Is My Website Legal? The 3 Legal Requirements to be Awesome
Listen, I don’t want you to end up in Azkaban listening to a dozen dreary dementors howl like cold lentil soup every morning at 3 am. Plus, the wifi there is non-existent.
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It’s not as complicated as landing Neil Armstrong on the moon or performing brain surgery on a rare sea squid called George, but it is something that needs to be done to avoid the many legal pitfalls of blogging. From copyright infringement to privacy violations, there is a multitude of legal issues that can arise when blogging. But don’t worry, this article will help navigate these wild waters of the blogosphere.
How to Stop Being Naughty & Avoid Legal Trouble
We’ve heard horror stories of bloggers who were sued or fined because they did not understand how to make their blogs legal. Well, it’s time to learn.
Imagine you just spent the last 100 days:
- perfecting every pixel.
- writing content that will win the endearing masses.
- and taking pictures with the best camera ever invented since 1899.
I tried sprinkling salt around the border of my blog posts, reciting Latin incantations, and carving dwarven runes on my monitor, but that did not help make my website legal—I need some real help, not a bunch of horribly outdated poppycock appearing as legal diamonds.Moonpixel Creative
Your post is about to go live, but you are losing sleep at night—a recurring dream keeps pestering you. In the dream, a little-known sorcerer, who moonlights as a lawyer, is a practitioner of the most cryptic kind of Mysterious Legal Arts. She stares at you, ebony gavel spinning between her fingers like a drummer from a hardcore metal band.
The guitar riff reaches a crescendo of upper octaves unknown to humanity. (You know the scene from Stranger Things with Eddy, yeah, that’s the one.)
She slams the gavel down with Shakespearean-styled force.
“Disclaimers?” you ask, bursting into tears, shaking with emotion, “What’s a disclaimer?”
You wake up in a cold sweat and stare at the ceiling, eyes as wide as uncooked tacos. “I might never write a blog post again,” you whisper.
If you have ever wondered if your website is legal, you are not alone. Many new bloggers (and even some veterans) are unsure of what exact documents and legal pages they need in order to operate their sites within the law.
“Please Ma’am, I really want to stop being naughty, I really don’t want to break the law, and I really don’t want a shadow beast armed with long litigation claws and sharp cyber teeth to start chomping away at my little blog on Puppies & Petite Poodles.”
By having these pages on your site, you can help to protect yourself from liability and avoid lawsuits and fines.
It only takes a few simple steps to ensure that your blog or website is compliant with the law. This article will discuss what you need to do in order to make sure your site is legal and stop those nasty nightmares and organ music.
Oh, and by the way, here is a little disclaimer (see, this stuff is getting real already):
Seeing I am NOT a lawyer, nor the son of a lawyer, nor do I have any lawyers in my ancestral bloodline—nothing you read here should be taken as legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult a qualified and licensed attorney who knows your industry.
Every website owner should at least understand some of the basic website legal requirements, especially if goods or services are involved. And for industry-specific legal requirements, you would need to consult a professional.
I am a freelance designer of several major websites for international clients and here are the three main areas I would recommend to my clients or to anyone interested in starting a website.
- Copyright of Images & Content
- Site Legal Policies and Disclaimers
- Accessibility Statements and Software
Copyright Is Not Your Right to Copy
As a blogger with a new website, you likely put a lot of time and effort into creating content. Whether you blog for fun or profit, it’s important to make sure your hard work is protected.
First, get permission from anyone who is featured in your blog posts. If you plan to use images, quotes, or other materials from another source, be sure to obtain permission first. Not only is it polite, but it could also save you from a copyright infringement lawsuit down the road.
Horror story: I once used an image taken in Burma many years ago. It was a street scene, it was my image, I ‘owned’ the copyright (so I thought), but someone recognized someone in the picture, and a potential lawsuit loomed as there was no ‘model release agreement.’
Sure, that was probably a very rare occurrence—someone trying to make a quick buck. Thankfully, it was all sorted, but hey, stuff happens when we least expect it, so we need to be aware!
As a content creator, it’s important to be aware of copyright law and how it affects your work.
Here are some basics you should know about copyright protection for your blog content.
When you create something original, like a blog post, you automatically get copyright protection. That means only you can reproduce or distribute your work without permission. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For example, if you use someone else’s photo in your blog post, they may have copyright protection over that photo. That means you would need to get their permission before using it. The same goes for quotes or other copyrighted material.
If you’re not sure whether something is copyrighted or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get permission before using it. You can usually find contact information for the copyright holder online.
Use Legal Images
You may be whispering to yourself, “I’m now scared, I just download images from Google Image Search and post them on my blog. I don’t want to be arrested and end up fighting gladiator monkeys in Alcatraz wielding a list of legal papers forged in steel.”
Umm, ya kinda don’t want to do that.
Just delete the images, that’s the first step to being less naughty—even if the images are still on your server’s hard drive (i.e. sitting unused in your WordPress Media Library)—delete them from there also! Simply start again, without being so wicked.
“Okay, so where can I find legal images to use on my blog?” you ask.
Public domain images are one resource for those looking to add pictures to their website or blog without having to worry about copyright infringement. However, it is important to be vigilant even when using these types of images.
Make sure to read the terms and conditions along with the data policies of any site you use to source public domain images. This will ensure that you are not inadvertently breaking any laws or infringing on anyone’s rights.
I know, reading lengthy terms and conditions in microscopic print is not the most exciting reading this side of normality, you may need coffee, several pieces of chocolate cake, and loud music to motivate you, but at least give them a quick once over.
My Top 3 Sites for Public Domain Images
Building a website on the small moon cluster of Draconis III is a little easier as all copyright protection expires in 25.23 seconds. And their list of rules regarding privacy requirements is only two small paragraphs.
However, in the United States, copyright protection usually expires 70 years after the author’s death. So seeing we are not living on any of the small Draconis moons we need to deal with it from an earthly perspective.
Thankfully, there are some great websites with thousands of free, high-quality public domain images. And their content is improving month by month.
Here are my top 3 sites for public-domain images.
3 million+ free high-resolution images brought to you by the world’s best community of photographers. Now with Unsplash+.
Over 2.6 million+ high-quality stock images, videos and music are shared by the talented Pixabay community.
Choose from over 1 million hand-picked, high-quality photographs. Quality new images are added daily.
My Top 3 Sites for Stock Images
Whilst the free stock sites contain excellent images these days, there are times you will need to get something more specific for your blog.
You need an easy-to-use marketplace for quality stock images.
I have used all three of these subscription-based sites over the years, but I have stuck with FreePik the longest, whilst not as extensive as the others, their affordability and value are second to none.
All sites offer millions of photographs and illustrations from talented photographers and artists around the globe, available for almost any purpose.
Find and download the best high-quality photos, designs, and mockups. Now includes FlatIcon.
Choose from millions of hand-picked, high-quality photographs. Used by designers and freelancers worldwide.
Important Legal Policies
In today’s online world, it is more important than ever for businesses to have clear and concise legal policies in place regarding their website and online presence.
Without these policies in place, businesses can open themselves up to a number of legal risks and liabilities. Furthermore, customers and clients will be less likely to do business with a company if they are not clear on what the company’s policies are.
If your entire website features a long-winded monologue defaming the California Online Privacy Protection Act, third-party hack bombs, and no conditions page, then your bounce rate is likely to be very high.
So, no matter the size of your website, it’s important to have some basic legal policies in place. They can help reduce your liability, protect your intellectual property, and give visitors the information they need to use your site safely and responsibly.
A disclaimer is a statement that denies legal responsibility. Why are they important?
In a space station orbital park, you would have seen examples like “We are not responsible for any stolen property from parked space cruisers, interstellar warships, or the TARDIS.” Or at least something similar if you are still located on earth.
A disclaimer is a legal document that states the limitations of what a company or individual can and cannot be held liable for.
Disclaimers significantly reduce your risk and, in some cases, remove legal risk altogether.
Disclaimers are often found at the bottom of websites or blogs, and usually state that the company or individual is not responsible for any damages that may occur from using the site.
It is nice to know that if a visitor on your website clicks the ‘more info’ button on your page about exotic frangipani soap, and suddenly their toilet explodes, their keyboard catches fire, and a flock of angry hippopotami destroy their vegetable patch, then you are not liable.
Sometimes you may need to include a special disclaimer on individual posts where you offer specific advice. If you write about investing in the galactic crypto market on Jupiter’s 3rd moon Europa, which would fall under the category of ‘Financial‘ advice, other key categories may include Legal and Medical.
If you need help starting a legal blog, this article will help:
If you want to start a blog, this guide can help. Read this detailed 20-point checklist for an overview of all the essentials of creating a blog that makes money.
You’ll also want to become legally compliant with privacy laws (also see GDPR below).
Privacy policies ensure compliance with respective laws and usually cover topics like what information is collected, how it’s used, and who has access to it. This often includes names, cookies, email addresses, IP addresses, and other information.
Terms & Conditions
In a game of chess, you cannot simply take your opponent’s Queen and stuff it down his oesophagus and declare an international victory. That is against the agreed-upon rules of chess (on this planet anyway).
A website’s terms and conditions are the rules your readers agree to follow when they use your site.
Having a properly worded terms and conditions document protects your intellectual property rights and prevents copyright infringement, legal disputes, and other liabilities.
Most websites have similar terms and conditions.
They will often include clauses that protect the site from liability, prohibit users from engaging in illegal activities (such as playing the bagpipes at 2 am), and give the site ownership of user-generated content.
Some sites also have specific terms that apply to certain features or services. For example, a blog might have a comment policy that outlines what kind of comments are allowed and how the site will moderate them, and if nasty comments result in execution by tribal magic by the village shamen on a remote Pacific island.
Accessibility Statement & Legal Liability
ADA? Advanced Dragon Academy?
WCAG? Wizarding Coalition of Ancient Greece?
If you own a business, you are probably more familiar with more down-to-earth meanings for these acronyms:
ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act
WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
A protective legal framework in this area is also required as everyone should be able to enjoy your blog , regardless of ability!
In the USA, web accessibility lawsuits have seen a 320% increase over the past eight years. ADA is obviously a USA-based requirement, other nations will have their own accessibility laws that require your website to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Today, website accessibility is not just an option but a business priority.
The WCAG contains international guidelines and standards that you should follow to avoid any potential lawsuit.
It is important to include an Accessibility Statement on your website (mine is in the footer) as it tells your readers that you care about them and demonstrates your commitment to accessibility compliance.
However, there are other key factors in UI and design you must also consider as well:
Not only are we making content more accessible to a broader range of people with disabilities, but following these guidelines will also often make your website content more usable to users in general.
Certain WordPress plugins also strive to make your site more accessible by providing UI and design-related adjustments—these include AudioEye, AccessiBe, and UserWay.
UserWay in fact reports that 71% of people with disabilities will leave an inaccessible website within 10 seconds. UserWay (the auspicious blue icon of a human wizard on the bottom right) is used on this site.
Disclose Affiliate Relationships on a Business Website
Many entrepreneurs and bloggers are making great efforts to make their eCommerce businesses successful.
Morgan Stanley reports that “over the long term, the eCommerce market has plenty of room to grow and could increase from $3.3 trillion today to $5.4 trillion in 2026.” Affiliate marketing consists of a sizeable portion of that eCommerce pie.
With that in mind, website owners need to understand the legal requirements for websites. The readers of your site have a legal right to know when someone is getting paid as a direct result of a sale.
So make sure you follow the proper guidelines (different nations have different requirements: the FTC in the USA, the ACCC in Australia, the ASA in the UK, etc.) on disclosing any monetary gains, free products you might receive, or other fringe benefits you make via content on your blog.
It keeps governments happy.
It keeps your site’s visitors happy.
It keeps you happy (unless you are a pirate and despise ethical practices and want to sail the Caribbean in a red war skiff with a parrot named Captain Flint).
Guidelines to consider as an affiliate marketer earning commissions:
What is the GDPR and do I need a space suit?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is legislation that updated data privacy laws across the European Union. The regulation replaces older laws from 1995.
The GDPR came into effect on May 25, 2018.
GDPR sets out website legal requirements about how personal data must be collected, used, and protected.
Now none of us want to upset the EU and have black helicopters hover over our apartment.
The regulation gives individuals the right to know what personal data is being collected about them, the right to have that data erased, and the right to object to its use. GDPR also imposes significant fines for companies that violate the regulation.
The regulation applies to any company that processes or intends to process the personal data of individuals in the EU, regardless of whether the company is based inside or outside of the EU.
Legal Compliance and Cookie Consent Notices
What are cookies, will I put on extra weight, and what is my legal obligation if I cannot run a marathon?
Cookies are actually small text files that are placed on your computer by websites that you visit. They are widely used in order to make websites work, or work more efficiently, as well as to provide information to the owners of the site.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, cookies that are strictly necessary for the operation of a website (such as those used to remember what’s in a user’s shopping basket) or those used for security purposes (such as authentication) do not require consent.
Is your website compliant? The #1 cookie consent solution, trusted by 1 Million websites—manage all your cookie compliance needs in one place.
As a website owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with the law on cookies and obtain consent from users where necessary. Failure to do so could result in hefty fines from the authorities.
Where Do I Find Professional and Legal Templates?
That’s the big question.
Thankfully there are two options that cover all these bases for you to consider:
ASelfGuru Legal Templates
Having a legal blog is super important to me, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the requirements. I purchased Amira’s Premium Legal Bundle to get all those complicated legal matters squared away.
For many of us, legalese is spelled gobbledegook.
What could be said in a short, simple sentence, often ends up being 3,000 words full of odd English hieroglyphic squiggles, sentences dressed in over-starched military uniforms with high collars, and full stops as thick as the Great Wall of China as seen from deep space.
Obviously, I did not fancy writing my own legal pages! So I needed help.
Initially, I had several pre-sales questions. I shot Amira a brief email.
In less than 20 minutes I received a detailed and helpful answer and signed up immediately. On top of her awesome templates, she also knows the importance of speedy customer service.
Amira is a business lawyer, blogger, and coach and has helped over 30,000 entrepreneurs for over a decade.
She knows the industry.
She knows how to protect your website.
Her legal documents and templates will keep your business safe and secure in under 30 minutes!
Her templates are easy to customize and take away all the worry and stress from this aspect of your business.
I know you’ve spent countless hours writing content and promoting your business; you owe it to yourself to be protected legally.
The Contract Shop
As an alternative to the above, take a look at The Contract Shop.
This online service creates legal templates and courses for creative entrepreneurs, bloggers, freelancers, online course creators, consultants, coaches, and more.
In 2014, The Contract Shop was founded by a fellow lawyer-turned-creative, Christina Scalera, who saw a gap in the industry and decided to help professionals get the needed tools to become legit and lawful.
Don’t Run an Intergalactic Smuggling Ring
The Confederation of Interstellar Cyber Law (CICL – affectionately known as ‘Cecil‘) also frowns upon the promotion of any intergalactic trade of arms, dangerous magical items, and monster smuggling.
You panic for a moment!
Then you remember that your blog on Puppies & Petite Poodles does not even come close to smuggling wide-eyed Azurian Doppelgangers to the outer rim barbarian races.
Take a breath.
It’s unlikely Cecil will do a midnight raid of your home office waving the 13th-century Magna Carta in your face.
But you are still worried, aren’t you?
“What if my blog is still not as squeaky clean as it should be? What if a small unforgotten pixel on post 1302 is being tracked by an unfeeling bot from the IRS or ATO or HMRC?”
No fear, just start working your way through the key areas mentioned in this article.
So What Are the Three Legal Requirements to Be Awesome?
- Pay attention to image and content copyright
- Ensure compliance with professional site legal policies, and
- Maintain high accessibility standards
If you start with these three, in no time you will be on the starlit path of planetary justice, fighting crime all over the cyberverse—and goodness gracious me, you might even get to don a red cape.
Superman was invincible, so why not your blog? Sure, he wears his underwear on the outside, but that did not stop him from doing the right thing. The evil lawyer Lexana Luthoria wants to take down your site for non-compliance to all those volumes of kryptonite legal codes.
Ah, but now, mind-bending legal superheroics are part of your entrepreneurial arsenal. Suspicious stares of unnamed government people browsing your website on the subway will not scare you—ambivalence is gone, ignorance is no more, and you can again sleep at night—and all because of this little post.
Soon enough, your blog will shine like an Asgardian angel in radiant glory, golden robes flowing in untouchable splendor, scales of triumphant justice in outstretched hand—safe from all manner of blog devils and the violent litigation lich.
You will be the envy of countless bloggers as you sleep on your feather-down pillow of legal compliance and disclosure delight.
And if you’re feeling overcome by generosity and want to help the universe align on the side of intergalactic peace and harmony, you could buy me a coffee at www.buymeacoffee.com/moonpixel. Your support would greatly help in keeping me motivated and writing articles that you love.
Steve Roberts is a full-time blogger, digital marketer, and freelance designer who also helps young Jedis make informed lightsaber decisions. Join Steve on this incredible journey, learning how to scale your business and entrepreneurial vision. His clients include organizations and businesses from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.