How to Keep Your Blog Legal

Update: Please see my updated post on this subject.

In 2009, the FTC published disclosure guidelines for bloggers, with the intent of protecting consumers. I’m not a legal expert and won’t pretend to understand all the legal issues related to the FTC decision, however, I will say that if you are blogging and receiving any type of compensation as a blogger (products, money, trips, paid reviews, etc.), you need to make sure you disclose that information to your readers.

Here are a few resources that might be helpful:

  1. DisclosurePolicy.org provides a disclosure generator which asks you a series of questions about your blog and then produces a document you can use as your own disclosure policy.
  2. DisclosurePolicy.org‘s blog has some quick videos that explain the policy in layman’s terms.
  3. Here’s a helpful slideshow by WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) that talks about disclosure and best practices not only on blogs, but other places like Twitter and Facebook.
  4. In addition, other bloggers have written great posts on the subject too, like here and here.

Kate asked whether or not you have to include a disclosure link at the end of each post or just have one general policy available site-wide.

I’m not seeing anything that says you have to disclose everything in every post, however, I have noticed many bloggers make a point of identifying affiliate links or mentioning a product they received for free. I think it’s certainly better to be honest and forthright whenever possible. What do you think?

What disclosure practices have you adopted and what resources have you found helpful?

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Comments

  1. says

    OK. I read some more on the topic and I found an example. “This post contains affiliate links.” That’s easy enough. I don’t think I had ever noticed a disclosure before so I had absolutely no idea what it would sound like. Now I have an idea.

  2. says

    I glad I just came upon this article because I did not know that I needed a disclosure policy (I never thought about it) and I have some affiliate links. Can someone give me an example of what you would write at the end of the post? “If you click on the links to amazon and buy something I will get %15.” Just doesn’t sound right and I can’t think how to word it.

    • Amy says

      At the end of a post, you could say something like: “Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. See my disclosure policy here.” (with a link of course)

  3. says

    First, thank you for this blog! Second, I have a question about copyright (sorry if this is the wrong place to post–I’m working on reading every single word of this blog but can’t find anything related to this!)

    How do I (legally) share information with my readers that comes from sources such as books, magazines, other websites, etc.? I write about all things mothering, living green, and living simply and although much of the content is my own, I love sharing information that I learn elsewhere. I do advertise on my site but since it’s so new, I’m not making any money. Is it enough to cite or link to whatever I’m sharing? Do I have to ask permission for every tidbit I share? I’m not posting entire articles, just little tips or bits of information that I think my readers would find interesting. I liken myself to a hunter and gatherer of information and I want to share it with my tribe (all 7 of them at this point! Ha!). Is this okay?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. says

    i assume that if a blogger is linking products that they’re affiliates (which doesn’t bother me), and spelling it out on every post seems a bit silly. i have a disclosure tab under my header, but honestly, i think the whole thing is a bit ridiculous.

    open any magazine, and all the fashion and makeup that are featured have been provided to the beauty editors for free so that they’ll write favorably on them. it’s not disclosed but it’s how it works! i don’t understand why the FTC wants to make such a huge example of bloggers.

  5. says

    What Wendy said. ;)

    At first I was really resistant to the idea of disclosing in every post, but I figure it increases trust to be upfront, and to do it in a flashy, funny way makes it (to me, at least, and let’s hope to my readers) more palatable. I think what readers dislike is feeling like they’ve been lied to or manipulated into buying something, but if you’re honest, then there’s more goodwill, even if they are being manipulated. (Just joking!)

  6. says

    I lean towards disclosing in each and every post…I just feel funny if I don’t. Like Carrie said, better safe than sorry. I don’t have tons of affiliate links, though, since I’m not a deal blogger.

    And Amy, I have to tease you about your boring “here” and “here” anchor text for two of your links. lol

  7. says

    i’m under the impression that affiliate links must be disclosed also and that the disclosure must be on the post (and also in rss feed) so i put a short sentence at the bottom of the post if there is anything that might need disclosing. i figure better safe than sorry and it’s only going to make my readers trust me more.

  8. says

    We just got one general one on our new site. Since we sell mostly our own products we don’t really need one. I don’t see us doing many reviews or anything like that but we will just have the link at the bottom of each post.

  9. says

    I’ve tried to make my disclosure fun, so I do put it at the bottom of a post if there are any affiliate links in it. Which is most of them. I figure, it lets people know they can support me and I’ve read somewhere that it can help with conversions. (buying through Amazon, not religious conversions LOL)

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