The fashion, the photos, the writing, the social media — that's all the fun stuff about blogging. But if you want your blog to be a serious business, it's time to get serious about how to protect yourself in the eyes of the law. To get an expert opinion, IFB asked Brittany Rawlings, an attorney that deals with fashion professionals and entrepreneurs and helps them with her website FashionBoss, for some basic legal advice to help get you get started. [Note: This advice is based on laws in the United States.]
Here's what you need to know to protect yourself legally…
See Yourself As An Entrepreneur
If your blog is a business, you should see yourself as an entrepreneur — and with that, you should take the proper precautions a traditional business would. For example:
- You should establish a corporate structure for liability and accounting. For instance, are you a LLC, a sole proprietor, or something else? Figure out how you want to establish your business.
- You should also make sure your business operations and dealings are safeguarded by valid contracts; such as employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, web design agreements, confidentiality agreements, sponsorship agreements, advertising and affiliate agreements. Everything should be written out and signed. Verbal agreements may seem easy now, but can be difficult to hold up in a court of law.
- Furthermore, if you're using a web developer and/or web designer to create your blog, a work for hire agreement may not be enough. Bloggers should seek a copyright assignment of their website in order to properly commercialize their blog, as well as warranty the ownership of the site.
Protect Yourself From The Internet
Since your business exists on the internet, this means you must also be wary of legal issues inherent of the internet. This means that proliferation of proprietary content and images are easily subject to copying, downloading, altering, sharing and misappropriating. It's YOUR work, you don't want anyone stealing it and getting away with it, right?
Since the Internet is so accessible, it has increased opportunities for the following:
- copyright and trademark infringement;
- violations of rights of privacy, publicity;
- added exposure to defamation claims through the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs;
- cybersquatting, meta-tag infringements, and domain name infringements
How can I fight against these possible situations of unwanted infringement?
- By disabling right click-save;
- using .htaccess (which results in broken image);
- placing copyright notices;
- using smaller and lower res images;
- watermarking images;
- and embedding images with copyright management information.
- Also, make sure your copyright registrations are filed in a timely manner before any potential infringement can take place to ensure the U.S. Copyright Act protects you.
How do I know if someone has violated my copyright?
The following may be grounds for copyright and trademark infringement, as well as privacy and publicity violations. Without the permission of the blogger:
- A third party does not have the right to reproduce, distribute or publicly display your work (ie. written original articles or photographs)
- Or utilize your name and likeliness, your work, or any other proprietary information
How do trademarks work?
- By registering trademarks, you are protecting your domain name, logo, and/or symbols.
- Also, you should state your registered trademarks on your site. One way to do it is by writing something similar to the following: “All content and materials available on ________, including but not limited to text, graphics, website name, code, images and logos are the intellectual property of ____________, and are protected by applicable copyright and trademark law. Any inappropriate use, including but not limited to the reproduction, distribution, display or transmission of any content on this site is strictly prohibited, unless specifically authorized by ___________.”
Need more help? Visit Brittany's website, FashionBoss, or email her at brittany[at]fashionboss.com with the subject “IFB fashion law inquiry” for a discounted rate!
[Image credit: Shutterstock]