How to Blog Legally

One of the many wonderful things about blogging is that you don’t need any previous experience or education to do it. You just dive in and go.

Unfortunately, it’s also the cause of a lot of problems. Like the fact many bloggers don’t know how to blog legally.

How to Blog Legally --- One of the many wonderful things about blogging is that you don't need any previous experience or education to do it. You just dive in and go. Unfortunately, it's also the cause of a lot of problems. Legal problems, mostly. || diybudgetgirl.com #blogging #law #legal #blog #ftc #guidelines #copyright

Remember when I wrote about how I monetized my blog and I said that blogging is more than just telling stories and taking pretty pictures? This is what I was talking about. Understanding the laws that affect your blog (and how to avoid breaking them) is one of the more complicated parts of being a blogger. As soon as you decide to monetize, even if you don’t make enough to file taxes, you are a business. And you have to act like one.

Understanding the laws that affect your blog is one of the more complicated parts of blogging. Click To Tweet

I’ve been in and out of a lot of blogging help groups and the one thing I notice is that many bloggers don’t know to Google things about blogging legally (or don’t know to Google at all). Even if they do, a lot of the information is difficult to find. Did you know that Amazon has a cut-and-paste disclosure statement that they want their affiliates to use? Their Terms of Service mentions it, but it took me a lot of digging to actually figure out what it was. (We’ll get to that.) They aren’t extremely upfront about it, but they have kicked people out of the program for not using it. 

Here’s the thing: none of us starts off knowing everything. Even after years of blogging, so much changes that it’s impossible for any one person to know everything. Many companies aren’t afraid to screw over bloggers, so you have to do what you can protect yourself and your brand. Which is why it is incredibly important that we open ourselves up for criticism and that we take the time to educate one another.

Because I see a lot of bloggers doing things that could get them into some legal trouble, let’s talk about how to blog legally.

This post applies to bloggers within the US. If you live elsewhere, your laws and policies will be different.

1. Disclosing Affiliate Links and Sponsored Posts

Ever work with a brand? If you have affiliate links on your site or you’ve reviewed a product, then you have. 

Here’s the thing that surprises me about brands–many of their PR staff know very little about the laws that directly affect their company. Do not rely on a brand’s PR to understand how to write a sponsored post legally. That will get you into trouble at some point.

When it comes to government agencies, there are two that you should concern yourself with as a blogger–the FTC and the IRS.

The FTC will mostly affect how you disclose your links/sponsored posts. Here is basically what they say:

  • The disclosure must come BEFORE the link, not after (so stop putting the disclosure statement in your footer).
  • The disclosure must be easy to see. It cannot be in your sidebar or in a place where readers will have to go looking for it. It has to be within the post itself. It doesn’t matter if you have a Disclosure Statement page. 
  • You cannot just write, “Disclosure” and then link to another page. Your disclosure must be on the page that contains the links. You are, however, free to disclose and then link to a page containing a longer disclosure statement (this is what I do).
  • You CAN just write “affiliate” next to each link if you want. The FTC doesn’t care how you phrase your discloser, as long as you do it and as long as it isn’t deceptive.
  • It has to be clear and easy to see. A lot of bloggers create an image that they insert. I recommend AGAINST doing that because sometimes images don’t load properly on certain devices or the link to the image could break and then your disclosure is gone.
  • You can phrase your disclosure however you like, as long as it’s not deceptive.
  • It doesn’t matter if you were given money, a coupon, or a product. You need to disclose.
  • It doesn’t matter how much the product is worth. You need to disclose.
  • This applies to social media, as well. (On Twitter and Instagram, the popular thing to do is use #ad. On Facebook, most people just write “affiliate” in parenthesis after the ad. Both are acceptable.)

Note that receiving a free product or a coupon only needs to be disclosed if it was given to you specifically for writing the post. So if you find a coupon in the paper and then decide to review the product of your own volition (or you were given a free sample that the store was handing out to all of their customers and decided to write about it), you do not need to disclose it.

For more information, you can read their FAQs

Do not rely on a brand's PR to understand how to write a sponsored post legally. Click To Tweet

I’ll say this repeatedly throughout this post: if a brand ever gives you the impression that they don’t care about guidelines or the welfare of your blog, tell them to go screw themselves. As bloggers, we work too hard for some brand to come in and ruin our hard work.

But I thought the FTC Guidelines were JUST guidelines. Why do I have to follow them?

There are a few influential bloggers out there writing about how disclosure guides aren’t actually law, so you don’t have to follow them. I’ve read their posts and here’s what I have:

  1. Their arguments are weak. The blog posts I’ve read usually write, “They’re only guidelines” in big letters so you don’t miss it…but once you read their argument for WHY it’s not law, you can see that they really have no argument. It’s all fluff. The last one I read just found multiple ways to say, “FTC guidelines have been around for a while and haven’t changed” over and over again. And that was the basis of her argument. Like I said, weak. At best.
  2. The FTC’s .com Disclosures Guide refers to itself as law. Their website calls itself law. The Wikipedia articles about consumer protection that these bloggers are linking to (and clearly not reading) refer to the guidelines as, “a set of laws.” Everything those bloggers are using as sources (besides their own blog) say the exact opposite of what they’re trying to convince us they say.
  3. Ignore the guidelines at your own risk. I could be wrong (and I sent an email to the FTC to find out because I prefer to go straight to the source rather than make assumptions. I never heard back). If I am wrong and they are just guidelines, then they are guidelines you ignore at your own risk. They were written to protect the consumer, yes, but following them protects you from being sued for deceptive marketing.

So if you want to treat it as a set of guidelines instead of a law, that’s a risk you can take. I don’t personally recommend it.

2. Free Items ARE Compensation

A few days ago, one of the blogging groups I’m in exploded over another blogger’s disclosure statement. It said, “I was not compensated for this review. I was sent a free [insert product], but all opinions are my own.”

The statement is a little disingenuous, which could be fixed by removing the first sentence.

If a company sends you a free item, it was not out of the goodness of their hearts. They sent it to you with the understanding that you would review it (thereby giving them publicity). It counts as compensation and, depending on how much it’s worth, you do have to claim it on your taxes. And you absolutely need to disclose it as compensation, no matter its worth.

Blogging is more than just telling stories and taking pretty pictures. Click To Tweet

On that note, be sure to ask for review guidelines before agreeing to a review. Many companies will say, “Give your honest rewview!” thinking that the free product will persuade you to give a GOOD review. Sometimes they send crappy product, though.

A blogger I know recently gave a free product she received a negative review. The company took the product off their site and demanded she take down her review (which could hurt her SEO, because of broken links) because it wasn’t positive. Fortunately, the company had no right to ask that of her. So she wrote an amendment, stating the company took her review seriously and removed the product from their site. She left the review because she has a responsibility to her readers. Even though the product is gone, it still reflects the quality of that company. Which is exactly what the company doesn’t want, but…they should consider making better products, in that case.

3. No Follow vs Do Follow Links

This isn’t so much an issue with legality, but many PR agents don’t understand no follow and do follow. If a brand asks you to include do follow links, tell them to shove off.

Do follow links are links that Google scans. Do follow links are good for your blog and other bloggers, because Google scans those and says, “Hey, other blogs are linking to this, it must be important” and it gives that site a higher search engine ranking.

However, Google also marks any non-organic links (links that go to an affiliate or product that you have been paid to link to OR links to other sites that you have inserted so you can ride their “search engine juice”). Meaning Google will mark your site AND that brand’s site as spammy. This can kill your search engine ranking. It’s also why I don’t allow links in my comment section without a no follow tag. Do follow links with brands are generally more sinister than with other bloggers, though. Google calls them link schemes and it directly violates their guidelines.

Many brands don’t understand this (as usual) and will demand (sometimes quite rudely) that you use do follow links. What I do is explain politely how do follow works and that using do follow links will hurt them, too. 

If a brand continues to ask for do follow links despite my explanation, I don’t work with them. End of story. I don’t care how well they pay or what awesome products they’re willing to give me. I worked too hard on my SEO to have some brand come in and ruin that.

Because that’s the thing about some bigger brands–some are perfectly wonderful to work with. Others don’t care about your blog, they just want the publicity. Because of that, they often don’t educate themselves on how to get that publicity in a non-shady manner.

As for how the tags work–I won’t bother explaining do follow, because links are automatically do follow. To get no follow links, though, you can do one of two things.

Use HTML. 

The tag for a no follow link is simple:

<a href=”URL HERE” rel=”nofollow”>LINK TITLE</a>

That’s it! If you’re comfortable with HTML, you can just insert that tag and you’re done.

Use a plugin (for WordPress).

If you have a bunch of links that you want to make no follow, inserting HTML is a pain. So I use Ultimate No Follow, which adds a check box to your blog every time you add a link. Check the box and you’re done! FYI, it will look like this once you’ve installed it:

no follow

Basically, if you’re not good with HTML or you don’t want to have to mess with it, you need to download that plugin. Otherwise, there is no other way to make your links no follow.

For Blogger users, I have been told that you automatically have a “no follow” checkbox. Since I don’t use Blogger, I have no idea where it is or what it looks like. (If you know, please leave a comment!)

4. Using Images

Don’t pull images directly off of Google. Period.

A lot of people–not just bloggers–violate this rule. Facebook violates it all the time. And most people will say, “Well, it’s on the Internet! That makes it public domain!”

And then they’re shocked and confused when they get sued. Or, best case scenario, they’re angry and embarrassed (and still confused, actually) when a larger entity steps in and tells them they can’t use the images.

A good example of this happened last March to a fashion blogger when a conservative Facebook group swiped a photo she had taken of herself for her blog and turned it into a political meme. Because her face is not public domain, she contacted Facebook and they were forced to remove it. But enough people screen-capped it first that it’s now on the Internet forever and there’s nothing she can do about it.

However, I remember getting involved in trying to get that meme removed from Facebook and receiving responses from a bunch of clueless middle aged men saying, “It’s public domain! She shouldn’t have put it online!” If this is something you really believe, then imagine I came in, took a photo from your Facebook page (since most of you have at least ONE photo visible to the public), slapped something you disagreed with on it, and said, “Well, it’s public domain. You shouldn’t have put it on the internet.” How would you feel about that?

Just because something is available online, that does NOT mean it is free to use. (In fact, Olyvia Media recently wrote a great article called 22+ Websites with Gorgeous Free Photos where she explains this point quite well. You can also pin it for later.) Many bloggers even have copyright notices on their blogs (mine can be found in my footer or on my “Policies” page). Some are strict–you can’t use anything, period. Some bloggers, particularly travel and fashion bloggers, have no intention of letting people use their photos. Some photos come from professional photographers who post their portfolios online. And, yes, they can absolutely sue you if you use them. So read their copyright licenses. 

The obvious answer to not getting sued over copyright violation is to just use your own images. But I take 99% of the photos on this blog and I still sometimes need to use stock images. For that, there are free stock image websites. I was going to rattle some off for you, but then I realized Moms and Crafters already wrote a post about 50 Place to Get Free Stock Images (in case you need another source). Check it out, pin it for later, bookmark it, whatever. Just be sure to double-check the copyright licenses on whatever you use. Even though they’re free, some still prohibit their use on commercial websites.

This applies to Pinterest, as well. Just because something is on Pinterest, that does NOT mean you can use it. Also, Pinterest is NOT a source. If you took a photo from Pinterest and credited it TO Pinterest, you need to go through and change that. Most likely, that photo was actually taken by a BLOGGER who is going to be very unhappy if they ever find your site.

5. Pay attention to Terms of Service

Signing up to be affiliated with a company is not like signing up for an Facebook account–you can’t just ignore the Terms of Service (ToS) without consequence. 

For instance, many bloggers don’t realize that Amazon has rules against incentives. Anything that could sway someone to buy a product you linked to is consider an incentive. That includes saying, “All proceeds will be donated to charity.” Even telling your readers that their purchases will support your blog and/or your family is a no-no. 

Lots of bloggers do that, though, and then get kicked out of the program and don’t know why.

Even after years of blogging, it's impossible for any one person to know everything. Click To Tweet

I mentioned earlier that Amazon has a specific disclosure statement that they want affiliates to use (BTW, they’re also weird about calling yourself an affiliate). This is it:

YOUR NAME is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Here’s what makes me mad, though: it’s impossible to find if you don’t know where to look for it. That disclaimer is found here under “10. Identifying Yourself as an Associate.” It took me forever to figure it out, though.

Which supports the point I made at the beginning of this post–a lot of this legal information is difficult to find. Even if you do find it, a lot of it is likely to change (blogging is forever evolving) and it’s probably coming from blogs like this one. Just because a blogger writes about these laws, just because someone else tells you about these laws, that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. So double-check all your sources, including me. Taking other people’s word for it can get you into a lot of trouble.

Did I forget anything? Probably. Let me know in the comments!

Just so we’re clear, I am not a legal professional. Any advice found on this blog is taken at your own risk.

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94 comments

  1. Alli says:

    Yes and Yes! Google it, people. I’m still amazed at bloggers who use images from other sites without permission. And just because you credit that site, doesn’t mean you had permission.

    I just recently turned down 2 product reviews because they would not agree to the “no follow” rule AND one of them didn’t want me to include the disclaimer at the top. This is great info. Thanks for sharing at the Pretty Pintastic Party.
    Alli recently posted…Pretty Pintastic Party #42My Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      just because you credit that site, doesn’t mean you had permission.

      YES! I’m also tired of people pulling images from Pinterest and then writing, “Source: Pinterest” below it. Pinterest is NOT a source! And just because something is on Pinterest, that does NOT mean you have permission to use the photos!

      Ugh, I don’t blame you. Some companies are ridiculous. The sad thing is, SOMEONE will agree to it because they don’t know any better!

      Thanks for stopping by, Alli! πŸ™‚

    • Chelsey says:

      THAT’S what I forgot to do! (Sorry, I added that in last night and then screwed up and lost ALL of my edits. I had to rewrite the post, but I knew I was forgetting something!)

      If you use WordPress and you don’t want to deal with HTML, you can download a plugin called Ultimate No Follow. Then when you insert a link, all you have to do is check the “Add no follow tag” and it’s no follow. (Links are “do follow” by default, so you don’t have to do anything for that.)

      If you use Blogger, you already have this ability (so I’ve been told). I don’t know where it is, but next time you add a link, look for a “no follow” check box.

      The HTML code for a no follow link will look like this:

      < a href= "URL HERE" rel="nofollow" >LINK< / a>

      That’s it! All you do is add that rel=”nofollow” tag to your link and you’re done! But it’s a pain if you have lots of links, so if you can use a plugin, I highly recommend it.

      FYI, I have edited the post to add in that information. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Aimee says:

    Thanks for the info! I’m relieved to know that I’ve been doing most of this properly so far! I do have a question on the no-follow links though. I’m not sure i understand exactly how that works. I’m not super familiar with html, so that’s probably why. I’ve been using the insert/edit link option on WordPress to edit how the name of the website shows up in my post, and just copying and pasting direct from the source into the URL field. Do I need to do something different?
    Aimee recently posted…FAQ Friday: What are your top 5 races for 2015?My Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Aimee, you should download the Ultimate No Follow plugin. Otherwise, yes, you will have to edit the link’s HTML in order to make it no follow. The plugin will add a check box to that insert/edit link box. Then all you have to do is check the box to make the link no follow.

      Hope that helps!

    • Chelsey says:

      Thanks! These are definitely not a list of things you want to learn by making a mistake, since they could REALLY hurt you. So I’m glad you found it helpful, Mila!

  3. Jen says:

    Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive guide. I’ve pinned this and plan on referring back to it and sharing it with other bloggers.

  4. Monica says:

    Great post! Lots of stuff in there that I wasn’t aware of. I use the nofollow rule and I definitely don’t take pictures off Google, but there are still a lot of things as a new blogger that I have to learn before I decide to monetize my blog. Thanks! Also, pinned πŸ˜€
    Monica recently posted…My Birth Plan – Part 2My Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Thank you so much for letting me know! Apparently one of my settings was messing with the Pin It plugin. It’s fixed on my end now. Let me know if it still isn’t working on yours. Thanks again! πŸ™‚

  5. Natasha Mairs says:

    brilliant post Chelsey. I know about most of this but never knew you had to out the disclosure at the top of a post. so will be changing this. and never knew anything about the amazon disclosure so thanks so much for sharing this
    Natasha Mairs recently posted…Slimfast 3-2-1 PlanMy Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Glad I could help, Natasha! πŸ™‚ And you’re not the only one! Many seasoned bloggers are still using the rules that were in place back in 2010, not realizing they had been updated. Thanks for stopping by!

      • J Palmer says:

        Gidday from Downunder Chelsey, found this great post via Pinterest, and immediately shared it.

        Regarding the Amazon disclaimer, they must have picked up their game, because I’m getting associate notices on a regular basis.

        Usually it’s just to advise seasonal commission rate changes, but occasionally they’ll throw in a more serious “Operating Agreement” update.

        Best thing to do is make sure you’ve got the your email preferences updated to include Associates Program Feedback and Newsletter Highlights along with any others (I’ve got them all checked, but I’m small fry, so it might be worth testing what works for you if there are too many.)

        Go to > Account settings > Change your email preferences and just select the lists you want to be on.

        Hope this helps.

        Cheers and Hooroo (that’s Aussie for Hello and goodbye)

  6. Beatrix says:

    Wow this article is amazing,this helped me a lot and I will implement in my own blog these rules, like you said, we work so hard for our blogs and we don’t want any unwanted consequences. Thank you for sharing!
    Beatrix recently posted…Top 5 mug designsMy Profile

  7. Mariana says:

    Wow thank you for a very informative post. I was wondering on my blog I learn things from a novice perspective and link to pages like YouTube videos and Craftsy so readers can do the same. Does this fall under the “do not follow” category. I was unaware this was a concept, in school we were taught to add links to outside pages.

    • Chelsey says:

      Craftsy falls under “no follow.” YouTube follows under “do follow.” There is no “do not follow.” You’re still adding the links, you’re just keeping Google from crawling them.

  8. Delaine says:

    Very comprehensive and informative and helpful. Most of this I have been doing and did not realized they were an issue. I had to be correcting things on my blog while reading this post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. kate says:

    Hi Chelsey, great post! I’m a new blogger trying to figure all this out. I’m familiar with using photos in my blog (the what to do vs what not to do) but could you explain a bit about recipes? Could I use a recipe off someone’s blog and put a link to their blog and give them credit? Thanks so much!

    • Chelsey says:

      Hi, Kate! When it comes to recipes, when in doubt use only ONE photo and only post a list of ingredients (unless it’s something stupidly simple, like a smoothie. In which case, only post a photo and maybe a little blurb of what you though of the recipe). For the instructions, link back to their blog. This is MOSTLY an etiquette thing, but also good for keeping yourself out of legal trouble if you’re unsure.

      If you make changes to the recipe, posting your own version and saying, “It was inspired by _____” is usually considered acceptable.

      I hope that helps!

  10. Elizabeth Kraus says:

    I would love to have had another section covered in this blog about stealing content. A lot of people believe that they can take a whole blog post, cut and paste it onto their site and put a link at the end saying it was originally published elsewhere and it’s “curated content.” It’s not, it is plagiarism and it’s illegal (think lawyers and lawsuits). I’ve had my content stole like this before — it feels terrible! Like turning in someone else’s work.

  11. Kourtney says:

    Goodness. I haven’t begun to monetize my blog, but I am so glad I found this before I did. Thank you for sharing! This was informative without being confusing!

  12. Mariah says:

    Chelsey, Thank you so much for your advice! My blog launches next week and I am trying to learn as much as I can before I go live! You were so helpful!

    Eventually I would love to monetize my blog, but right now I am focusing on just producing good content!

    Thank you! I have pinned this post to continue reading as I blog!

  13. Rebecca "New Crunchy Mom" says:

    This is a really good list, thank you for your time and effort that you put into making it. <3 I just made some changes to my blog regarding this list and hope that it is okay now. πŸ™‚

    For those of us that have already agreed to give a company a "do-follow" link, what would your advise be? I have done that in the past and haven't noticed any changes in the traffic from search engines so I was unaware of this.

    • Chelsey says:

      Hi Rebecca! If you’ve already agreed to give do-follow links, the deal has been done and there’s not much you can do aside from asking the company if you can change it to no-follow and hope for the best. Chances are good they’ll say no. But no worries–if you’ve done it once or twice, your SEO really won’t suffer THAT much. SEO ranking is so much more complicated than just no-follow links and keywords, but these are things that play into it and it’s best to use caution if you don’t want to completely screw up your ranking. Your best solution is to just live, learn, and use no-follow from now on. πŸ™‚

  14. Talie says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve just started out blogging (for the second time) and didn’t know any of this stuff and I’ve got an email from a company wanting to collab. So glad I found this before settling on what I have to do for them.
    Have saved this as a pin AND as a bookmark, so useful!!!
    Also, this is going to sound lame, I didn’t put my blog address in the website box for fear of appearing “spammy”. Do you have any advise on when it is and isn’t okay to share personal links? Is it alright as long as there is a dedicated comment box/space for it?
    Thanks! πŸ™‚

  15. Fiona says:

    Chelsey I love your blog, and this post really struck a bell with me.
    I took to writing a post on my blog crediting the blog posts that helped me get started with my blog and I’ve included you in there (I hope you don’t mind)
    All the best-
    Fiona (FizzyPicz)

    Also for the amazon affiliate program on this website (https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/gp/associates/agreement) Here is what it says β€œsection 10 identifying yourself as an associate”

    You must, however, clearly state the following on your site: β€œ[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert applicable site name (Amazon.co.uk/Amazon.de/de.BuyVIP.com/Amazon.fr/Amazon.it/it.BuyVIP.com/Amazon.es/ es.BuyVIP.com)].”

    • Chelsey says:

      Thanks, Fiona!

      I live in the US, so the policies and laws will be different from UK. If you live outside of the US, it would be a good idea to get legal advice from bloggers who live in the same country as you.

  16. Doreen says:

    Quick question about the whole using pinterest as a source….often sites (including buzzed) will put up a collection of recipes lets say using idk Quinoa…they basically put a picture from the original post and a link. Is that allowed? Basically its a page of photos (that others took) and links. Sorry – new to all this and honestly the legalities of it all has been what has kept me from starting

    • Chelsey says:

      That’s called a “round up post.” And, yes, it’s allowed as long as they have permission from the original sources. Most bloggers have a policy somewhere on their site saying that you are free to use one photo as long as you link back to their blog (you can find my own policy at the bottom of my site AND on my “Policy” page). If you run a blog, it’s VERY beneficial for other sites (especially big ones like Buzzfeed) to link back to you because it tells Google your site is important and improves your search engine page ranking through SEO.

      So as long as they have permission from the blogger (either blanket permission on the website or permission they received through an email–Buzzfeed normally doesn’t ask, but Huffington Post always asks me if they can use my photos), then yes, it is allowed.

      As for linking back to their Pinterest pages, I REALLY wish Buzzfeed wouldn’t do that. Because that won’t help our blog’s page rankings at all.

  17. Lianne says:

    Brilliant article. Really wish there was more clear advice out there like this. Most bloggers would happily implement these changes if they knew about it.

    Regarding Amazon affiliates… Do you need to put the disclosure at the top of every post forever more whether or not it’s got affiliate links in it? And what’s the legal issue on reviews you do on items I’ve bought myself but link back to the supplier? I’m assuming that because I’m not getting anything for it and haven’t been sponsored or given compensation I don’t need to disclose? However, is it helpful to state this? Maybe something like ‘this post wasn’t sponsored or compensated in any way’?

    • Chelsey says:

      Thanks!

      You do not have to disclose on anything you’re not getting paid for. Whether or not you say, “This isn’t a sponsored post” or something is your decision. I find that sponsored posts have become so prevalent in blogging and many blogs are a little unethical about it (doing nothing but sponsored posts, not disclosing, recommending products they don’t like because they’re getting paid to do it) that I usually go ahead and say, “This is not a sponsored post” blah blah. It’s one of those things where you have to be aware of how often you’re linking to affiliates, but you also have to take your audience into consideration.

      In short, I find it helpful, but it’s not required.

      Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  18. Meagan says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am starting my own blog right now and reading this helped remind me of all the legal aspects to starting a blogging business. I really appreciate someone putting it all in one place to make it easier to find!

  19. Mel says:

    Thank you so much for this post! For the first time ever I was asked to link back with a do follow link. Honestly I have no idea what that even meant! This post is so helpful!

  20. Whitney says:

    This has been so helpful. I am in the beginning stages of starting a blog. I’ve been doing LOTS of research on the laws, taxes, coding, web design, etc. To make sure I am doing what I need to professionally and legally. Thank you so much.

  21. Irem says:

    Can people still use your images if you didn’t add any copyrights to it ( I have no idea how it works or if what I’m saying makes sene, just curious. )

    Also, if you put your own images on your blog, do they have copyrights right away?

    I’m such a noob when it comes to copyrights. Sorry if I sound reallu dumb….

    • Chelsey says:

      Not without permission. Even if you don’t add any kind of copyright disclaimer or watermark, the original artist/photographer still owns automatically owns the copyright.

      If you put your own images on your blog, you have copyright to it. You took those photos, you can do whatever you want with them. Other people cannot.

      You do not HAVE to register for copyright in order to have copyright. Registering just gives you more protection, in case anyone came forward and challenged your claim to the copyright. That could prove to be a huge battle. Whereas, registering your copyright proves that you own it without question. And if your copyright is infringed upon AFTER registering, the fact that you registered gives you more ammunition should you want to send a Cease and Desist, or even take that person to court.

  22. Lauren says:

    Thank you for providing such an excellent resource! I was aware that a full disclosure statement on your site was necessary and that each post that contains any type of affiliate link (or basically anything you are compensated for) must contain a statement disclosing your affiliation at the beginning of your post or at least right before the link.

    I was informed by an affiliate manger today that not only do you need that statement in each post, but that the link to your full disclosure page must be a clickable button in your header according to FTC regulations. A link to the disclosure statement in your footer or in a drop down menu on your header apparently does not meet regulations. Have you heard this before?

    • Chelsey says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      I’ll answer your question in bullet points for the sake of ease:

      1. No, your full disclosure page does not need to be a clickable button in your header and it absolutely can NOT be JUST a link in your header. You have to have an actual disclosure on the post itself. It must be easy for someone who is just skimming your post to see.

      2. You don’t NEED a disclosure page. Some affiliates require you to have one, but that’s THEIR rule, not the FTC’s. All you actually need is a statement that says basically, “This post contains affiliate links.” You do not need to link to anything. You can also just put “(affiliate link)” next to the affiliate links. As long as it is CLEAR that the link goes to an affiliate’s website, you can say what you want. The wording only matters to affiliates like Amazon, not to the FTC.

      3. Yes, I have heard this. The FTC’s FAQs page says this about buttons and links:

      Would a button that says DISCLOSURE, LEGAL, or something like that which links to a full disclosure be sufficient?
      No. A hyperlink like that isn’t likely to be sufficient. It does not convey the importance, nature, and relevance of the information to which it leads and it is likely that many consumers will not click on it and therefore miss necessary disclosures. The disclosures we are talking about are brief and there is no reason to hide them behind a hyperlink.

      About HOW to disclose, they say this:

      Is there special wording I have to use to make the disclosure?
      No. The point is to give readers the essential information. A simple disclosure like β€œCompany X gave me this product to try . . . .” will usually be effective.

      I linked to the FTC’s guidelines and FAQs page within the post, I would HIGHLY recommend reading through it. Taking an affiliate manager’s or PR manager’s word for it could get you into trouble, because companies are only going to look out for themselves and their bank accounts.

      I hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  23. Lauren says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write all of that out! That is extremely helpful. I was really hesitant to create a button in my header for an advertising disclosure after already disclosing properly in each post. It feels so scammy! I can now go back to my affiliate manager armed with actual FTC guidelines πŸ™‚

    Thank you again for providing the FTC links and for all of your thorough research! It is very helpful to us newbies!

  24. Alyssa says:

    This was an awesome and super helpful post! I am glad I found it! I had no clue about no follow links, and I also didn’t know all those rules about amazon affiliate program! Thank you so much for creating this very helpful post!

  25. Camille says:

    That was super helpful.
    How would you go about siting another blog in your blog? Like for example, if I tried out a recipe from pinterest and I liked it. Is that the whole no follow link thing?

    • Chelsey says:

      Hi, Camille! I wouldn’t use no follow for another blogger. If you tried the recipe and liked it, one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to link to the recipe with a do follow link. (Which just means it doesn’t have a “no follow” tag.) Google gets a little suspicious if blogs have too many no follow tags, so I ONLY use them when I’m linking to a product or a commercial website, not to another blog or informative/personal website.

  26. Jennafer says:

    I’m not sure I really understand do follow and no follow. What is the difference between them? I’m looking into starting a blog and want to make sure I’m doing things right

  27. Stephanie says:

    I found your article as in researching the best way to start my own blog. I want to make sure I follow legal and responsible blogging protocol. How can you make sure that your blog name is unique? I realize you can search to see if the domain is available, but what if it appears in other media? And, how can you prevent someone from infringing on your content? I’d love some advice! Thanks!

    • Chelsey says:

      Searching is the best way to ensure a blog name is unique. If you see it’s being used in other media, it’s best to just find a new name. Using a name someone else has already taken (even if they don’t own the domain) will only get confusing for your readers.

      You can take precautions to keep people from infringing on your content, but there’s nothing you can do to guarantee they can’t. Making sure a copyright notice is easily found and putting watermarks on all of your images are the bare minimum. Some people also install code or plugins that prevent people from being able to copy text or save images from their pages. The issue with that, though, is that roundups and such are really important for getting your name out there. You want people sharing your stuff, but not stealing your stuff (in a roundup, that means using one photo from your post and then linking to the post itself).

      What most bloggers wind up doing is copyrighting their content and, every so often, Googling it. You can search Google for photos and for text similar to your own. If you find that someone has stolen your content, you send an email informing them that you own the copyright and what they’re doing is theft. That often does it, because some people just don’t know better. If that doesn’t fix it, though, you send a cease and desist. It’s very rare for bloggers to sue someone for stealing their content (however, bloggers HAVE been sued for stealing other people’s content).

      It’s a pain, but unfortunately there is nothing you can do to 100% guarantee that no one will steal your content. You just have to make sure you have the legal ground to stand on if and when it happens. If someone steals your content, you obviously don’t HAVE to sue them, and I highly doubt you’ll ever be put in that kind of position. But making sure you can if you need to is important. Which is why it is essential to copyright your blog.

  28. Jess says:

    Hello! I just started my blog a month ago and I’m finally getting around to monetizing it and this blog was, by far, the most helpful one I came across.

    I’m a huge stickler for knowing laws and technicalities about things and it’s nice when someone else has done the research for me. πŸ˜›

    So thank you for your thoroughness!

  29. Shannon says:

    I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to thank you for the helpful info. I just wrote a blog post about being an Etsy Affiliate if you’re an Etsy Seller and linked up to this post. Thanks again!

  30. Nicola says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have a new blog and spent 6hrs today googling about follow/ nofollow links, amazon affiliates and whether they needed to be nofollow. The info was very hard to find and very confusing. But your post explains it all. I just wish I had found this post at the start of the 6hrs rather than the end and I would have saved myself alot of time. Just subscribed.

  31. Karina says:

    Thanks so much Chelsey, I haven’t even come close to these stages for these reasons. I’m never sure about what I’m doing. haha I don’t have experience in this area, although I am over qualified with computer. In saying that, I’m not too qualified with iPhone or iPad and this slows me down. So I’m thankful for your post. I will keep it for when I take the next scary step. Karina

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