Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 7 of my Blogging Basics series!
…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe
Last time I told you about what I’ve learnt about growing your blog. Today I give you a rather brief overview about steps and stuff you should consider to make your blog legal.
Sorry again for the delay. I had an incredibly busy week and this post took quite long to write up (I had to do some research, too! You just never stop learning :)).
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG LEGAL
Let’s talk legal stuff concerning your blog. It might be a bit frightening at first if you’ve never thought about it before, but it’s important to know and have thought about it.
I can tell you right away that I won’t go into too much detail, just because there is sooo much detail that one could write a book about it (ain’t nobody got time for that!). What I’ll do is telling you the most important things you should keep in mind (and find out more about).
The things we’re looking at today don’t necessarily have to apply to your own blog, so please don’t freak out if you feel a bit overwhelmed by all this information.
It’s just guidelines, some of them are definitely important, others may be optional. It’s up to you what you take on. Be critical and do some research to find out which steps you have to take to make your blog legal.
#1 Copyright your own blog.
Although it’s optional, this is important for everyone, whatever blog you have.
Before we get to the part where you have to make sure you are not infringing any copyright, we want to make sure no one infringes yours.
To prevent others from copying – stealing – your blog’s content, you first have to copyright it. It’s as simple as that.
You ask yourself why? Just have a look around and you’ll find thousands of stories of people copying whole articles or even blogs, stealing pictures or selling other’s free patterns online. Yes, there are people like this.
If you love your blog and care about blogging, hearing or even experiencing things like that are incredibly frustrating. That’s why you will probably want to make sure that your content stays your content and people respect your blog.
The least you can do about it is placing a copyright notice on your blog. You need to include a
copyright/all rights reserved/© + “your blog name” [optional] + “year of starting your blog”-“current year”
somewhere in your blog (e.g. footer, sidebar). You’ll find mine at the bottom of each page.
There are also copyright generators online, that’ll help you if you want to include the copyright note into your blog’s PHP. WebWeaver is a free tool for generating auto-updating copyrights (updating the current year automatically).
Obviously, having a copyright notice won’t prevent anyone from stealing your content if they really want to – but it gives you the legal basis to do something against it.
#2 Watermark your pictures.
Another important (and also optional) thing for copyrighting your content is watermarking your pictures – just to be on the safe side.
Pictures get shared pretty easily nowadays with Pinterest, Facebook and Co. Sometimes the original source gets lost on the way, because sadly not everyone cares about copyright (we do!). You never know where your pictures will end up. Even with copyrighted pages there have been incidents when others stole pictures and shamelessly claimed them to be their own.
To prevent that from happening, watermark your pictures with your blog’s logo, your URL or a “©yourname”. You can do that by using any image processing software like Photoshop or open source programs like Gimp. There is also free software online (e.g. picmonkey.com) which makes it really easy to add text to your images. I prefer the “©yourURL” because people will immediately see how to get to the original source.
#3 Avoid copyright infringement.
Of course, you wouldn’t steal someone else’s content intentionally. But accidental copyright infringement or plagiarism happens all the time. If you’re unlucky you could even get a law suit for this.
Always show sources of pictures that are not your own – and make sure you’ve found out if you’re allowed to share them! Sometimes people won’t allow you to include more than one picture of their article in yours. Whenever you’re not sure don’t be afraid to ask for permission. Most bloggers will be glad to be featured provided you reference them correctly!
You can do that for example by adding captions to your pictures naming the source or making the pictures a clickable link that leads to the original source. Better you do both.
Referencing pictures could look like this:
Naming the source is especially important when you include someone’s pictures that are not watermarked, so people wouldn’t be able to tell if it was yours or not. This could get you into trouble if this someone learns and cares about this. And frankly speaking, it’s only fair. Imagine you put all this time and effort into something and someone else uses it without giving credit.
The same applies for content in general. You always have to reference ideas that are not your own. Make sure you don’t copy too large a passage of an article. Even if referenced this could get you into trouble. Again, when not sure – ask for permission!
A referenced passage could look like this, if quoting directly:
“What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”
– Google Blogger Copyright Tips,
(find the whole article here)
I always try to include a link to the source. If you reference correctly, it’s not necessary – but again, it’s only fair. If someone quoted me or used my ideas, I’d want them to at least provide a link to my blog, wouldn’t you too?
More steps to make your blog legal
Ok, if you’re still reading – this was the most basic part. Now it gets worse. 🙂
Please do not freak out, some of this might not apply for you – but if it does, take your time to do some research. You don’t have to do all of this on the spot, but you should put it on your high priority list.
Here’s a helpful link to the EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers.
The ToS are meant to protect you, so it’s always better to have them. There a various different ToS, depending on the type of organisation/website/blog you are.
Here’s a good website providing some information on what should be included in your ToS.
Similar to letting your readers know about your ToS, you should be open about what information you collect from them, as well as what you do with that information.
Things like that have become incredibly important nowadays. Many people are concerned about their personal data and information being misused, sold, etc.
#6 Diclosure Policy.
A Diclosure Policy is needed when
– you’re running ads on your blog and thus make money through advertising
– you’re making money or receive free products from sponsored posts
– you’re getting any form of compensation through your blog.
If one of these things applies to you, you should get a diclosure policy. I’m doing none of these things yet, so I’m no expert on this topic, but there are many others that have written about it. Have a look around online to learn how to do this, what should be included, etc.
#7 Are giveaways legal?
To make it even more confusing, when you’re hosting giveaways, there are even more things to think about to make sure your giveaway isn’t an “illegal lottery”. Here are some helpful links to see what things and laws you should consider if you’re offering giveaways on your blog:
Don’t be scared and don’t panic if you’ve never thought about it before. Do think about it now. It’s always good to have some knowledge about things like that, even if you decide to go on considering it “just a hobby”.
In conclusion, …
Blogging has become very popular these days and it becomes harder and harder to draw a line between blogging as a hobby and blogging as business since people learnt that they can actually make money with it. Can a personal blog running ads be considered a proper business?
Since blogging is mostly seen as being “just a hobby” people are often not careful enough. I had a look around and was quite shocked seeing that not a single one of my favourite (and quite famous) blogs that I checked had a ToS or privacy/dislosure policy.
Especially when you make money with blogging or offering giveaways, it becomes more than a hobby. Take it seriously to avoid trouble. Even if nothing happens in 99% of all cases, you don’t want to be the 1% that gets into trouble.
Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!
And stay tuned…Part 8 of my Blogging Basics is coming up soon! It’s time to recap a bit and time for YOU to get active! x