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Legally Protectable Parts of a Blog

woman writing down the legally protectable parts of a blog

Curious about the legally protectable parts of a blog? Read on to learn a little more about copyright protection for a blog and trademarks for bloggers.

Blog Name

This is kind of an easy one, right? It is the name by which all of your readers recognize your work, your blog, and a name. Of course, the name is a protectable part of the blog because it is a signifier. And the thing that signifies a brand to your readers — the blog name — is protectable under trademark law.

Infographics

Next, infographics. Of course, that can be anything from an explanation of a process to a cool way that you’ve set out the ingredients that go into a recipe. And infographics are graphic designs, which are artwork, which are protectable, under copyright law.

Blog Posts

The actual blog post. So what is a blog post? It is text, it is maybe video or audio visual materials, maybe some kind of free download, and maybe graphic designs, and maybe all of those things. And each and every one of those things, is a creative work and creative content that is protectable under copyright law.

Videos

A video or a vlog. Well, that’s easy, it’s like a motion picture, right? And that motion picture or audio visual work is certainly a traditional creative work protectable under copyright law.

Hashtags (not really a protectable part of a blog, but quasi-protectable)

Hashtags are tricky. Sometimes, brands will use their own trademark, their own brand name, as a hash tag among other hash tags. When it’s used in that way, that trademark of course, is a trademark whether or not it’s a hash tag. It’s being used as a hashtag, but it is a trademark. Now other hashtags are moreso descriptors or descriptions — whether you are using DIY blogger, or #lifestyleblogger, or #lifestylebloggerlife, or any of those — those are hashtags you’re using to get people to find you. And because they are not really trademarks… they aren’t really copyright either. They’re not really anything, they are descriptors or descriptions used so that you can grow your audience, right?

Printables

Who doesn’t love a good printable? A printable is most likely a download and most likely in PDF or JPEG form. And so those are actually protectable under copyright law.

Photos

Same thing with photos, whether they’re downloadable or not, of course, photos are a huge part of blog posts, and photographs are certainly protectable under copyright law.

Recipes…kind of.

Finally, recipes. And this is a tricky one. So recipes, “mere listings of ingredients,” are actually called out as not protectable under copyright law. Now how to get around this as a blogger. Well, it’s very rare that you will see a blog post with just a list of ingredients without any kind of prose or at least instructions on how to make whatever the recipe is. And instructions by themselves too are kind of tricky when it comes to copyright law. But the more creative you can be with those instructions, the more storytelling you add to it, the more photos you add to the recipe, then it starts to become a more creative, copyright-protectable work. So recipes, kind of copyright territory depending on if you have the right elements in that post.

I hope this helps you to better understand what’s protectable in your blog, and whether it falls under copyright territory or trademark territory.

Disclosure Rules on Social Media

social media disclosure rules

In this quick read, you’re going to learn when to post a disclosure along with your social media post. (Hint: disclosures aren’t just for traditional sponsored posts.) You’ll also learn what makes for a good disclosure.

When do I need to follow disclosure rules on social media?

So, the very quick, very short answer to “When do I need to post a disclosure,” is whenever there is a “material connection” between you and the brand.

The question of course, is, what does “material connection” mean? A material connection is any connection between you and the brand that goes beyond just “I found this and I like it” or “I came across this brand and wanted to share it with you.”

The rules aren’t just for traditional “sponsored” posts.

Disclosure rules on social media aren’t just for sponsored posts. A “material connection” includes:

  • Receiving free products (or even discounted products),
  • Receiving a special invitation to an event
  • An employment relationship with a brand,
  • A family or friendship relationship with a brand, and
  • Some kind of stock ownership in a brand.

Basically, disclosure rules on social media come into play with any relationship that goes beyond what any of us consumers would have with a brand.

What’s in a good disclosure?

Well, a good disclosure is clear, and it is conspicuous. It is not ambiguous. A statement like “Thank you, [brand]!” is not really clear, and it’s a little ambiguous. It does not show that there’s some kind of material connection between the poster and the brand. Same thing with #partner. That kind of, might suggest that there’s something going on. But especially when you’re relying on hashtags, you want to make sure that those hashtags are very clear.

Does the user have to tap the “More” to see your disclosure? A lot of times people don’t tap more to see more. Even on visual media like instagram stories and Snapchat, you want to make sure that those disclosures are conspicuous.

So I hope you walk away today with a good explanation of what a material connection is, what a good disclosure has, and when to follow those disclosure rules on social media.

How Apple’s New Privacy Rules are a Good Thing for Influencers

I was probably unreasonably geeked when I saw that Apple’s new privacy rules that are rolling out in the fall of 2020. In this short post, you’re going to have an understanding of what Apple’s new privacy practices are, how they will affect the online space and why it’s a good thing for content creators.

Apple’s New Privacy Rules: The Features

When an app wants to track or collect data on a user, an Apple device will prompt the user. You’re actually already familiar with this. It’s just like the prompt you receive if an app wants to access your photos or access your microphone. But now, thanks to Apple’s new privacy rules, that prompt will say “Do you permit [app] to use your location data?” (For example.)

Also, an app will have to say which data they have on you that is linked to you. For example, financial information, contacts, browsing history, location purchases, and identifiers.

Probably the coolest part of this update is what Apple’s User Privacy Manager calls a “nutrition label for apps.” After the update, when you log into the app store, you will see that each app will have a nutrition label of sorts that shows what data they collect from users of the app, and what they do with it. That will be that data that’s linked to you and data that’s used to track you. The privacy updates will also apply if you’re a safari user. You will see a privacy report on that bar of Safari. You’ll be able to see all the third party trackers on a website when you’re on a website using Safari.

How is This Good for Content Marketing?

So what does this mean for content creators and influencers? Well, first, people in general might be less inclined to use certain apps once they see how their data is being used. Second, and most importantly, bought and paid for ads like Google ads like Facebook ads may start to be less effective when people are more in control of their own data.

That is where organic content marketing comes in. If traditional advertisements are less effective, because the data tracking has become harder to do or less effective itself, then don’t you see how organic content marketing can be all the more attractive? You, as a content creator, have analytics that don’t tie to any specific person. You can show engagement and keep track of that information without violating anyone’s privacy. And so content marketing and influencer marketing can only go up in value.

My opinion is that content marketing and influencer marketing will only continue to increase. So keep plugging away, and keep creating that content.

Tik Tok: Terms of Use You Didn’t Read

woman reading through tik tok terms of use

Terms of Use You Didn’t Read is back and this month I’m looking at Tik Tok’s Terms of Use. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better idea of the terms that you agree to by using Tik Tok, what data they’re really using to track you, and how it compares to other social media platforms and the data that they collect on you.

What Tik Tok’s Terms of Use Say About Music

The first thing that stood out to me in Tik Tok’s Terms of Use was regarding music. Obviously, music and sound recordings play a huge part in using Tik Tok, whether it’s dancing or lip synching, or just using music in the background.

Here’s what Tik Tok has to say about music and sound recordings:

No rights are licensed with respect to sound recordings and musical works embodied therein that are made available from or through the service.

Tik Tok Terms of Service, Paragraph 7

Tik Tok also says that if you don’t own the rights to the musical composition and the sound recording, you may not upload that music to Tik Tok. It also says that if you create a musical work of some kind, or any kind of sound recording, whether you’re speaking or singing, that by uploading it to Tik Tok you allow all other users of Tik Tok to edit, manipulate, create a new recording based on that recording.

Data and Tik Tok’s Privacy Policy

Now let’s dive into the Privacy Policy. Privacy policies, of course, talk about what data a company collects, how they collect it, and how it’s used. The data collected by Tik Tok falls under three categories. One is information that you choose to provide to them; two, information that they collect from other sources; and three, information that they collect automatically.

Information You Choose to Provide

It should not surprise you Tik Tok collects information that you choose to provide; you are choosing to provide that information.

Let’s compare Tik Tok to Facebook, though. In creating your profile with Tik Tok, you might enter your email address or phone number, you might upload a photo, and then of course, you upload whatever content you upload through the platform. With Facebook, you’re uploading your photo, or multiple, multiple photos, and videos, your profile information, which can contain anything from your high school to your mother, who might have her maiden name up there. (Can you say, security question information?)

So in terms of privacy concerns with apps, that’s a big thing to think about — what information do you voluntarily upload to the platform? Again, Tik Tok has your face and your video and content that you upload through the platform, but the profile is very basic. You might have a link to your other social media platforms, a very short bio and your photo. Facebook has a lot more information. This is something to remember when you’re using any social media platform, but especially in comparing Tik Tok to other platforms.

Info Tik Tok Collects from Other Sources

Information that they collect from other sources can be information from social media platforms. If you connect your Facebook account to Tik Tok, for example, it might also collect your contacts on Facebook so that you can find your friends who are also on Tik Tok.

They might collect your information from third party services like advertisers.

They might collect information from you from other “publicly available sources.”

Info Tik Tok Collects Automatically

Information Tik Tok collects automatically can be usage information, device information, location data, messages, metadata, and cookies.

Usage information can be information like how long you stay on the app, what you like and what you favorite while you’re in the app — the type of information that relates to how you are using it. (So does Facebook.)

Device information. This is not just the type of phone that you use to log into the place form, but also your IP address, your mobile carrier, your timezone settings, keystroke patterns or rhythms, and file names and types. (Fb tracks this, too.)

Messages. Obviously they can scan and view messages that are sent within the app. (Facebook is notorious for this as well.)

Cookies are primarily used to track what webpages you’re clicking on, and to send targeted advertisements your way. You can disable cookies in the Tik Tok settings. Tons of sites track cookies, and, thanks to Europe, it’s now common to see an “opt-in to cookies” pop-up bar the first time you visit a website.

Is Tik Tok Scanning Your Device for Payment Information?

There’s nothing in this Privacy Policy about going into your phone and collecting credit card information. Note, though, that if you choose to upload credit card information or, for example, PayPal information, to the platform, that’s information that you’re voluntarily giving to Tik Tok. That’s one of the rumors out there that Tik Tok is crawling your phone and stealing your credit card numbers. I do not see that in this Privacy Policy.

How Tik Tok Uses Your Information

This section looks pretty standard. They use it to fulfill requests for products and services, to customize the content you see, to send promotional materials, to improve and develop the platform to measure effectiveness of advertising, make suggestions and provide customized ad experience, blah, blah, blah.

And, if you’re curious, here’s a little comparison or example of how Facebook tracks your activities on other websites.

What You Can Do If Tik Tok’s Tracking Makes You Nervous

So, what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with some of these privacy practices? Like I mentioned, you can disable cookies, that’s a setting in Tik Tok. Apple and Android devices allow you to limit ad tracking within your settings and switch off location tracking on your device as well so that Tik Tok doesn’t have access to that information. These are all things that you can do (and maybe should do!) with regard to a lot of social media platforms.

So I hope that gives you a better understanding of Tik Tok, the terms you agree to when you’re using Tik Tok, and the data that Tik Tok has on you.

Keep on creating that great content!

4 Legal Documents Involved in Pivoting Your Online Business

woman thinking about pivoting her online business

By the end of this post you’ll know more about four legal documents that are involved in pivoting your online business. And it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. We’re going to be talking about trademark applications, non-disclosure agreements, work for hire, and a trademark license. So here we go.

Trademark Application

So first, a trademark application. Contrary to what you might think, you can’t add to an existing registration. Once you register your trademark, it’s registered in connection with whatever product or service that you’ve registered previously. What you can do is register the same mark, but in connection with a different offering altogether. Are you registered in connection with podcast episodes, but you’re pivoting your online business and offering e-courses under the mark? Simple. You’ll basically file another application for the same trademark, but under that new category, that educational services/e-course category.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (aka NDAs)

People often refer to non-disclosure agreements as confidentiality agreements, they’re the same thing. It basically protects confidential information from being disclosed to the public. Who might you disclose confidential information to when pivoting your business? Maybe a manufacturer, maybe a contractor, but again, that non-disclosure will help keep that information confidential.

Work for Hire/IP Rights Agreement

You’ve heard me talk about Work-for-Hire/IP Rights Agreements before. (I have one for sale in my Contract Kit™ shop). If you’re pivoting your business, odds are that you’re needing some new, creative content. Essentially, anyone that’s creating any creative content for you — whether it’s graphic designs, slides for a presentation, a logo, a new website — anyone creating something creative, should sign this type of agreement. Under U.S. Copyright law, just because you’re paying somebody to create something for you doesn’t mean that you own it. So the purpose of the work for hire/IP rights agreement is to make sure and reinforce that you own all of the copyright to that work product.

Trademark License

And finally, a License Agreement. A license agreement is meant to help you where someone is already offering something that you want to sell. And rather than reinvent the wheel, and come up with a formula for perfume, let’s say, you go to someone already in the business of making perfume, and you license your brand name to that existing product. You may be a blogger for entrepreneurs and you want to venture out into creating a physical planner for instance. Or you are a podcaster but you are venturing out into your own sound equipment line. Or maybe you’ve built your fame around a little ol’ cooking show and now you and Macy’s partner up on things like sheets. (Hello, Martha Stewart.) You are venturing into a new area but you may be licensing your brand and your reputation in connection with an existing brand.

So there you go. You’ve got your trademark application, your nondisclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement, you have a work for hire or IP assignment agreement, and trademark license.

I hope that helps you understand some of the different documents that go into pivoting your online business.


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Why a Podcast Trademark Search is a Crucial Prep Step to Launching

woman who might not have conducted a podcast trademark search before launching
Rather watch than read? I got you.

By the end of this post, you will know why I think a podcast trademark search is a crucial prep step before launching. Hint: it comes down to saving you money and stress down the line. So here we go!


What a trademark search uncovers


So how can a trademark search ultimately save you money and stress before launching your podcast? First, it’ll tell you if somebody else is already using that name in connection with a podcast. You could argue that by using it in connection with a podcast (regardless of subject matter), there’s potential for confusion. And if you’ve ever searched for a podcast on Apple podcasts or Stitcher , you know it can get confusing if you’re looking for a podcast based on a name!

So again, a search will tell you if someone else already using the same or similar name. This ultimately saves you money and stress. How? If there is someone else using a similar name in connection with the podcast, you could save yourself from the experience of being on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter. And this rolls into reason number two…

Eliminate the surprise, and stressful scramble, from a cease-and-desist letter (to the extent possible)

It can be very stressful to be on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter. And if you have a trademark search done on the front end, that can save you the stress of finding yourself on the defensive and having to scramble when you receive a cease-and-desist letter. Of course it’s impossible to guarantee results 100%, but a search should uncover the obstacles that are out there. It’s worth spending a little money on the front end to save you from spending a lot of money on 1) an attorney to handle the cease and desist and related settlement, 2) a potential rebrand, and so on.

A podcast trademark search can help identify whether your chosen name is protectable

Let’s say there is someone else using a name similar to yours and connect with a podcast. In fact, let’s say there are TEN others using a name similar to yours. By using that name, it could be hard for you to police or protect your name from use by others when there are already ten others. So a trademark search can tell you the extent to which the name is used by anyone else. This can uncover whether you will have a hard time protecting your chosen name from use by others.

And yes, a trademark search can tell you whether there are any roadblocks to trademark registration. But ultimately, you can save yourself some stress and money in the form of having to scramble, rebrand, and maybe being on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter. Also, from a value standpoint, it can help to be sure you’re choosing a name that is protectable.

I hope this helps you understand why I think a trademark search is a crucial step before launching a podcast.


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woman contemplating a podcast trademark search

Canva: Terms of Use You Didn’t Read

Let’s talk about Canva! Terms of Use You Didn’t Read is back and we’re going to talk through just a couple of interesting terms that I found when looking through Canva’s terms of use. Remember, these are things that you’ve agreed to by using Canva.

I found some real treasure when reading these terms! There’s a term in Canva’s Free Media License Agreement that applies to how you can use some of the stock photos and imagery within Canva.


Plain-English gold star

First of all, like Pinterest, Canva gives a plain-English explanation of provisions in its terms of use so, gold star to Canva.

The many faces (or pages) to Canva’s Terms of Use

There’s more to its policies than just Canva’s Terms of Use. The policies are made up of several different pages or sub-policies, including a Contributor Agreement and a Free Media License Agreement. The Contributor Agreement applies to any designers that submit their work to be a part of Canva’s offering, whether it’s a template or photograph. And then there’s the Free Media License Agreement.

This is super important. So, if you use any of that free media, like stock photos or graphic art, here’s what Canva has to say about using that free stuff.

a selection from canva's terms of use

Yowza.

So, again. If you’re using anything with an identifiable person, with a logo, that reflects a certain place, Canva, here, is saying that they can’t guarantee they have the appropriate rights for you to use those things in a commercial or business setting. So that is important if you are using Canva in connection with your business.

By publishing on the platform, you’re giving permission to display

Next, simple, if you publish your designs in Canva, then you allow Canva to publish those for others to view.

Canva’s Terms of Use sheds light on what happens to media you’ve used if you cancel your paid account

I was curious about this, since I recently started dabbling in Canva myself. Obviously when you have a paid or “Pro” account, you have access to more things and you can do more within the platform. But what happens if you close your account or you cancel your membership to Canva? What happens to the designs that you created with media that were, say, “Pro” only, but you plan to still pin those pins or use those graphics on Instagram? Can you do that even though you don’t have your account any longer?

The answer is yes, of course, anything that you created under a valid, paid plan, you can still continue to use.

But, if there was some kind of invalid transaction, they couldn’t charge you during that period where that thing was created, you don’t have rights to use it.

Big Brother/Canva is watching

Finally, Canva has the right to monitor anything you import or export from its platform to make sure that you’re complying with its terms of use.


I hope this kind of opens your eyes on things that you’ve agreed to by using Canva, especially with regard to that Free Media License,.


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The PPP for Bloggers, Podcasters, and Other Self-Employed Online Business Owners

woman researching ppp for bloggers and podcasters

The CARES Act created a wonderful opportunity for businesses struggling because of COVID-19. That opportunity is through the PPP or Paycheck Protection Program. This post will talk about the PPP for bloggers, podcasters, and other self-employed individuals doing business online.

Note: This is ever-changing! There are several different interpretations of the PPP and I will continue to update this post as much as I can.

An explanation of what the Paycheck Protection Program is, in 15 seconds

The PPP is a loan program through the SBA. It was created as part of the CARES act for businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. (And really, what business isn’t, aside from maybe Zoom and the grocery industry?)

What it means when people say this is “free money”

I repeat, this is a loan program. But, it’s a loan you don’t have to pay back…so long as you use the funds for certain specific things, like payroll expenses. Hence, free money.

Snapshot of the PPP application. Access the full application here.

Are bloggers, podcasters, and self-employed business owners eligible for the PPP?

Short answer: Probably.

Long answer: So long as you meet the following requirements, which you’ll have to sign off on when applying for the loan.

  1. Less than 500 employees (with some exceptions that probably don’t apply to bloggers and podcasters);
  2. In operation as of February 15, 2020;
  3. Current economic uncertainty makes the funds necessary to support your ongoing business operations;
  4. Funds must be used to retain workers and maintain payroll, OR make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments;
  5. You haven’t received another PPP loan; and
  6. You had employees whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes OR paid independent contractors.

So that last one, #6, is the kicker.

Technically, if you’re a single-member LLC, you don’t pay yourself a salary or issue yourself a 1099. So the big, bad question that no one has made crystal clear yet is, does a draw paid to yourself, as a self-employed person, count as a salary or wages for PPP purposes?

We know that expenses you incur to pay any employees definitely count.

The PPP application itself says:

With respect to “purpose of the loan,” payroll costs consist of compensation to employees (whose principal place of residence is the United States) in the form of salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation; cash tips or the equivalent (based on employer records of past tips or, in the absence of such records, a reasonable, good-faith employer estimate of such tips); payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and retirement; payment of state and local taxes assessed on compensation of employees; and for an independent contractor or sole proprietor, wage, commissions, income, or net earnings from self-employment or similar compensation

So, based on what we’re told from the application, these things probably count, too:

  • A monthly draw you give yourself from your LLC
  • Wages you earn from self-employment

How much money can you get from the PPP?

Here’s the simplest way to make that calculation if you are a sole prop or LLC that files a Schedule C along with your income taxes:

Get out your 2019 return (your 2018 return is PROBABLY ok if you haven’t filed for 2019 yet, but they haven’t explicitly stated that the 2018 return is ok, just FYI).

Flip back to your Schedule C from your business.

Look at line 31. Divide that number by 12. That’s your average monthly payroll amount! Now multiply that by 2.5, and that’s the amount that you can ask for.

When bloggers, podcasters, and other self-employed online business owners can apply for PPP

Now. Like, RIGHT NOW.

Technically, “small businesses and sole proprietorships” can apply as of April 3, 2020. “independent contractors and self-employed individuals” can apply as of April 10, 2020. This is about as clear as mud, because you can be self-employed, and a sole prop. Or an independent contractor, and a sole-prop. Or a small business, and self-employed. So I repeat, if you think you qualify, just log into your bank and apply now.

Because the thing with this loan is that it’s only available until they run out of the funds earmarked for it. 10% of the entire amount earmarked has already been applied-for.

Not trying to instill panic, here. Just want you to shake a leg and apply if you are eligible!


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How a Force Majeure Clause Can Help an Online Business

woman investigating how force majeure clause can help an online business

In this COVID-19 world, everyone wants to know if force majeure applies. In this post, you’re going to learn what “force majeure” means, what it does, and when it applies. We’ll also look at some force majeure sample clauses and I’ll give you some examples of business transactions and how they’re affected by force majeure. Essentially, you’ll see how a force majeure clause can help in times of emergency.

First, what is “force majeure”?

It’s French for “superior force.”

It’s a clause that appears towards the end of a lot of contracts, especially service-based contracts.

It basically excuses non-performance or not living up to your end of the contract for circumstances out of anybody’s control.

What can a force majeure clause do?

Well, it could suspend everything until the force majeure is removed or eliminated or out of the way,

It can say, “everybody can walk away if a force majeure event happens,”

It can, but it doesn’t always, talk about what happens to any money that’s changed hands as of the force majeure event. So, refunds, deposits, etc.

When does force majeure apply?

Currently because of COVID-19, everybody wants to know if it applies in the case of a pandemic. Of course, the answer is it depends on what the contract says. 

So, let’s look at these two sample force majeure clauses.

How a force majeure clause can help: Clause Example No. 1

This first version specifically talks about what is considered a force majeure event.

The second version is similar, but different.

How a force majeure clause can help: Clause Example No. 2

Notice it says “force majeure includes, but is not limited to…” certain things. That leaves room to say hey, maybe a pandemic is included in this definition, even though it’s not specifically listed.

How a force majeure clause can affect online businesses: two scenarios

As I said, it can affect different businesses in different ways.

One example would be in a brand or partnership/collaboration agreement. As an influencer you may have agreed to do a certain number of posts on a specific topic.

Well, does force majeure somehow prevent you from doing that? Are you supposed to be posting from a live event of some kind or in a specific location that you can’t access because of a force majeure event? These questions show how a force majeure clause would be important in this scenario.

It also applies to in-person events. Even though the final event is conducted in person and not really on the Internet, certainly tickets are sold on the Internet. And, promotion of the event goes on on the Internet, sponsors are announced and splashed across the Internet. So, reviewing sponsorship agreements or other similar agreements may be necessary during a force majeure event.

What to look for

It’s important to know what happens under your contract because when an event that’s out of anybody’s control happens, of course everyone is going to be worried about funds. So, you want to determine:

  1. What is a force majeure event under my contract?
  2. Is there an express definition of what is considered a force majeure event or does it have that kind of “including but not limited to” language.
  3. What does my contract say happens during a force majeure event? Is everything just kind of stopped and suspended until it all goes back to normal? Or, does it say everybody can walk away if a force majeure event happens with no further obligation?
  4. Finally, and you may actually have to look elsewhere in your contract, but what happens to money paid up to that force majeure event date? Does it get refunded? If your contract talks about a non-refundable retainer I might say, yeah, even if the force majeure clause doesn’t talk about what happens to money in the case of a force majeure event, non-refundable means non-refundable.

So, look at your contract, see what it says in terms of what to do in a force majeure event.

I hope this post has helped you to understand what is force majeure, how it applies in different industry settings, and how it can help an online business.


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Is a Blog Post Automatically Protected from Copycats?

is your blog post automatically protected from copycats

By the end of this post you will know at what point your blog post is automatically protected from copycats under copyright law. Let’s go!

First, what’s protectable about a blog post or vlog?

So first, what does a blog or vlog consists of? Well, it consists of maybe video content, audio-visual content, you’ve got text, maybe some graphic designs, all of those things are protectable under US copyright law.

They’re creative works and under US copyright law something is protected the minute it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” That is fancy lawyer talk for no longer just living in your brain, no longer living as an idea. It is fleshed out, it’s written out, it’s recorded somewhere.

When is a blog post automatically protected?

So is a blog post automatically protected?

Yep! Even before you hit publish, you own the copyright to what you’ve created there.

Copyright protection and copyright registration are two different things.

A lot of people confuse copyright protection with copyright registration. When you publish or write out that blog post, it automatically has protection. But, it is not automatically registered. You don’t HAVE to register your blog post or vlog in order to have copyright protection. Registration is not a prerequisite to copyright protection.

However I DO recommend that you check out my post on three big reasons why to register your website with the Copyright Office. There are some good reasons to register your stuff with  the Copyright Office, and I’ll give you a couple little hints. It has to do with boosts in protection and a little cash money in your pocket.

So I hope that this helps you to better understand when a blog is automatically protected from copycats under US copyright law.


If you are interested in learning how to register your blog or website with the Copyright Office, I am for the first time, releasing a live workshop.

It’s going to be limited to about 10 or 15 seats but if you are nterested, click the image below and you will be on the list of the first people to know once the doors open for enrollment for that workshop.


Using Sponsored Post Hashtags Properly

using hashtags for sponsored posts legally

#ad #sponsored #gifted #affiliate #unboxing… Yes, these hashtags mean that your post is sponsored. By the end of this post you will have an understanding of how each of these hashtags indicate a sponsored post and what the hashtags really mean. 

Reminder: What constitutes a Sponsored Post?

First, a little reminder on what constitutes a sponsored post. A sponsored post is when you receive something of value and then you post about it. It doesn’t have to be money! It can be a gift, it can be free goods. If you receive something of value and post about it to your following, it’s probably worth disclosing that there’s more than just a “I love this product” relationship.

Let’s talk about hashtags.

#Ad.

This one’s pretty straightforward, just like #sponsored or #partner, although #partner, I would argue, is a little bit more vague and you probably need more than just #partner. But, using #ad or #sponsored shows that your post is an advertisement. Remember though, that the FTC has said that using #ad along with a bunch of other hashtags might not be enough to show that it’s a sponsored post. Specifically, the FTC said this:

In other words, you could still use #ad and be in hot water if it’s not conspicuous. Think: conspicuous, easy to spot, not vague.

#Gifted.

If a brand gifts you with something, you didn’t have to pay for it, and you post about it to your following, that is a sponsored post worth disclosing the relationship. You received something of value. You’re posting about it. The FTC said this during a live Q&A when they first came out speaking about influencers and disclosing sponsored posts. 

The question was:

The FTC said:

To me, that says even if you’re sharing your own experience with this gifted product, you need to disclose that there was some kind of gift made and that you’ve received this benefit for free. Just like the event, if your point of view relates to the brand/sponsor, then it’s worth making that disclosure to keep the FTC away.

#Unboxing.

This is a fun but kind of ambiguous hashtag. Just like #gifted, you never know when you see a #unboxing whether the poster has been paid to do this, did she receive this stuff for free, is this part of a campaign… Sometimes it’s not clear. Is it a product from a brand you’re working with? Is it something that you’ve been gifted? #Unboxing all by itself does not reveal that there’s some kind of ad or sponsorship relationship at play. In order to keep the FTC happy, and to be clear and conspicuous, you might think about using #ad and/or #sponsored along with the unboxing.

#Affiliate.

#Affiliate, like #ad, is pretty self-explanatory, so long as it’s, again, not used in a sea of a million hashtags.  If you’re an affiliate for a company, you should disclose that, and use #affiliate when talking about that company or that product or service. Remember, it should be used in a conspicuous way, either in the blog post or social media post, overlaid on image-only platforms like Snapchat, and also in video captions.

So I hope this gives you a better understanding of those sponsored hashtags in their different forms, and some things to remember when using them.

Hey, online business owner! I’ve got a little something for you. Learn four things that you can do RIGHT now to protect your business online — one thing delivered to your inbox for four weeks — by clicking the image below.

Pinterest: Terms of Use You Didn’t Read

woman reading through pinterest terms of use

This month’s “Terms of Use You Didn’t Read” focuses on Pinterest and the terms of use that you’ve agreed to by using Pinterest.


Pinterest Terms of Use: More Simply Put

First, the these Terms of Use use a really cool thing that I’ve actually considered doing in some of the contracts that I write. They have a “more simply put” section under each section in their Terms of Use. This is basically two or three sentences that explain the paragraph in easy to use language. You’ll have to check it out yourself I think it’s very helpful for people when they are actually reading the Terms of Use.

Pinterest’s Business Requirements

Next in Pinterest Terms of Use you will see that if you are using Pinterest in connection with a business, you must create a business account and agree to Pinterest’s Business Terms.

Who Owns the Content You Post to Pinterest?

Pinterest’s stance on copyright ownership of content is pretty clear. They say you own everything that you post to Pinterest, but you give Pinterest permission to share it on the website. By posting, you also give users permission to save it to their boards and save that content. But, it’s still yours — the content that you post is still yours.

What Happens if you Delete Content

Next, Pinterest wants to make sure you understand that if you delete content it might remain on users’ boards; in other words users might have saved that content. Even though you deleted it it might remain on users boards because they’ve saved a copy. The ol’ what happens on the internet stays on the Internet conundrum.

Limitation of liability.

Remember my discussion about limitation of liability in my post about the WordPress Terms of Use? Essentially, if you have a claim against Pinterest for breach of the Terms of Use, then the most you’re going to get out of them is a hundred bucks.

Pinterest Terms of Use Explains Third-Party Links

Finally Pinterest has the best ever explanation of third-party content that I’ve seen on a Terms of Use. Usually a website’s Terms of Use will talk about third-party content and third-party links; in other words links to sites that are controlled by someone that isn’t the owner of the platform. Usually those terms of use say “we don’t take any responsibility for the content found at those third-party links or the privacy practices of those third parties” (etc.)

The “more simply put” two-sentence explanation of that section is:

Pinterest Terms of Use explanation of third-party links

Pretty straightforward, huh?

I hope this gives you a little sneak peek on the Terms of Use that you’ve agreed to by using Pinterest.

Hey, online business owner! I’ve got a little something for you. Learn four things that you can do RIGHT now to protect your business online — one thing delivered to your inbox for four weeks — by clicking the image below.