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What legal issues should bloggers be aware of?

Whatever a blogger says online can be used against them. Here are some ways bloggers can stay on the right side of the law.

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Whether you write about your financial services or your travel destinations, you want current and potential clients or followers to find your website, get all the info they need and choose you over your competitors.

Regardless of the size of your audience or the type of information your website provides, you need to stay informed if you want to avoid legal issues for bloggers.

What you say online can be used against you!

Here are six ways bloggers can stay on the right side of the law:

1. Disclose any material relationship with a brand or advertiser.

Don’t pretend that you’re not being paid to write a branded post or talk about a new product.

Some examples of products or services you should disclose in a related article include:

  • Free tickets to a game or concert

  • Products or services you’ve been asked to review

  • Gifts from companies

In addition to helping you blog without breaking the law, disclosure also help you build and maintain trust with your audience — it makes good sense all around.

2. Avoid making promises.

You’re bound by law to talk about what people can generally expect rather than to make outrageous claims. You can’t tell people they’re going to lose 10 pounds overnight by drinking a brand’s tea or look 15 years younger by using a special cream.

It doesn’t work to put a “results not typical” disclaimer in the fine print, either. In most cases, the company will be the defendant of a consumer-driven class-action suit, but you could still be singled out by unhappy clients or even named in a lawsuit.

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3. Understand copyright laws.

These protect the original creator of a work — from text and images to audio clips. Many bloggers have gotten in big trouble for using content on blogs that they didn’t create and didn’t ask permission to use.

Bloggers should be aware and have an understanding of copyright laws. (Photo by DepositPhotos)

Your best bet when it comes to finding images, audio, and video content is to look for sources that provide royalty-free licensed works or works licensed with Creative Commons licenses.

4. Know the specific laws around your business.

For example, if you’re an attorney, it’s essential to know that from a legal standpoint, giving advice online is considered practicing of law.

Only a licensed attorney may give legal advice, and he or she must have formed an attorney-client relationship with whomever they’re giving it to. You’ll need to give your website visitors information that solves their problems without it coming across as legal advice.

5. Respect privacy.

You’re not allowed to capture private information about visitors and share or sell that info to a third party unless you have permission. If you do collect data about your audience in any way, you need to let them know in your Privacy Policy.

If you’re going to send an email newsletter, make sure you ask people before sending them anything. Also, give them a way to opt-out on every email. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) and the UK’s GDPR makes it the law to do so or potentially face financial consequences.

6. Watch what you say.

Many site owners write content around their personal experiences and opinions. However, if you publish untrue information about anyone or anything that could negatively affect a reputation publicly, you could be sued for libel.

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If you don’t have concrete proof that the negative info you’re publishing is 100 percent true, don’t publish it.

Ignorance isn’t a viable defense when it comes to legal issues for bloggers. No matter what your area of expertise is, it’s your responsibility to learn and follow the rules in order to blog without breaking the law.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence. As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

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