For me, blogging has very much been a learn-as-you-go experience. It is scary how much legal trouble you can get into with your blog and how this information is not readily available to every blogger. So, I want to share with you 5 ways you can get in serious legal trouble blogging.
1. Your mailing list
If you use Mailchimp, or a similar service, you have probably noticed that they ask for your mailing address and include it in your newsletter. I freaked out and immediately removed my address because I did not want everyone knowing where I live (no offense). However, I recently found out that this is required by law to include your mailing address in emails you send out (it is part of the CAN-SPAM-Act).
According to the FTC website, one of the requirements of any newsletter (or email you send to your subscribers) is you must tell recipients where you are located.
- Including your city and state is not good enough. You must include an address where you can physically receive mail.
- For safety reasons, I would not recommend using your home address. I would open a PO box.
- Each separate email in violation is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. So, if you have 100 people on your mailing list and you send them each one email, your fine could be up to $1.6M!!!
In order to comply with anti-spam laws, you must obtain someone’s permission to include them on your mailing list. In addition, you must include a clear way of how the recipient can opt out of getting emails from you in the future. If someone opts out, you must honor this within 10 business days. I recommend using MailChimp for your mailing list as their templates are set up to comply with these requirements.
2. Not appropriately disclosing
It is shocking to me how many huge YouTubers are violating the law with their lack of disclosure about affiliate links, sponsored content, etc. I have a feeling that as this industry of “influencers” continues to gain popularity, the FTC will really start to crack down on bloggers and youTubers. Please check out my blog post that outlines all of the FTC requirements for disclosures.
4. Not properly reporting your taxes
I see so much false information being spread about blogging and taxes. As a licensed CPA, this is a topic that I am particularly passionate about. I have already written two very detailed posts that I would highly recommend you read to ensure that you are appropriately reporting your income and expenses for your blog.
- Basic Tax Tips for Bloggers from a Beauty Blogger and CPA
- Taxes for Bloggers | Top 5 Mistakes You Might Be Making
5. Using Images from Google
Have you ever used an image you found on Google on your blog? I have used a Google image once when I wanted to include the Sephora logo in one of my blog posts. This is copyright infringement and there are various websites out there that are set up for the sole purpose of hoping you use their image so they can sue you! I would recommend always using your own images or finding stock images that allow for you to re-use them.
Those are the top 5 ways you can get in serious legal trouble blogging. There are other issues regarding copyright infringement, slander, using trademarked phrases, etc. that I am hoping to include in a follow up post. These are just the issues I have stumbled upon and researched so far. If you are aware of other ways that bloggers can get in serious legal trouble – please leave them in the comments below! If you found this post helpful, consider sharing it with fellow bloggers on Pinterest and your other social media channels.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no legal experience and am in no way offering legal advice. Please research these issues on your own. In addition, the information I have provided applies to the United States.