Important laws to follow when blogging (AKA how not to get sued)

Blog laws to make sure you don't get sued

Ehhh, how do I sugar coat this? Well, I guess I can't, so let me put it this way. This post will probably bore you to death...sorry about that. But it's probably quite a good idea if you carry on reading, just so I have peace of mind that none of you are going to be getting arrested any time soon. Anyway, in true Steph form I'll at least try to make this topic a little more entertaining. If I had one of those curly judge wigs I'd put it on, but I don't, so please feel free to Photoshop one onto my head. Seriously, I'd enjoy it.

Declaring what you earn

Now we all know blogging has taken off in recent years. Regular Joe's like you and I are now able to make money while blogging just by tapping away on our keyboards for hours (or days..or weeks) on end.  But did you know that as soon as you start earning money from blogging - even if its just a fiver - you have to declare yourself as self-employed? Yep, this means self-assessment tax sheets. The joy. If you're in the UK you have to declare to the HMRC that you're earning money within 3 months of your first pay cheque, otherwise you can end up with a nice little fine. Gulp. Anyway, I can always do a post on how to fill out all those boring sheets of paper if you're interested. Thankfully, my ma worked in a tax office for a good chunk of her life, so I've got dem connectionzzz. 

Disclosing paid work

A recent change in the blogging world is that, by law, bloggers being paid for promoting or reviewing a product/service need to declare it to their readers. Why? Well, just think about how many times you've wanted to buy something because your favourite blogger told you to. These people are like freakin' hypnotists. Stylish hypnotists. Anyway, that my friend, is advertising, whether it comes across that way or not, so you need to tell your readers that from the get-go. Okay, so you don't need to scream from the roof tops I AM GETTING PAID FOR THIS SO DON'T BELIEVE A WORD I SAY - a simple word or two at the end of your post mentioning that the post was sponsored should do the trick. I have a big fat disclaimer at the bottom of my page incase people want to read more in-depth about how my sponsored posts work. It's all about clarity my friends.

Protecting other people's privacy

This is something I only recently implemented on my blog. It's boring as hell but it really is a must, especially if you allow comments/email subscriptions etc. If you subscribe to my mailing list (just like anyone else's) I instantly have your email address. Hey, whatever, who cares? Turns out, a lot of people care. If you have your email address out in the open it may not phase you, but some people like to keep that sort of information private, and rightly so. If that's the case, and you do have access to other people's contact details and such, be sure to pop a privacy policy on your blog to make sure people can trust you with their information. If you're running an e-commerce site anywhere in your website, you'll need to protect their info with secure pages. If you're blogging like I am, you'll only really have access to email addresses. And what comes with email address out there in the interwebs? Spam. And not the edible kind. It's annoying and no one likes it, so be sure to never sell on anyone else's information unless you have permission. 

Using images that aren't your own

Okay so I understand not everyone has the resources to create their own blog imagery, but it's still important to remember that, just because you can find an image on Google, it doesn't mean you're able to use it, and it definitely means you're not able to pass it off as your own. Naughty people. There are various ways to take an image without getting into trouble. One way is to simply as permission of the owner. Easy! Another way to kiiind of get away with it is to link to the owner of the image when posting your article. It's not 100% sufficient in terms of law, but it all depends on whose image your using. For example, if you use one of mine I'm not going to go and attack you, but I would appreciate a little link thrown my way.

Another way you can get fuss-free images on your blog is by using Creative Commons images. A good place to find pictures like this is on the Creative Commons section of photos on Flickr. They don't have copyright restrictions, but they usually have a few 'rules' to follow, such as only using them for non-commercial/non-profit work or something. All of that being said, I would still recommend you take your own images for your blog. It adds a personal touch and - above all - it's 100% legal. Unless you try to sue yourself or something.. #awkward.

Punishing people that steal your work

Maybe punishing is a bit of a strong word. First and foremost I would suggest not to beat up people that still your content. It's annoying, buuut that's what the law is for. I'm rambling.

So when it comes to publishing things on the internet it's almost expected that others are going to take your images or some of your content. It sucks, but it happens. Sometimes people don't even know that they're breaking the law when they do it, but if it's something you want to pursue for one reason or another then here are a few things to remember.

If you want to protect your work, the first step to getting it removed from someone else's site is just by contacting them. Some people will apologise like mad, delete your work and it'll all be happy days, but some people may completely ignore you or just say 'no'. Obviously you can go and create a lawsuit against them but - let's be real here - I'm a 22 year old girl, as if I have the money to take every tenth person to court. Nor can I be bothered. But, you can discourage people by putting a copyright simple at the bottom of your page. Some people even put credits on their actual pictures, so that no one can easy steal them. It all depends on how far you want to take it.

Now in terms of what is protected online, you may be surprised to hear that pretty much anything you publish is owned by you. This includes original copy (so don't go copying and pasting this text you snakes), images, videos, audio, anything! Which is great for us, but it's also the same for everyone else on the internet, so make sure you're using other people's work wisely!

Hope this helped some of you!