It’s so exciting to get your new business and website off the ground. I know that, as a new business owner, you have a million things on your mind, but one thing people don’t think about at first (or just don’t want to worry about) is the legal side. There are obviously lots of different legal considerations for new business owners, but here are the most important legal things you need to include on your website, to cover yourself and your business.
(Disclaimer: I’m a US-based attorney so this info is directed towards US bloggers, but it may also apply to international bloggers. Check your country’s laws for more information about laws and regulations in your country.)
You absolutely need a privacy statement if you collect any personal information on your website. Pretty much every website collects personal information in some manner – things like names and credit card info, but also things like email addresses through comments. Additionally, many websites utilize “cookies” to collect demographic information via Google Analytics.
2. Terms and Conditions Statement
You can think of terms and conditions like the “rules” of your website. This is where you tell your readers what type of behavior is acceptable on your website – both by you as the website owner and by visitors of your site. This is where you could include information such as offensive comments won’t be tolerated.
A solid terms and conditions statement is important to help protect, and also legitimize, your website and business.
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3. Copyright Information
In the United States, copyrights are the legal system that protect creative works. A copyright gives the creator of the work control over the copying, reuse, selling, etc. of her original work product. In the US, your original and unique work is automatically copyright protected from the moment of creation, even without you formally filing anything for that protection. This includes things such as your original website content/graphics, your blog posts, photographs, etc.
However, even though you have that automatic protection, it’s still a good idea to remind others of your copyright rights over your work product. You can do this by including a short general copyright notice on every page of your website, with your name/your business name, the copyright symbol and years of publication. This is a good reminder to someone that you are affirmatively claiming copyright ownership over your website content.
You should also include a longer copyright statement somewhere on your blog, indicating that you aren’t (or are) okay with others taking and using your work without your permission. In this longer statement, you can further explain what material is protected, how it can be used, etc. You can include this as part of your terms and conditions statement or on the same page with your terms and conditions and your privacy statement.
4. Disclaimer Information
A disclaimer is basically your way of saying that the content of your website should be taken “as is,” you aren’t providing professional advice and you won’t be liable or responsible if someone takes your content as advice and then has a problem down the line. You can include a disclaimer statement as part of your site’s terms and conditions.
It’s important to have this statement even though it might seem like common sense. Having this sort of statement isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never have issues arise, but it never hurts to have a clear statement in case a situation does come up at some point. If something happens to come up at some point, you can point back to this statement as a reminder that you weren’t promising any specific results, putting yourself out there as an expert or advising that anyone rely solely on the information on your website.
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5. Marketing Know-How
Lastly, let’s quickly touch on some marketing issues and how they relate to the law. There are lots of ways to market your business and your website, so just be sure that you are complying with the laws when you do so.
First off, be sure that you are complying with copyright laws and not using someone else’s copyright protected property inappropriately. This means not posting someone else’s work or photos on social media without permission, reposting someone else’s blog post without their permission or just generally using something without the proper permissions.
Next up, giveaways are a huge way to promote yourself and your business. Your giveaway needs to comply with the laws of every state and country where your giveaway is open. Additionally, the giveaway should have clear rules and you should be aware of any potential tax consequences for the giveaway (generally that a tax document will need to be provided for prizes over $600).
Finally, if you are using an email list or newsletter to market your business, be sure that you’re following laws surrounding email marketing, mainly that you are being honest, aren’t spamming people (meaning you’re only emailing people who have given you permission) and you’re including a physical address in every email.
I know there is A LOT to know about the legal side of running your business’s website, but it’s important to be sure you are keeping yourself covered. Luckily, most legal issues or things you need to know are sort of “set it and forget it.” Once you do your research and have all of the legal safeguards in place, you most likely won’t need to make any changes or updates until something in your business changes.
Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. The information in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. The author is not liable for any losses or damages related to actions of failure to act related to the content in this article. If you need specific legal advice, consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and jurisdiction.
Jackie has been blogging for over 4 years and has been a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania for nearly 7 years. Jackie started her blog, Jade and Oak, as a creative outlet as she was working as a litigator. She now works with bloggers and small business owners on making sure that they are keeping everything legal, all while working her day job. When she isn’t working, Jackie enjoys spending time with her husband and their two pugs, reading in bed and taking ballet classes.