Writing a Blog Disclaimer

Filed as Features, Guides on October 2, 2007 9:15 am

Yesterday, I covered examples of blog disclaimers, simple paragraphs, fun statements, and legal policies from different blogs. Today, I want to cover how to write a blog disclaimer, protecting you and your blog from the world of litigation and prosecution.

In Creating The Perfect Blog Comment Liability Disclaimer from The Intuitive Life Business Blog, the author goes through the process of contacting a lawyer to review their blog disclaimer from start to finish. It’s a good lesson in how to write a good disclaimer, while still making it personal. The lawyer points out that:

Fortunately, there is a wide body of caselaw and law review articles concerning website disclaimers. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Caution is appropriate when applying those case precedents, however. Blogging is a more dynamic interaction – truly akin to a somewhat stilted conversation. Judges will eventually view this distinction as significant. After all, doesn’t a reactive series of posts and responses start to look like advice which may be relied upon – to the benefit or detriment of the commenter?

A valid point covered the “conversation” created with comments. By responding to comments, the blogger becomes a “moderator”, which could be interpreted as “directed communication”, making yourself an expert, thus libel for your expertise. So the disclaimer should be clear that you are not responsible as an “expert” and for what people do with your advice and wisdom.

Who is responsible for the content within comments on your blog? The blogger wanted to say “Your words are your own” in his disclaimer, turning over responsibility to the reader. The lawyer argued against that with, “Your blog is an environment created by you for the purpose of hosting these words. It’s your public message board. Those words belong to you.”

The content you write, and the comments your readers write, are all on your blog and therefore, you have a measure of responsibility over anything that appears on your blog. You control what appears on your blog so make sure it speaks well for you.

In How to Write a Blog Disclaimer by Websites Made Simple, he covers some of the basics of writing a disclaimer and gives some examples of the different styles and lengths of blog disclaimers.

A blog disclaimer is becoming more and more necessary to have nowadays. Especially with all the suing going on and not to mention our natural behavior to rebel against any system or law. As much practice you put into responsible blogging, you will stumble upon unavoidable situations where you happen to offend someone.

What Should Be In A Blog’s Disclaimer?

A blog disclaimer can say anything, but here are some things that you may consider if you are putting together your own disclaimer.

  • Content Validity: A blog is always in transition. The information you publish today might not be valid or accurate two weeks or two years from now. Content, sources, information and links change over time, so make sure your protect yourself from the natural evolution of blog content.
  • Content Accuracy: We all make mistakes. The disclaimer should take the accuracy and validity of your blog’s content into account.
  • External Links: What you link to reflects back on your blog. I made the mistake recently of publishing a link inaccurately, linking to a porn site. It was quickly fixed, but mistakes happen. URLs and domains change hands. Protect yourself in your blog’s disclaimer from what is at the end of a link, as well as from those linking to you.
  • Photographs and Graphic Images: If you are using images that are not yours, then say so. If they are, make sure you claim them and hold yourself harmless from any harm caused by the images, such as offending someone.
  • Files, Programs, and Downloadables: If you offer downloadable files or programs, such as WordPress Plugins, Themes, etc., make sure you get the wording exactly right to protect yourself in case your file damages or harms someone’s blog, site, or computer.
  • Libel and Defame: Be clear that anyone reading your blog will not hold you libel for what you say or display. State the content on the blog is the opinion of the blogger, not intended to “malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual,” or anyone or thing, especially those with the ability and desire to fight back.
  • Responsibility: You should state that you are responsible for the content, not your employer, volunteer group, membership organization, church, or other agencies which you might be seen to represent. Take care with this. If you volunteer for an organization, and blog about it, you could be seen to “represent” it through implication, just as much as you might be representing your employer if you write about the company and/or your work.
  • Personal Views: State that these are your personal views, which implies you are responsible for them, not your employee or another agency. Your blog is your opinion.
  • Protection from Commenters: Consider stating that you are not responsible, nor will be held liable, for anything anyone says on your blog in the blog comments, nor the laws which they may break in your country or theirs through their comments’ content, implication, and intent.
  • Protection from Fellow Bloggers: If you have multiple bloggers and/or contributors on your blog, consider some statement that covers them, protecting them but also protecting you from what they say in their blog posts.
  • Do No Harm: It helps when you say that your “intention” is to do no harm. To not injure others, defame, or libel, just in case someone thinks you are doing harm. “Harm” is subject to interpretation not facts. It’s your opinion and advice, not counsel. What you write on your blog is not to be taken as fact nor absolute. If people use your advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations, and are injured, you are not to be held responsible.
  • Disclosure of Paid-to-Blog: Some disclaimers may include a disclosure statement that says the blog’s content is, or is not, generated to make money or paid for blogging content. If this is not included in the disclaimer, make sure you publicly and visibly post a disclosure as there is a growing call for blogger’s ethics for transparency.
  • Language Issues: I got in trouble in Israel for using the English word “maniac” which translates into a “bad” word in Hebrew. Language is a tricky thing, so consider adding a statement about not being responsible for translation or interpretation of content. Also, if this issue is important to you, you know that punctuation can change the intent of a statement, so hold yourself and your blog harmless from prosecution for bad grammar and punctuation.
  • Copyright: If you want to make your disclaimer a catch-all, be sure to include a statement on your copyright policy, setting the guidelines for how and when your content may be used by others.
  • International and Cultural Laws: If your blog is read by someone from another country, a country which has laws which restricts or censors content, and your blog’s content crosses their line, who is responsible for “crossing the border”? Is it you or the reader? Either way, consider a statement that says you are not responsible for defamatory statements bound to government, religious, or other laws from the reader’s country of origin.
  • Limits on Damages: Consider adding a statement that restricts the financial claim that could be taken against you and your blog. If legal action is brought against your blog, it could be brought against you personally, your home, properties, and more. By setting a cap limit on the financial responsibility, it could help the courts set a lower rate if you lose, since you publicly stated the limits.
  • Make It Readable: Make your disclaimer readable. While legaleeze is fine, make your disclaimer easy to read and understand in plain and simple language.
  • Have Fun But Make It Legal: Have what fun you will with your blog disclaimer, making it match your blogging and writing style, but make sure the words are still “legal” and will protect as much as amuse your readers.

My disclaimer is that I’m not a lawyer, just giving you tips and advice, so if you want a serious disclaimer with teeth in it, have it reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it soundly protects you and your blog.

My Favorite Blog Disclaimer

The most amazing blog disclaimer I found, which had me in hysterical laughter reading it, came from legal redux: Herche’s Blog Disclaimer. It’s almost more of a rant and rave than a disclaimer. Here are a few excerpts from this long and wonderfully written disclaimer:

Heretofore and unto now, this blogger hosted weblog has had to rely exclusively on the blanket disclaimer provided for the corporate body of blog*spot addresses. While this kind of disclaimer is usually sufficient to protect a blogger from liability, it falls short when dealing with inherently offensive content, websites with a mind of their own and authors who are excessively paranoid about being dragged into court. With the above firmly borne in mind, we propose the following weblog disclaimer:

…The views expressed by the authors on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of this website, those who link to this website, the author’s mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, grandparents, cousins, step relations, any other blood relative and the author himself, this website’s web host…

Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed.

…Although it may claim otherwise, this website does not offer legal, medical, psychiatric, veterinary, gynecological, archaeological, astronomical, astrological, ontological, paleontological, philosophical, axiological, audiological, bacteriological, mineralogical, criminological, terminological, dermatological, ecclesiastical, campanological, phrenological, phonological, technological, hematological, campanological…

…This website may inadvertently link to content that is obscene, prurient, useless, hate-filled, poisonous, pornographic, frivolous, empty, rotten, bad, disgusting, hostile, repulsive, virulent, infectious…This website in no way condones, endorses or takes responsibility for such content.

The disclaimer covers content, comments, responsibility, links, government and local laws, jurisdiction, communications methods, prisoners and access to and from jails, women at risk of becoming or are pregnant, and even lawyers. My favorite section is:

Please contact your local bar association, law society, neighborhood association of jurists, medical board, county hospital, phone book, online directory, local emergency number in your jurisdiction, mother or Google to find a or obtain a referral to a competent professional. If you do not have reasonable means of contacting an attorney-at-law, lawyer, civil law notary, barrister, solicitor, medical professional, coroner or any other professional in the area of your inquiry, meaning you are an orphaned, computer-illiterate social hazard, please exit this window and get your life in order.

How often have you wanted to say something similar on your blog?

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  1. By Moses Francis posted on October 2, 2007 at 9:25 am
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    Hhahaa, that was a really funny disclaimer by legal redux: Herche’s Blog Disclaimer.

    I think it’s important for bloggers to have a disclaimer these days.

    Reply

  2. Improve Your Blog and Web Site - Need to Read Posts #4 | The Fatty Talks by Adam HirschOctober 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm
  3. By Gamy Rachel posted on October 5, 2007 at 9:08 am
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    Helpful info. Shall look into this. Thanks for sharing this.

    Gamy

    Reply

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  6. By Danny Foo posted on October 23, 2007 at 10:16 am
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    I really appreciate for having my post; How to write a blog disclaimer? highlighted here by Blog Herald.

    However, due to sensitivity of the content and the intellectual rights governed by its owner (me) I would like to formally request the removal of any related or involving contents connected to me or blog…

    Just kidding… :P

    You did a great job compiling all the information and definitely find this an article worth DIGGing. Hope to read more great articles.

    Reply

  7. By SpitsBeaT posted on January 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm
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    Haha great tips man, i took 3 long hours to make my own blog disclaimer. Of course i’ve took some of ur contents and editted them to suit my blog needs. Haha it’s actually quite fun making such disclaimer, thanks for the help yo!

    Btw, are such blog disclaimers recognised by the law? Especially disclaimers like “If legal action is brought against the author of this blog, financial claims will be limited and restricted to NONE AT ALL WHAT-SO-EVER.”

    Hmm..

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on January 2, 2008 at 7:23 pm
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    @SpitsBeaT:

    If it is in writing and if the writing reflects the law of your country, state, or city, and the terms are within the standards set by the industry, yes, it is enforcible.

    The purpose of articles such as these are to give you guidelines, but do check with your attorney to ensure that the disclaimer is legal and don’t trust everything you read on the web.

    Reply

  9. Writing a blog disclaimer (part2) | Giovanna Di SauroMay 16, 2008 at 2:58 pm
  10. By gio posted on May 16, 2008 at 4:46 pm
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    This was a really great article.

    It basically helped me write a (free) template for blog disclaimers – see trackback above. I could not have done it without reading this first.

    Thanks!

    Reply

  11. By John Doro posted on July 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm
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    It’s seriously funny :D

    Reply

  12. By D'Arcy Gregoire posted on November 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm
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    Great article! I think I might actually sit down and write a disclaimer :)

    Reply

  13. D’ArcyGregoire.com » New disclaimerNovember 30, 2008 at 3:30 pm
  14. By Jane A posted on January 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm
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    Just researching what to include on mine – love that legal redux one :-)

    Reply

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  16. By Sean Davis posted on June 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm
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    This is great! I needed to write a disclaimer for my blog and I found this site on Google. I really like this article. That example was awesome. I wish I would have come up with it myself!

    My site might not be the place for such a disclaimer but I’ll be sure to cover the same areas. Wow… that was a great read!

    Thanks for the info!

    Reply

  17. By Regie Rivera posted on July 15, 2009 at 7:35 pm
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    Ha ha ha! Very informative and funny to read. Thank you so much for this. Very helpful. :)

    Reply

  18. By Rama Krishna posted on August 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm
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    Great info stated in humorous way…takes the gloominess of the law literature still keeping the importance intact….thanks a bunch!

    Reply

  19. By Urban Media Outlet Zig posted on May 17, 2010 at 3:24 am
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    Great Help.
    Thanks

    Urbanmediaoutlet.com

    Reply

  20. By Al Abrahm posted on September 5, 2010 at 1:14 am
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    thank you the post. very useful for new blogger like me :D

    Reply

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  23. By easi25.com posted on July 4, 2013 at 10:24 am
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    Thanks for sharing, gained new knowledge from your post, newbie here

    Reply

  24. By Omaha Criminal Attorney posted on July 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm
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    it’s the actual inordinate desire to possess something owned by or associated with someone else. It can be an ugly emotion, to be sure, but making it illegal would, I think, be overstepping the bounds of the legal system. Omaha Criminal Attorney

    Reply

  25. By Bram posted on July 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm
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    Good stuff. I am going to use some of this stuff for my newly created website!

    Reply

  26. By Ashwani Gaat posted on August 17, 2013 at 12:03 am
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    I am changing my disclaimer …thanks for telling a good disclaimer writing skills

    Reply

  27. By Tracy Morris posted on January 23, 2014 at 9:07 am
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    A very comprehensive and useful article. Thank You.

    Reply

  28. By Cika posted on January 27, 2014 at 1:03 am
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    it so helpful for me as a new blogger

    Reply

  29. By Robinsh posted on July 6, 2014 at 7:59 am
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    Thanks for creating this detailed report to create a disclaimer page for the blog and website to do a smooth business, I was looking for a hint but here I got a lot more.

    Reply

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