How to Blog Part 18: Policies and Fine Print
By: Lorelle VanFossen
Tags: blog liability, blog policies, blogger, blogging, blogging policies, blogging tips, bueracracy, comment guidelines, comment policy, comments, copyright, disclosure, fine print, hold harmless, how to blog, insurance, liability, paperwork, policies, privacy, professional, professional blogging, regulations, responsibilities, rights, rights and responsibilities, risks, rules
Category: How to Blog
We live in a world of fine print, the fine print no one reads, just click YES to trust and accept, until something bad happens.
As a web publisher, the formal name of a blogger, you are required to set some fine print on your site.
The policies you should include on your site include the basics:
The Copyright Policy defines your copyright policy. It is your responsibility to define it beyond a Creative Commons badge. It isn’t enough. You need to spell it out in clear and easy-to-understand terms. What will you allow? How much of your content can be excerpted or cited before it passes the line on plagiarism? How do you wish citation links be made to your site? To the content or the overall site? Must it include your name? Can they take anything they want or just the written content not the photographs?
Copyright today needs more than a copyright statement on your site. You must define what your terms are for what is allowed under copyright and fair use. For more information see my article, “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content,” and Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today.
Privacy is important from both sides, yours and theirs.
Explain what information is collected automatically on your site and how it is used. Remind them that the most private information, their email, name, address, etc., are volunteered, but assure them of how you will, or will not, use it. Will you share, sell, or use the information? How?
State your policy on allowing children (those under 18) to read and use your site. This is part of your Privacy and Liability Policies.
The Liability Policy explains that you are not to be held accountable nor liable for what people do with your content, how they use it, and its truth and integrity. Remind them that the content herein is your opinion. Warn them that you are not liable for what they find when they click on a link, though you do your best to offer only the best resources. You can’t be held responsible for changes on the other end.
For more information on liabilities and risks associated with blogging, see “Blogging is a Liability Risk from Thomas Gregory,” “Legal Liability Overview from the Electronic Frontier Foundation,” and Writing a Blog Disclaimer” and “Does Your Blog Need a Disclaimer?” on The Blog Herald.
A Comments Policy clearly states what you will and will not accept as a comment on your site. It can be complicated, listing the rules and regulations of participating and interacting on your site. I wrote about some of these guidelines in “Does Your Blog Have A Comments Policy?” on The Blog Herald which will help you outline your own comment policy. In addition to outlining your comment guidelines, be sure and include the consequences if they violate them.
Or you can keep it simple as Liz Strauss does on her site. Her comment policy was “Play nice.” Everyone got it, until someone abused it and she had to expand it slightly, but the point still holds. Play nice or you will be kicked out of the sandbox.
The Disclosure Policy is only required if you have something to disclose. Nothing personal but appropriate to web publishing. If you are paid for publishing specific content, advertising, or paid to influence your blogging, it is federal law in many countries that you must disclose it. If you are not, and you have advertising on your site, you need to disclose that the paid content on your site does not influence your original content. The same applies to your social media accounts in many countries. Check with your country of residence for specific information on the laws related to you.
There are more policies your site may require such as customer service, returns, purchases, sales, etc. These five fine print policies are just the tip of the ice berg, and the standard policies found on all public and professional sites.
If they are long, publish each one as a Page or Sub-Page of your About or Policies Page. If they are short policies, just put them on a single Policies Page.
If you have one or more of these policies in place, it’s time to review them and make sure that they clearly state your current goals and intentions.