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Welcome to episode 273 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Danielle Liss from Businessese and LISS Legal about the ways that bloggers can protect their content.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Les Alfred from Balanced Black Girl about building a brand that allows you to share your message. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Protecting Your Content
You spend a lot of time creating content; how can you make sure that your content is actually protected?
Danielle is here on the podcast to discuss it all!
You work hard to produce the content for your blog and brand – in today’s episode, you’ll learn how to make sure your work, your business, and your content are all protected.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Danielle helps digital creators
- How protecting your content can get tricky
- Why you might want to register a trademark and monitor your content
- What the DMCA is
- How copyrights work
- When you would look into suing
- How to create and maintain your Terms of Service
- How disclaimers work on your site and on Instagram
- How ebook disclaimers work
- LISS Legal
- Businessese legal templates
- Check out our Businessese Deals! <– for members only
- Reach out to Danielle via email and follow her on Instagram
- Meet out other Food Blogger Pro Experts
- Learn more about becoming a Food Blogger Pro member
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, and welcome to this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, my name is Alexa and I’m the general manager here at Food Blogger Pro. I just wanted to take a second to welcome you to the show today because this one’s a very good one, and that’s because this episode actually focuses on some questions that center around the idea of protecting your content. You work hard to produce the content that you produce for your blog or on social media, so how can you be sure that the content that you’re producing is protected? It’s a good and important question, right? That’s why we are so excited to have Danielle Liss from Businessese and LISS Legal back on the podcast today.
Alexa Peduzzi: Danielle is actually one of our Food Blogger Pro experts, which means that she, as well as a handful of other industry experts who focus on topics like SEO and Pinterest and email marketing, she volunteers her time to the Food Blogger Pro community to help our members with some of their toughest questions. In this episode, we’re tackling some of those questions as they pertain to protecting your content. So, what’s copyrighted? What are DMCA takedown notices? Do you need a disclaimer? How often should you update your terms of service and privacy policies? It’s a good one. I’m really excited to jump in today, so without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Danielle, welcome back to the podcast.
Danielle Liss: Thank you so much, I’m thrilled to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re going to be talking all about, believe it or not, websites and websites as it relates to legal matters. I say believe it or not because for those who have followed the podcast who are Food Blogger Pro members, they know your story and they know that this is really the sweet spot for you, but for those who aren’t familiar with your story, Danielle, can you give a little background of who you are and what you’re about and maybe a little bit about LISS Legal?
Danielle Liss: Sure. Well, I am a lawyer and I work primarily with small business owners who have a digital presence. So, websites, I’ve done a lot of work in the past with bloggers. I used to be general counsel and CMO of an influencer network and then was also in house for a digital fitness company. One of my goals is I know in that space, legal is something that might be a little bit daunting for people, and particularly if you are coming at this from that creative side, so my goal is really to help people feel a little bit more ease and simplicity on the legal side, so that it’s not something that you want to avoid, because I think that’s the worst thing that you can do.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s so relatable for a lot of people. They think of things like legal and the legal work that goes into building a business or running a website and it can seem so intimidating and so much work that you just don’t do it. Right? I remember in college, I had a friend who said, “I have so much to do today that I just took a nap.” I just feel so overwhelmed that I’m just not going to do any of it, and I think legal can potentially be that, but what I hear you saying is it doesn’t have to be, there can be a simplicity to it, and there’s a balance between doing the right thing and being intentional about it and going overboard and doing everything just because it’s recommended.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about some of that today, as it relates to things that you can do to protect your website and also the content that you’re sharing, whether it be on social or other places. So, can you talk about … We had been talking about this, we’ve been going through the process with you for each of our sites and making updates. Is this something that you’ve been thinking about? Have you heard content creators, bloggers, publishers talking about this? Or is it just like, “Hey, this is best practice, we need to be talking about this all the time?”
Danielle Liss: I think it’s a lot of best practice, but I think one of the things that really sparked this for me is I have a lot of clients who are service-based business owners who have a really significant online presence, and many of them are marketing on Instagram. So, it used to be that you were primarily pushing sales into your website. So everything lived there and people knew, “I need to have website terms, I need to have this, this or this.” But what really started this conversation and this line of thinking for me was, “Okay, I have these clients who are essentially skipping over that piece of the puzzle that used to be there. So what can I do to help them protect their business and protect their content?” Because the last thing anyone wants is to put this really long disclaimer every time they post something on Instagram, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Danielle Liss: That just kills the mood, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right.
Danielle Liss: So, it became part of that. Then I really was looking at it and saying, “Okay, we can help you protect yourself on Instagram, what are the other things that are the most common right now?” And especially in the Food Blogger Pro community, I’ve seen a lot of questions that came up about eBooks and lead magnets and things like that. So it was like, “Okay, what can we do to take a look at how to best protect yourself when you are putting that information out there?” Then really it was a refresher for websites because I think that sometimes people think about that website fine print, and they’re like, “Eh, I can either copy it from somewhere else or I did it like in whenever I started my blog and now I don’t need to update or refresh that.” I think that it’s really just part of having solid website policies and then knowing what else you can do to protect your content as you are leveling up your business.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that. I think that you can see that shift where it’s about having a blog, it’s about building that blog and then there becomes a significance on these other social platforms, whether that be YouTube, Instagram, obviously really important. What I hear you saying is, you started to see a lot of people were actually using Instagram as their primary platform, and then where they’re using that to sell services, whether that be coaching, maybe it would be some type of program, whether it be exercise or nutrition and the only way they were transacting with people was on Instagram, is that right?
Danielle Liss: Primarily yeah. It was a lot of, DM me, get more information and they’re doing more or less, they’re booking their sales calls out of the DMs. When that happens, I mean, it’s great because the type of products that a lot of people were selling were more group program or coaching, things like that. So there’s still going to be a contract at the end of the day for most of those programs, but how do you make sure that that marketing that you’re doing on the front end is protected? So that’s really where a lot of these conversations came out of, and I know a ton of people who are doing that, and depending on what your business looks like, like for some people it’s all happening on LinkedIn.
Danielle Liss: So, it may just depend on your business, but it really is about taking a look at, “Okay, here’s where I’m doing my business, here is how I can make sure that I am just putting the foundation in place, because for a lot of these things, it is really just have a couple of foundational documents or a couple of things that you know you’re doing and then it flows from there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. It’s interesting, you think about that, you have a terms page on your website, but you don’t really have that on Instagram or YouTube and maybe they have terms page, but you want to make one specific for you. So, we’ll talk about that a little bit, but let’s just cover the basics on the website side of things. So, for somebody who has a blog, has a website, even if it’s not the primary place that they’re communicating or transacting, what are some of the core foundational things that creators need to be thinking about when they’re publishing to their site? Maybe let’s start with making sure that you aren’t doing something wrong by using somebody else’s content. What are some of the basics there that we need to consider?
Danielle Liss: I think that is one of the most important things. So, when we talk about protecting yourself, you also want to protect yourself from claims that you’re infringing. Right? I think that those … I feel like it’s gotten better, maybe this is an optimistic attitude, but I do feel like this has improved for a long time when I would speak or I’d be at conferences, I had to have a lot of conversations like, “Please do not right click and copy images from Google and put them on your blog.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, right.
Danielle Liss: So I feel like we’re moving past that. But what I do want to stress here is just make sure that you are not using someone else’s content. You don’t want to get a cease and desist letter or a takedown notice. It’s simple, just use your content or use content that you know you have permission to use. I always tell people I prefer to purchase stock photography because I know exactly what that license was. So keep track of what you’ve got, and that way you can avoid future issues. At the same time that you’re protecting and making sure that that content is protected, you can also protect your own content with monitoring to make sure other people aren’t using it, sending out, take down requests if you find that someone has.
Danielle Liss: I think that for a lot of bloggers, I hear the question, “Should I register my copyrights?” I want to throw out there that the copyright office made a change recently, and they have a new application where you can do groupings for short form content, a group registration, so basically you pay one time for up to 50 submissions and it’s basically just them making it a little bit easier to register. So in that case, I think it’s a great idea because if something ever really did happen with your content and you need to sue, you have to have that registration in place. So that’s a good option for people as well.
Bjork Ostrom: A few things to dive in on with those that you’ve mentioned, one of the things was monitoring. We use a service called Pixsy, which we upload our photos and it essentially searches through the internet and pulls up any use of those images, and then we’re able to move forward on it. Are there other monitoring services that you know of that you like or you’ve seen other people using?
Danielle Liss: That’s the primary one that I know of and have recommended to people. I think sometimes it can get a little bit confusing because you’re like, “Oh no, I gave permission for that one.” And it’s just making sure that you know where that usage is coming from, but monitor it, and I think that it’s a great thing to do. Or if somebody says, “I think I saw this come through.” I had somebody recently email me who said, “A friend of mine saw this and knew it was my house.” Because it was an interior design shot. So, at that point you did a lot of reverse Google image searching and found that it had been a syndicated article in a whole bunch of different places. In that circumstance, it ended up being a lot of takedown requests from her. But if you think that something is going on, follow up on it, really look and see if you can find other places where it is. But I do like … It’s Pixsy, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, P-I-X-S-Y.com.
Danielle Liss: I like them, and that’s the one that I tend to recommend for people as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, one of the things … our process for that, we’re just in the middle of building that out, and essentially what it does is it pulls all of the uses that it has found around the web. Then it asks you, “Is this something you approve of?” And if you say yes it will move it out of the bin of content for you to review. So an example would be, “Hey, we found this on pinterest.com, do you approve of it?” Yes. Maybe we could check and say like, “Is it actually directing to our site?” Like not somebody else that’s using it and directing it to their site, but approve of that.
Bjork Ostrom: But inevitably, there will be uses that weren’t approved, and example was, there was the … I think it was like … I won’t say the name because I don’t remember it, but it was like cookie business, the one in malls. I think that’s what it was, but they had used a Pinch of Yum chocolate chip cookie photo as their checkout photo for, if you wanted to buy some of their pre-made cookies, it was like, “Oh, that’s an obvious copyright infringement on an image in a commercial setting.” So, when that comes up, what are your options as a creator?
Danielle Liss: I think as a creator, one of the things that you have to weigh is how much does this damage you? Because it can be an investment to have things taken down, and especially if you need to have a lawyer get involved with it. So, if it’s something where you’re looking at it and you don’t want them to use it obviously because it’s not their content, then it may be fine to do a take down request, which a lot of companies will have a DMCA policy on their website where it will show you exactly what you need to do to contact and submit a takedown request.
Bjork Ostrom: If you share what DMCA is for those who are not familiar-
Danielle Liss: Yes, it’s the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Bjork Ostrom: Impressive.
Danielle Liss: And it essentially provide-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s impressive to me that you could remember one of those, because to me it’s one of those things … I know DMCA, but then when you expand it out, it’s like, What are the words? And what do they mean?
Danielle Liss: I know.
Bjork Ostrom: Like millennium.
Danielle Liss: Essentially what it is, it’s there to protect, it came in … I want to say the mid 2000s and it was really there because of music piracy, and it was there to provide a safe harbor for people who were posting this or who were hosting that content. So essentially-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So an example of being like Napster or LimeWire or any of these music hosting platforms.
Danielle Liss: Those were the days, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Danielle Liss: Yeah, it was really created in response to that, but I think it has become very frequently used now for those who are more in an image driven space. So, like bloggers and website owners, and essentially what it is, is I think an easy example to use and someone easy to pick on because everyone knows them as BuzzFeed. So if BuzzFeed did one of their list posts and they had pulled an image from the site, even if they gave credit, you can still reach out to them and say, “Hey, I’d like to have this removed.” So if you go to the BuzzFeed site and you scroll down to where all their legal print is, there is a DMCA policy link and it gives you very specific instructions of how to submit a take down request.
Danielle Liss: So that’s usually the simplest way to get things taken down, if it doesn’t work, then you can always move to a cease and desist letter from a lawyer. But that’s where I tell people, you really need to weigh what the damage level is because it can get expensive to go through that process. So, if it’s something where it really is harming your business to the tune of thousands of dollars, yes. Go that route. But if not, just weigh what that is and just do your best to try to get it taken down.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It really is an interesting analysis of effort and time. I think for some people there’s a moral obligation to not let people copy content, and that’s a consideration as well. For Pinch of Yum where we land on it is, if it’s a BuzzFeed, if it’s another website, if it’s just a random WordPress site, we say, “Hey, you can use a photo of a recipe, but what we ask is that you link back to Pinch of Yum the homepage and then the recipe itself. So, we have guidelines on how people can use the photos that we have, and then we don’t allow people to use them in a commerce setting. So, if you’re selling cookies, you can’t use a Pinch of Yum cookie photo to help you sell those photos. It has to be like, ”Hey, we like this recipe.“ ”Here’s the link to it.” But not including the full recipe itself.
Bjork Ostrom: We do end up doing a decent amount of the takedowns, but worth mentioning, we have a team, and so for creators, for people who have a limited amount of time in their day, if you are one of those people listening to the podcast, that’s a consideration you have to make. Is this something that I have time for and that I can move forward on? Can you talk a little bit about the copyright side of things? Like in a DMCA you can say, “Hey, I own this, here’s my website. You can take it down.” In what instance would a copyright come in handy and why do you need an official copyright versus the really loose copyright of, “Hey, I created this and I can prove it, therefore I have a copyright.” I don’t know what the legal term for that type of copyright is, but-
Danielle Liss: It’s still a copyright.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Danielle Liss: As the creator of a piece of content. So, an original piece of content that is, and this is where it gets nice and legal, published in a fixed tangible medium, which essentially means it lives somewhere. It’s not just a temporary thing, it’s not an idea, it’s not something you’re just having a chat about-
Bjork Ostrom: In your brain-
Danielle Liss: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: It was like on a piece of paper or on a website-
Danielle Liss: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … painted on a wall. Sure.
Danielle Liss: So, as long as you have put that out into the world, you, as the creator have copyright rights. That essentially means that you have all of the exclusive rights in how that content is used, published, displayed, et cetera. Where a copyright registration comes into play, if you ever needed to enter a lawsuit and or if you needed to send a demand that’s basically like I’m about to sue you kind of thing, you need to have the copyright registered. I think that when it comes to copyright registration, it’s one of those things that as your business is growing and as your content is really becoming more notable, and in that, I mean, where it might be more likely to be copied, I think it’s a good investment to make, because the application is not incredibly expensive. It’s usually about $55.
Danielle Liss: And with the way that they have it now with this grouping, you can do up to 50 articles, essentially, as long as they were grouped together in the same three month time period, and you can put it all together and get that just additional layer of protection so that if something happens, it can also give you some statutory benefits in terms of, if you win the lawsuit you can have certain specified damages and you may be eligible for attorney’s fees, which is a big help. So that if you’ve got that registration you should be in pretty good shape if it came to that point. Now, of course, our big hope is that it doesn’t get to that point for anybody because that’s expensive.
Bjork Ostrom: Would there ever be a point where you would … if you knew that you were going to go into the process of suing somebody that you’d retroactively go back and say, “Now I’m going to go through this official copyright process?”
Danielle Liss: Yes. That has definitely happened. I think that if you do it closer to the publication date, you are going to qualify for the attorney’s fees award. Whereas if it’s something that is done at a later point, you may not get the full damages that you could get otherwise.
Bjork Ostrom: So, it sounds like they have to be in a three month period of time. So, essentially it’d be like 240 $220 a year to every quarter content that you’ve done for the past three months, which seems like relatively low cost. But what is the process for that? Is it time intensive, and how do you go about submitting it?
Danielle Liss: It’s a government website.
Bjork Ostrom: So there’s that?
Danielle Liss: They’re never as easy as you’d like. It sometimes feels like, “Oh, wow, this was definitely designed in 1998, cool.” It’s not that bad. It can get a little bit trickier if you are someone who has a team of people or contributors.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Danielle Liss: Because then you might need to parse out those items that were done by a contributor, but really it’s just about having samples of what that content is, but you can file online. So, I mean, again, it’s a government website, so there’s that. But you can file online, and I don’t view it as terribly tedious, I have clients who I file copyrights for, but usually it’s something that I tell people they can DIY, and a lot of people I know they’ll go through the process, they’ll teach a VA and their VA handles it for them, and that’s if somebody is really processing them on a regular basis or …
Danielle Liss: Like one of my clients has a VA that she has trained to do it, who does, because she does a lot of handouts and lead magnets and things like that, and she wants to make sure that those are protected. So, it can really depend on what the inside of your business looks like. Again, “Does everyone need to do it?” “No.” “But is it a nice to have?” “Absolutely.”
Bjork Ostrom: Great. What’s the situation where you’d sue somebody for like, they’re using your content and they refuse to take it down or they used it and sold it in some way. There’s probably a thousand examples, but can you think of a few that are common?
Danielle Liss: I think the most common is, and I think probably the easiest one that you can find a lot online is, Getty Images and those professional type photographers who, if you want to get one of those images, I don’t know what I was doing yesterday, but I was actually on the Getty Images website, and to buy a small sample of this one film premiere, it was like $200 for the one image. So, obviously that can be a much more significant amount of income if someone is using that image without permission. So, it really can be, what money would you have made from having this content? Are they taking money out of your pocket?
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Danielle Liss: So let’s say with that chocolate chip cookie, let’s say they took that and it wasn’t just marketing to drive sales for them, let’s say they somehow turned that into a piece of merchandise, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. A cookie mask.
Danielle Liss: I am the kind of girl who would have a print of a cookie in her office, so it’s fine. So, let’s say they did that or they had t-shirts or … I love the idea of the cookie mask quite a bit. So, anything like that, if they had used your image and they were making money on it, you’re damaged by that because that’s money that they really shouldn’t have been making. So those are the more likely situations. I think that for many bloggers, if it’s someone who is using the image without authorization, it may not get to that point, it really is more about when it moves into that commercial setting. Where it can really make a big difference is for artists. I follow all of these Enneagram Instagram accounts…
Danielle Liss: That have all of the images and these beautiful illustrations and things like that. So I think for them, if their stuff were to get taken, it’s much more likely to possibly be used somewhere, like let’s say somebody puts it on a mug or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right.
Danielle Liss: Those are the types of situations that I think are really important to look out for.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. I think I’ve told this story in the podcast before, but there’s a time when Lindsay and I were doing a travel survey of like, “Hey, if you were to go anywhere, where would it be? Where is your best travel destination?” It was through some like travel site comparable to an Expedia. I don’t think it was Expedia, but so we went through and it was like, “If you could eat at any one of these restaurants, which would it be?” And it was like, “What’s your favorite dog?” Like one of those surveys. Then it got to, what would be your favorite dessert? On that page was one of … it was a Pinch of Yum photo of a fruit pizza, and we’re like, “Oh wow, that’s weird.”
Bjork Ostrom: So, at that point I actually just followed up with, I don’t know where I found the information, but I was like, “Hey, here’s the deal, if ever we license our photo, here’s what we would charge, and we’d ask because you’re using this on your site in a way that you’re licensing it. I think it was like $500 or something like that.” They’re like, “Oh, sorry about that. Can totally understand whether it would be, and cut a check for $500.” But that would have been an example of if that was done right on their end, they would have paid to license that photo to use it. They didn’t, so it was like, “Hey, we could go to them.”
Bjork Ostrom: We didn’t have to go through any form of legal process because they just … it’s like a handshake exchange, but I can see in an instance like that, similar to what you’re saying, like the Getty Images or some artistic thing that you’ve created that’s used somewhere else, how that would make sense that you would have some dollar amounts attached to that.
Danielle Liss: I think what you’re saying makes a lot of sense, go into it knowing or having an idea at least of what would you have charged them to use that picture? Because I think that’s a really important guide for you in terms of, “Okay, if you know it’s not lawsuit territory, right, does it merit getting an attorney involved? Or is it something that you just say as long as it gets taken down, I’m good with that? So, just have an idea because if they are doing something pretty big with it or they’re really … If it’s something that you would have charged a good amount of money for, send them something and say, ”Here’s what it would have costed.” It may not go anywhere, but you can absolutely send it and make a request and a demand.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. Third alternative that I would throw out that we sometimes do is just say, “Hey, I see you’re using this, can you provide a link back to our site?” And sometimes depending on what site is using it, that link can be really valuable. I think all of us have received emails from people who are like, “Hey, can we put a link on your site for $500?” The reason is because links carry authority and pass authority, and it’s one of the measures of how high your content shows up on Google is the number of quality links pointing back to your content. So, there is a monetary value that could be associated with that, and sometimes it’s the easiest because it doesn’t cost the other owner of the website anything, but you get some significant gains from it.
Bjork Ostrom: How about on the terms side of things? So, obviously there’s a lot that goes into your website terms. How should you be going about creating those to start? You had talked about the idea of like, “Hey, I’m going to look at this blog, copy it and put it on my site.” Which I’m guessing isn’t the right answer. So, how should you go about creating those and how often should you update them?
Danielle Liss: When it comes to website terms, your website terms are your contract with your audience. So, they should include all of the things that you really think probably you shouldn’t have to say. Like you can’t hack my website, you can’t use my website for spam. So, that usually comes under the prohibited uses of a website. I also tell people, put a copyright notice in there, because of course, most websites are going to have some type of social sharing plugin. So, you’re giving somebody permission to share content with that, right? So you’re essentially giving them a license or what if it’s a situation like you said, where you’re good with them using one image as long as they don’t copy the recipe in full and they give you a link back.
Danielle Liss: You can include that as part of your copyright notice and say, “You can do the following, but if it goes past that, you can’t do it because it’s all copyrighted.” And just get really specific as to how you want people to use your site. I definitely recommend use templates for it if you can, shameless plug for Businessese, we do sell one that has a lot of content that we made specifically for bloggers and influencers, just for the type of content that you have on your site.
Bjork Ostrom: Can explain Businessese?
Danielle Liss: Yeah, sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Just in mentioning that, and then also just a quick plug for anybody who’s a Food Blogger Pro member. If you go to the deal section, we have a deal for Businessese as well-
Danielle Liss: Yes, we do.
Bjork Ostrom: What is it and how does that work?
Danielle Liss: Then there’s always the standard legal stuff that’s like, if you go to a third party website by clicking on a link, it’s not our fault what happens, things along those lines. In terms of how often to update, it all depends on how often you change your site. If you add a paid component to your site, that’s definitely a time to make a change because you want to have purchase policies and things like that. But otherwise, as long as your general website stays the same, there’s not a ton of changes that you have to make sure that once you have them published.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you have a terms page? That might seem like a basic question, but what is that doing to actually help you as a publisher?
Danielle Liss: I think it’s protecting your rights and making sure that you are being very clear as to what the audience can and can’t do and making sure that they are on notice. I think that’s really what it is. Obviously we can’t have somebody sign a contract when they come to our website saying like, “I’ll be good.” So it really is the closest thing that we have to make sure that people are using the website appropriately, or if there’s questions, I always tell people who are like, “I’m really looking for a picture of this, can I copy an image that I have found?” I’m always like, “No, please get permission.” But I will also say to them, go to the terms and see if they have something in there in terms of how that content can be shared. So, it can be a really good driver.
Bjork Ostrom: So what I hear from you is, you could use a service like Businessese, could have a templated version, you could reach out to an attorney, somebody who practices and does this to spin that up for you, and to really customize it and have it exactly as you should have it. Then at that point, is it simply uploading it as a page on your website, like pinchofyum.com/terms?
Danielle Liss: Yep. Put it as a page in the website and then just put a footer link. If you do happen to be a company that sells a product, then most of the time, like I’m a WooCommerce person, so I don’t really know any of the other options, but there’s usually going to be a box where it says you agree to the terms of service. So you want to make sure that anything regarding that transaction is also covered. So if you are making purchases, then I think it’s really clear to make sure that it’s absolutely well stated what your refund policy is like, what they’re able to do with that content, et cetera. So just make sure that those terms cover those general items, especially if they are going to be clicking a box that says, “Yes, I agree to the terms of service.” That’s a place where you can put something.
Danielle Liss: I think that can depend on your business. I have some professionals that I work with that absolutely have it on a separate page because it needs to be front and center for what they’re doing. My disclaimer lives on a separate page. Mine lives as a statement in the footer of my website, but for other people, depending upon what your business is, it can live within the actual terms themselves. When you think of a disclaimer, I think the easiest way to think of it is to give an example, and that is every single time you have Googled a symptom and ended up on WebMD, which I’m speaking from experience here, let’s just say-
Bjork Ostrom: Not that you’ve ever done that. Yeah.
Danielle Liss: Yeah, yeah. It’s never happened. So, when you get there, it says, “This is for informational purposes only, it is not medical advice, Danielle, call your doctor. Do not diagnose yourself because of what you have seen here, don’t make changes to your diet, et cetera.” Where I think it can come in really handy for food bloggers is if you talk about specific types of diets or different types of eating habits, right? So it might be that you talk about a vegan lifestyle or sugar-free or gluten-free, whatever the case might be. A lot of times there might be backstory in your post that talks about why you adopted certain eating habits.
Danielle Liss: So you may want to make it really clear in your disclaimer that you’re not there giving the medical advice or nutrition advice, that you are just sharing information, it’s up to them how they use it, and most importantly, you’re not liable if something happens, that’s the whole point of the disclaimers to say, “I’m not liable, if you make changes as a result of the information presented on the website.”
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds like what you’re saying is the significance in terms of the “real estate,” like the location of that depends on the significance of the information that you’re talking about as it relates to health or nutrition or maybe finance. If you’re talking about a lot of these things, then maybe you want to have a disclaimer a little bit more obvious in terms of its location?
Danielle Liss: Yep.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. What does that look like? How long does it have to be? How in-depth does it have to be? I’m just curious to know what that looks like, or is that at the point where it’s like, there are so many, it depends on that you need to talk to somebody to figure that out?
Danielle Liss: It can depend, but generally speaking, it’s a few paragraphs. It doesn’t have … If you do a standalone, it can be a little bit longer because it’s going to have some additional legal term language in it. But I usually say depending upon what areas you are talking about, so we also have a business use template for disclaimers, and there’s a paragraph that you can use if you are talking about recipes, there is a section that’s maybe two to three paragraphs, if you talk about nutrition information. If you are a licensed professional, I always recommend having it so that it says … So for mine, it says, “Danielle Liss is an attorney.” However, just because you see this, that doesn’t create any type of attorney, client relationship between you, this is not personalized advice.
Danielle Liss: So I think that it all depends on how many areas you’re talking about. So like if you have a website, like what something super generic that talks about everything like a Huffington Post or whatever, they could potentially cover all the things on that website.
Bjork Ostrom: Yap. Nutrition, health, finance.
Danielle Liss: Everything. So in that case, your disclaimer is going to get a little bit longer because you’re talking about so many different topics, but if you’re very focused … and for food bloggers, I think it would probably be nutrition and the recipes, I always say throw something in there that’s like, “Look, I’m giving you the recipe, if it doesn’t come out, it’s not my fault because I’m thinking of myself there because I can’t make anything.”
Danielle Liss: It’s not … and you might recommend using certain tools. You don’t have liability there as well if someone were to cut their finger off, because they’re watching you do a demonstration on cutting knife techniques. I’m sure there’s words that I should know that’s called, I don’t know.
Danielle Liss: I put them in the highlights on your stories. So, particularly for my clients who do selling directly through Instagram, we will work on creating, “Okay, here are …” It’s not going to be the whole thing, because the last thing you want is pages upon pages of legalese showing up in your stories and people are like, “Oh.” So we usually come up with the most relevant bullet points and it ends up being one to two images, add that to your disclaimer, and then depending upon what your follower account, so if you’ve got swipe up or if you’re using a LinkedIn bio then say, go to my LinkedIn bio or swipe up and go to my full disclaimer or my full terms, and that’s the way that I have been handling it, because it gives them a place that they can go and see the general information particularly if someone is selling through DMs.
Danielle Liss: I think it can be so important because there you need to say, “Look, I’m not giving you customized advice just because you’re sending me a DM, you don’t have an expectation of confidentiality just because it’s a DM. So just making sure that those pieces are clear and then put it in your stories, I know some people are like, ”I don’t want that showing up in my stories for a couple of days, since it’s 24 hours.” Just add it and then put a highlight, that’s called disclaimer, and you can go from there.
Bjork Ostrom: So, essentially for a period of time, it will be there, people can see it, but after a while it’ll move and you can put it off to the side, essentially like an Instagram photo in that regard?
Danielle Liss: Exactly.
Danielle Liss: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: A connection there. That’s great. So, how about … you have referenced this a couple of different times and we actually have a mini course that you’ll be recording for Food Blogger Pro coming mid-October on some of this stuff, which we’re excited about, but what about the considerations around digital products and eBooks and things like that? How do we go about making sure that these pieces of content, which are still just as significant as a physical book, but oftentimes don’t go through the process of the same type of copyright or protection process that we would just because they’re digital, how do we go about including all of the appropriate considerations around disclaimers and licensing and appropriate use for the digital products we’re creating?
Danielle Liss: It really doesn’t have to be that long. I think that some people think I don’t want to have to put like my entire website disclaimer into my eBook because it’s not a great experience as a reader. Right? But think about most of the books that you read, if you actually get into the title page information, a lot of times it will have exactly what we’re talking about here, where it will have just a line that’s a copyright line. I always say include the copyright symbol, your year and your company name, so that it’s very clear that you are claiming the copyright for that. Then I include a license.
Danielle Liss: So, how can they use it? And typically what you’re going to say is this is for personal use only, it is not something that you can sell or distribute or any of those other things and reserving the rights for yourself as the copyright owner. So all rights reserved, three words, not that complicated for that one. Then depending upon the content that you are including in that digital product, then put in a shorter disclaimer.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Danielle Liss: So that may be, if it’s recipes, if it is talking about nutrition again, this is really common for changes either whether it’s nutrition and diet or fitness, because you want to make sure that it’s very clear, “Informational purposes only, please talk to your doctor before making any changes to your exercise or nutrition regimens, et cetera.” So it doesn’t have to be long, I usually tell people it’s probably about four paragraphs, and then just put that in … if you’ve got like a short introductory paragraph, you can put it in the fine print below that, or you can always do it right after your title page, is fine too.
Danielle Liss: Or if you’re somebody who at the end of it says, “You have questions? Reach out.” That type of thing, put it there. It really is just to put people on notice, and as we will deal with in the mini course, we do have a template for that, and it really is just basing it off of whatever topic you are covering in that particular piece of content. Because if you talk about all the things on your website, but that lead magnet is only dealing with nutrition, you don’t have to cover as many different things. You can just cover the specific topic for whatever that piece of content is.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that ties back to that conversation that we had at the beginning, which is that balance between making sure that you’re being diligent, methodical and intentional with, including these things without being so overblown that it feels like a run-on three paragraph, three sentence or three page disclaimer about everything that comes along with it, but it’s right balance, protecting yourself, protecting the content, making sure that it’s laid out in a clear, concise way which it feels like that’s a great example of that. It’s there, it’s included, you can understand it, and it’s probably realistically helpful for both sides.
Danielle Liss: Sure. You can reach out to me. Email is usually the best, [email protected], and I’m lisslegal on all the things social wise. So, it’s usually pretty easy to find me.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Great. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast Danielle, thanks for your leadership and insight on the Food Blogger Pro forums as an expert, it’s so great to have you around there and thanks as always for being so willing to share your wealth of knowledge. We really appreciate it.
Danielle Liss: Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure.
Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thanks again for tuning in today. If you have any questions from this episode, and if you’re a Food Blogger Pro member, be sure to drop them in the community forum. Danielle is there answering questions nearly every week. So, that’s really the best place you can go to drop your questions and get them answered. Like I mentioned before, Danielle is in the forum because she’s actually a Food Blogger Pro expert, and our Food Blogger Pro experts are a group of incredible people who volunteer their time to the Food Blogger Pro community in the forum or in live Q&A’s or in podcast episodes like these to help our members with their toughest questions and to help them grow their blogs.
Alexa Peduzzi: So if you want to learn more about just our amazing group of Food Blogger Pro experts, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/experts. Just a reminder that Bjork and Danielle actually talked about this in today’s episode, but we actually have a mini course, which is just a one video long course about eBook disclaimers coming from members later this month, it’ll be available on October 15th and all members will get access to it and a free copy of the eBook and lead magnet disclaimer template that Danielle actually made and sells on her site. It’ll be a good one and I’m really excited about it.
Alexa Peduzzi: So if you’re not already a member and you want to learn more about what you can get as a Food Blogger Pro member and get access to this mini course, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/membership. That does it for us this week my friend, thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you next time and until then, make it a great week.
This was extremely useful and interesting. Thank you!
Glad to hear that, Chelsea!!