If you’re a blogger, you may have turned to online outlets to make some extra income or to earn your living using the Internet. You may also be offering your expertise free of charge as a way to help others but your act of good will may land you in court and spending thousands of dollars on an attorney if you’re not careful.
The 21st century internet is ripe with information. Pick the type of information you would like and you’ll find more of it online than you have the time to sift through but there’s a big problem with online information: where it comes from is suspect. Is it one person’s opinion or is that person an expert in the field?
In the past, there was an understanding that all information found online came with no warranty. Use at your own risk was understood but now, bloggers are finding themselves in hot water. Lawsuits claiming damages from online information supplied by bloggers are being filed with more frequency and bloggers, many without the resources to defend these lawsuits, are in a potentially catastrophic position. If you’re a blogger or anybody who is providing information as part of their business, here are a few ways to defend yourself from liability.
Who are you with?
We live in a world where transparency is essential. It has become nearly impossible to hide anything and that’s how you must think if you’re putting advice online for others. Some bloggers write articles that are informational in nature but the motivation behind them is to drive sales of a product they are selling where they get a portion of the revenue. To avoid some potential liability, it is best to disclose your relationship with that product. If you’re a business blogger, disclose any ownership you have in the stocks or investment products that you’re speaking of. Any affiliation should be disclosed to your readers.
No More Million Dollar Claims
“Nancy lost 145 pound using our products”. “Mike doubled his money in just 3 months by reading our investing book.” We have all seen the commercials for these types of products and although most of us understand that these claims may be true for the exceptions, for the average purchaser, extraordinary results will never be realized. When you write about the potential benefits, use the median data. If that miracle weight loss product will provide an average of 1 or 2 pounds a week of weight loss when used with exercise, write about that. Your readers are probably more receptive to real information rather than inflated claims.
Register your LLC
Probably the first and most effective way to avoid legal liability is to register your business as an LLC. An LLC allows your business to be sued but not you as an individual providing you follow all of the rules governing the operation of your LLC. If your blogging “company” has all of $100 in assets, that may be your maximum liability instead of somebody coming after you individually. Registering an LLC is often best accomplished using an online business registration service that can help you for a minimum cost.
Most of the time, bloggers have nothing to worry about but the prudent move is to be prepared in case the odds don’t turn out in your favor. Follow these few guidelines and your chances of litigation against you are greatly minimized. And now for the disclaimer:
(Author is not selling anything and doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be sued. )