Legal Info For Bloggers, Influencers and Business Owners: Part 1
Lawyer. I know that work conjures up some pretty legit awful images. But the truth is if you are doing anything online or running a business, good legal advice is a must. I mean you wouldn’t download a 1,2,3 guide to open heart surgery would you? So why would download a cookie cutter template to protect your biggest investment—YOU.
I recently came across some “lawyer” who are literally selling downloadable templates for things you need for your online presence or business. And while they are a start, they do not offer the best protection for your brand. First, they are not customized to YOUR specific business or needs. Second, they are not specific to YOUR jurisdiction. And three, these forms come with a lovely disclaimer that you are getting the lawyer that comes with them (i.e. no attorney-client relationship). How would you like if you paid your doctor and then she told you, oh well you’re not really my patient. Yeah, doesn’t sound so good does it?
So, as a lawyer and someone who does have an online presence and business I am proud of, it appalled me that some of my colleagues would stoop to this and basically I find it unethical. Maybe I am just too naïve or I thrive on providing excellent legal advice and a good client relationship. Which is why I am here on my soap box and giving you a series of posts on legal info and stuff you need to protect your brand and content.
What The Heck is This Jargon and Do I Really Need It?
Heck Yes you do. If you have a website you truly need these three things:
1. Website Disclaimer
2. Terms & Conditions of Use
Website Disclaimer. This is the CYA for your blog, website, online presence. It basically protects you from liability from what you post and also lets your readers what your policies. So, first things first, here is my disclaimer:
Yes, I am an attorney, but I’m not your attorney and this post does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am licensed to practice law in Texas, and admitted to practice in the Northern District of Texas, Western and Eastern Districts of Arkansas and the Fifth Circuit. The information presented is based on US laws. This article is legal information and should not be seen as binding legal advice. You should consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.
Now, a disclaimer (or any legal document for that matter) is not a guarantee that someone won’t try to come after you due to their reliance on what you post or provide. BUT, it can help you avoid potential liability and the most important part: IT PROVIDES NOTICE!
Yup, its all about notice people. It lets people know that you are not an EXPERT and that just because you found success doing XYZ doesn’t mean they will have the same results too. A disclaimer need not be super wordy or full of jargon. Plain, simple, clear and concise language works best. And in a conspicuous place (i.e., no hidden in the depths of your website where no one can see it).
It should contain:
Nature of your site – Let your audience know the nature of your specific site. A blog is not a website and an Instagram or Facebook page is neither of these. Blog, Instagram and Facebook have constantly changing content and include conversations and comments versus a static website. This might seem obvious, but it’s good to make it clear what type of site you are running.
Opinions – Remind your audience that your blog contains YOUR opinions and may not reflect the opinions of any organizations you might be affiliated with. This helps to show that if, perhaps you work with a certain company, you aren’t making any official statement on their behalf.
Hold harmless clause – This is where you remind audience that the info you present on your blog is just for entertainment and/or informational purposes only ! You can again reiterate that if your readers rely on any info on your blog, it’s at their own risk.
Not a professional – Next, indicate that you are NOT a professional, if that’s the case, i.e. you are not a doctor, medical professional, health professional, tax professional, attorney, engineer, etc… Whatever the topic you’re writing about –remind everyone that you are not a professional so your info shouldn’t be seen as professional advice.
Are a professional, but… – If you ARE a professional for the topic that you’re writing on, shakre that, but remind your readers of what that means. Let them know that even though you’re a professional, your blog posts are for information purposes only and aren’t financial, health, nutritional, medical, legal, etc advice. Also remind your readers to consult with a professional before taking any sort of action.
Reservation of rights – Here is where you reserve the right to change how you manage or run your blog and that you may change the focus or content on your blog at any time. It allows you to change and grow as needed.
This is probably the one legal thing that you can do on your own, but I do not recommend it, not do I recommend you download a form that costs you more than a pair of good shoes.
Tomorrow I will be back talking Terms & Conditions of Use and Privacy Policies. If you have any questions or need a referral for a professional in your area, let me know!