As the blogging phenomenon evolves legislation will naturally play a role inside it. The Aviva Directory published an interesting article titled “12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know“, highlighting 12 laws that affect bloggers and how you can comply with them. Even if you are not a U.S. citzen the list should provide some good pointers:
1. Disclosing paid posts: there is a recommendation from the Federal Trade Commission suggesting that sponsored posts should be disclosed. The advice, therefore, is to make it clear what is sponsored and what is not on your blog.
2. Deep linking: while deep linking (linking directly to an internal page of a website) is not illegal it might get you in trouble if you do not reference it correctly. Do not claim an external page is part of your website, for instance.
3. Using Images: do not use copyrighted images without the permission of the author. Thumbnails, however, tend to be considered “fair use” under the Copyright Law.
4. Stolen content: Copyright Law protects most forms of published material. It is not always easy to enforce that claim on a third party, though. Always consider the costs and benefits of going on a litigation.
5. Domain names: do not register a domain that contains a trademark. While there are some “fair use” exceptions you will probably have a hard trying to keep it.
6. Private data from readers: the law is not clear regarding private information that is gained through websites. Despite that do not share or sell sensitive information from your readers.
7. User generated content: not all bloggers are aware of the fact that they do not own the comments that are posted on their blogs. Once a person publishes a comment on your blog he or she will be the copyright holder of it. You can solve this issue by having a “Terms of Service” section on your blog.
8. Liability for user generated content: while the people commenting on your blog will retain the ownership of the content you might still be liable if they commit intellectual property violations.
9. Tax Law: if you are generating income through your blog you will probably need to pay taxes. Make sure to use tax deductions where possible.
10. Incorporating a blog: perhaps creating a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for your blog would be a good idea, specially if it represents your main business venture.
11. Spam Law: if you are distributing emails or newsletters through your blog make sure to comply with the law. The emails must be labeled correctly, and they should not contain false or misleading information.
12. Journalism Shield Law: unfortunately bloggers do not qualify for Shield Law protection like journalists do. In some states the definition might extend to bloggers, but you will need to check it out.