We’ve reached the final post in my Worth it Blogging Tasks series where I’m answering the question, “How should I spend my limited time as a blogger?” If you’re just joining us, you can get caught up here.
I’ll admit today’s topic is not very fun and it can be tempting to listen to your inner voice saying, “I’m just a small blogger, I don’t need to worry about legal protection.” But I’m here to tell you what you already know, you do need to worry about it.
The good news is that legal protection for bloggers is easy to implement when you understand exactly what you need. Plus, a lawsuit will be more time consuming and much more expensive than making the investment to do things right.
Three Areas of Legal Protection for Bloggers
1. Have a Terms and Conditions page and a Privacy Statement on your website.
Even if you don’t make money from your blog, even if you only have 50 visitors a month – you need Terms and Conditions and a Privacy Statement on your website. It’s the law friends.
When I first started blogging, I pieced together these items from bits of information and examples I found around the internet. But then the GDPR sent the blogging world (really the whole internet) into a frenzy by passing new regulations about what needs to be included on these pages if you get visitors from the European Union.
My pieced together legal pages were definitely not up to par, so I took the plunge and purchased legal templates from a lawyer. Now, I always recommend bloggers go this route when it comes to creating legal protection for their blogs.
The plug-and-play templates from The Contract Shop are what I recommend because they are strongly vetted and so easy to use. As the creator, Christina, says, “Download, fill in the blanks, & breathe a sigh of relief.”
Seriously, it’s that easy. The templates have all the official legal language you need, plus clear instructions for customizing them to your website.
Of course, the downside of buying templates is the cost. They are a bit pricey so you’ll want to weigh the cost vs. benefit. I am excited to see that The Contract Shop now has payment plans, which makes purchasing from them more doable.
Purchasing legal templates may be something you need to save up for, I totally get it! Do what you can for now and add them to your list of things to buy ASAP. Just don’t be without this legal protection for your blog.
2. Respect copyright laws.
Everything we create is covered by intellectual property rights, meaning you can’t come to my blog, copy a post and call it your own. That’s called copyright infringement and it’s illegal.
While that example seems pretty obvious, it’s the smaller things, like sharing quotes and graphics, that tend to confuse bloggers and lead to copyright infringement. So, I’m going to address the two areas I most commonly see unintentional copyright infringement.
Two ways bloggers can ensure legal protection when it comes to copyrighted material.
1. Check someone’s copyright policy before using their content.
Most people love when you quote a sentence or two from their blog, or share one of their graphics on social media, as long as you tell your readers where you got the content from. But it’s always a good idea to check their terms and conditions and read their copyright policy before sharing.
Some bloggers require not just a citation, but a link back to them. Others have rules about how much content and in which situations you may share their content. If in doubt, send them an email and ask for permission.
Here’s an example of my copyright policy
2. Know and cite the copyright information for the version of the Bible you quote on your blog.
Can I be honest? I was clueless about this when I first started blogging! I thought citing the Bible verse and version was enough, but it turns out each version of the Bible has its own copyright policy.
You’ll need to research the version(s) you use and make sure you’re following their guidelines.
Most likely, you’ll need to add the copyright information for each version you use to your terms and conditions page.
3. Understand image licensing.
Image licensing is the final area of legal protection for bloggers I want to cover. Just like published words, photos exclusively belong to the creator of the image, a.k.a the photographer.
Images on stock photo websites include a license (kind of like a copyright policy) telling you how the photo may be used and whether credit needs to be given to the photographer.
For example, some images can be used on your blog but not in a product you sell. Other images can be used in a product but only for a certain amount of copies. And some image licenses have no restrictions at all.
Free vs. Paid Photos
A quick note about free stock photo sites. DON’T USE THEM.
Unfortunately, some people add their photos to free stock photo sites, then take them down and search the internet for people using their image in order to sue them for copyright infringement. I wish I was making this up but this was a huge problem a few years ago.
There are other legal issues to consider when using “free” photos as well. I encourage you to read about them here.
The better route is to pay for your photos. For Christian bloggers, I recommend Christianpics.co. They have great faith and lifestyle photos and because their audience is ministries, they keep their membership price low.
If bright, light, flat lays and lifestyle or business photos are more your style, then I recommend Ivory Mix. Kayla uploads hundreds of new photos every month and you can download as many as you want when you join her stock photo membership. She also provides free photos if you join her email list, which is a great way to see if her style is good fit for you.
Get her free photos here.
Of course, there are tons of options out there, so do your research and find the photos that best fit your blog.
Best practices for using photos legally.
- Keep a copy of the licensing agreement.
- Organize your photos by where you downloaded them. Then you’ll know which photos belong to which license.
- Skip the hassle and save money by taking your own photos whenever possible.
Whew, I know that was a lot of information but hopefully, you learned that legal protection for bloggers isn’t as hard as it appears. If you tackle these three areas, you will be able to avoid the most common legal disputes.
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