include a disclosure statement if you are writing about a product or service that you received for free or that you were paid to write about, such as a sponsored post.

Additionally, if you are an affiliate for a company and you receive compensation for writing about that company, you need to disclose that.

A disclosure statement needs to be written clearly and concisely and not hidden.  Most bloggers choose to do this at the beginning of their post or at the bottom of the post. But just remember if you choose the bottom of your post, just make sure it still shows up on the same page. A disclosure statement does not count if it falls on page 2 of a blog and not on page 1.

Mine, as you can see at the beginning of this post reads like this:

Disclosure: This page contains some affiliate links . Please know that I may receive a percentage or commission from a link included on this page, at no cost to you. I will only recommend a product or service that I have used or believe has substantial value to my readers.    

Bottom line, If you are monetizing your blog, and you accept a form of payment in exchange for promoting a product or business, you will want to refer to the FTC guidelines to make sure you are compliant and will need to be clear about your disclosure.

Tax Tips:

Being a professional blogger is a fairly new profession. Whether you do this on the side while you continue to work a full-time job or blogging is your full time job, you will need to pay taxes.

TurboTax points out that “the main danger from a tax perspective is that, as a self-employed blogger, your taxes won’t be automatically withheld from your earnings, as is typical with traditional employees. Additionally, you’ll owe self-employment taxes that most employees don’t pay. However, you may be able to take advantage of certain deductions to reduce your tax bill.”

Pay Taxes Quarterly Not Annually:

One of the biggest differences with paying taxes as a self-employed small business blogger  is that you need to pay your taxes every quarter and not yearly.

The IRS has due dates of January 15th, April 15th, June 15th and September 15th.

For additional IRS guidelines check their website here: IRS.

Tax Deductions:

You are able to claim deductions as a small business blogger, which is pretty cool.

You can deduct costs associated with the upkeep of your blog such as website hosting fees, like bluehost or Siteground. (Affiliate). As well as blog website templates, design, and maintenance that you might purchase through your blogging platform such as WordPress (Affiliate).

For a comprehensive and through guide to understanding all items you can claim on a tax deduction please refer to the IRS website here.

Policies Your Website Needs To Have:

Every blog is required to have a Privacy Policy if you are collecting information from readers.

Even if the only thing you are gathering is emails for your blog’s newsletter, this counts. You need to state to your readers what your intention is with their email information after it is given to you. It is recommended that you include the privacy statement in the footer of the email newsletter as well as having it on your website.

Terms & Conditions:

Although it is not required by law that your website contain a Terms & Conditions statement, it is a good idea.

By stating to your readers who owns the intellectual property on your blog and how readers can or cannot use that content is important. Your content could include photos, templates, eBooks and articles. Basically anything on your website!

The terms and conditions statement is where you would list your copyright information.

Disclaimers:

Like Terms & Conditions, a Disclaimer is not a mandatory legal statement that is required to be on a blog.  It’s a good idea to place a disclaimer if you are writing about diet plans, legal issues, financial or medical topics. That’s because you don’t want to be liable if someone takes your blog post as expert advice.

Most bloggers will put their disclaimer statements at the end of their post. It can be simple and just a few sentences will suffice.

An few examples are:

“This information is attorney advising and does not establish attorney-client privilege, which is only formed when you have signed an engagement agreement.”

“You should consult your doctor or health care professional before starting this diet and fitness program to determine if it is right for you. You should not rely on this information to substitute as professional medical advice.”

Copyrights:

A copyright is not something your website must have by law, but it is another way to protect your hard work. By U.S. copyright law you own everything that you uniquely create. This includes your photographs, blog posts, eBooks, you get the idea.

A copyright is very easy to put in place. Every time you publish a post at the end you should include your copyright notice. The notice needs to contain the © symbol, the year the content was published an your name or company name.  If you do not want someone to copy your content you need to add the statement “All Rights Reserved” or “no reproduction without permission”.

It is not law to register your content with the U.S. Copyright office, but it is advisable. If you were ever in a situation where you were bringing on a law suit, your content must be registered.

Register your work here: www.copyright.gov

Image Usage:

When selecting images to use on your website remember that you can’t just copy a photo from someone else’s website and use it as your own if you haven’t gotten permission to use the photo from the owner. The owner of that photo may give you permission, and may even ask for compensation in exchange for you to use that image.

I think it is always best practice to use your own images. But there are so many wonderful stock photo options online where you can get images for free or pay a nominal fee.

Some of my favorite places are Canva.com, istockphoto.com and shutterstock.com

Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.