Being a blogger can get complicated as you start to grow and maybe you start to look at expanding your services. Blogging has evolved now and when bloggers start to build a brand presence they tend to wander into new unfamiliar areas.

Think about it this way, you start off just by blogging and creating content but then you start growing. So you look at how you can monetise that content, you sell a service, you start creating merchandise, you use Mailchimp to distribute newsletters.

So suddenly things can start getting a bit more complicated, especially if you find that you have a domain name hosted with a service such as Bluehost in the United States. Your website content hosted with a local provider, you use Mailchimp which is based in Georgia and then you have marketing and advertising, a hosted online store which ships merchandise from Asia and so on.

It ends up being a wide spread and you need to be familiar with what the legal aspect of what you are doing because very quickly you can go from blogger to business person. You transition from being just a blogger online to selling a service or merchandise and there is red tape that goes along with all that.

*Important Note: This post is guidance regarding what legal matters you should be familiar with. If something arises of a legal nature then you should seek legal advice from a solicitor.*

Is This Complicated?

Honestly, it all sounds a bit daunting but it is important. No it is not complicated and the good news is that once you are familiar with a few key legal matters then you will be able to keep yourself safe when it comes to the law.

There are also a few things you can do to make sure you have the best protection over your content. In an ideal world, none of us will ever have to experience a legal battle over things like blogs or websites, however they can and they do happen.

Consumer Protection

When you start selling something through your blog or website, be it a membership, a physical product or a service then you are legally obliged to comply with consumer protection laws.

Consumer protection laws will cover issues such as misleading or deceptive advertising, refund policies, timely delivery of products and services ect. There are international treaties about consumer protection laws and you need to be familiar with the consumer protection laws where you live.

Make sure that no matter what you are selling, and no matter what price you sell at, you are complying with the consumer protection law. A trap that people can fall into particularly when they start transitioning from blogger to business is that they think to themselves – ‘well it is not as if I am charging too much anyway, I’m just starting by selling cheap stuff on the side’.

Wrong. Once you start selling something to someone, no matter how cheap or expensive it may be, you are bound by consumer protection laws and you must comply with them. Selling cheap things on the side does not make you exempt.

If you are selling in a foreign country then you need to be familiar with their consumer protection laws as well. They may be different from the laws in the country you are living in.

Protecting Your Content

This is one which hurts a lot of people because they work so hard hustling and creating their content, so naturally if someone comes along and steals their hard work and reposts that content to their own website and claims credit it can be upsetting.

Start by copyright protecting your blog, a simply copyright in the footer is sufficient and you may also consider a terms of use if you wish. It is also important to note that you are protected by copyright law regardless of whether the notification is in the footer or not. Terms of use will give you a chance to set the engagement with the reader and is no different from large companies who get you to tick a box agreeing to the rules before you can use their service.

The sad reality is that there is little you can do if someone steals you content and refuses to give you credit. If you notice someone stealing your work you can email them, ask them to take the content down and tell them what they are doing is copyright infringement.

That will more often than not get people to take down the content and they will probably apologise. However if you are dealing with someone who doesn’t care then you will have to consider pursuing legal action.

Fact of the matter is that taking legal action for copyright infringement issues is a difficult case to win and can be quite expensive to do.

How you approach copyright is up to you. I have had people copy my blog posts and I have found them on other websites online without any mention of my name or a link to my site. I really don’t care if people steal my content, I’m way too busy and I just have more important things to be concerned with.

Typically I just drop them an email and ask them to mention my name as credit on their website, I even tell them they don’t have to link back to the original if they don’t want to. What you choose to do however is up to you and I do completely understand people who get upset when they see their work ripped and posted somewhere else.

 Using Images For Your Content

Images have blown up with the rise of social media. Content which has an image attached gets more than twice the amount of attention and interaction as opposed to content which is just text. So images are important, and you guessed it, there are laws over copyright when it comes to using images.

Can you use any image on your blog? Simple answer here is “no” because you do not have permission to use any image you please. The concern is that you may use an image and inadvertently try pass it off as your own. Here are the solutions.

– Link the the owner: You can link the image back to the original owner, be careful though. This is not sufficient in many cases.
– Use stock royalty free images: There are plenty of websites now which offer up copyright royalty free images now for personal and commercial use. Pexels is our favourite at the moment and you can check our more on the link below. {link}
– Use your own images: If you take photos yourself and use them you are completely safe as you own the image.

Registering As A Business

Once you start taking money off people for a product or service you have stepped from blogger to business owner, like it or not.

No matter how much you sell or how often you make a sale, you need to make sure that if you are doing business online through a blog that you register with the CRO (companies registration office). You need to register a business if you are trading under a name other than your own. 

Don’t worry, the process is straight forward and not as scary as one may think. Ultimately it benefits you and the consumer and ensures you are protected legally should issues arise at any time. You also need to consider registering for tax/VAT where applicable.

Private Information

Finally we need to talk about privacy on the internet. Now, this can be a bit of an unusual one at times. As I point out to people on a regular basis, you tell me you are concerned about privacy online and then you willingly hand over a ton of data to services such as Facebook.

So you may be concerned with your words but sometimes actions can speak differently. Be that as it may, people are worried that identities will be stolen, bank accounts drained and tend to wonder who is watching them online. People want to feel comfortable on your blog or website so take care with the information they willingly hand over to you.

You need to protect private information with secure pages on your site and a disclaimer promising you won’t sell people’s email addresses to a handful of marketers can also help. Depending on how much information you collect will affect what you should be familiar with legally but always act responsibly with personal information.

Final Thoughts

If you make yourself familiar with these issues above then you shouldn’t have to worry about getting in trouble. Some of the things to consider in order to protect yourself are:

– Terms of use for your blog
– Privacy policy for your blog
– Educate yourself on local consumer protection law
– If you are selling a product or service through your blog then make sure you register yourself as a business with CRO

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