29 June 2019
A disclaimer is typically a short paragraph that works to protect your business, services, information, physical property and intellectual property from different types of abuses, liabilities and other legal issues.
In other words, a disclaimer will limit your liability to others while protecting your rights.
Writing a disclaimer may sometimes be necessary, but it will always be useful.
Disclaimers are useful on blogs for a number of reasons. Depending on the nature of your blog, some disclaimers may be more useful than on other types of blogs:
The specific language of your disclaimers will depend on what industry you're in and what type of blog you have.
For example, a blog that lets users create individual accounts will have different needs than a blog that just puts forth information and doesn't collect any user information.
Here are a number of the most commonly seen and widely used blog disclaimers, along with examples and how to write instructions. Your blog may not need all of these, but chances are it will need at least a few.
Affiliate disclaimers are a requirement of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
These guidelines require that if you receive any sort of compensation for using affiliate links, rankings, reviews or testimonials of products on your blog, you must disclose this to your users.
Basically, your readers need to know if you're getting compensated for recommending something to them. Even if you 100% stand behind the product and would recommend it anyway without receiving the compensation, your readers need to know about the compensation to help them make informed decisions and have transparency while reading your blog.
Here's how Simply Quinoa includes an "Affiliate Disclaimer" on its blog:
Spartan Traveler includes a similar affiliate disclaimer, letting users know that the blog owner will receive a bit of compensation when an affiliate link is clicked and a purchase made via the link.
The disclaimer lets users know that no products or services are recommended that aren't actually used by the blogger himself, and that nothing is recommended solely for profit.
This helps users have faith in the recommendations on the blog and see the affiliate links as fair rather than just a money-making thing.
Note that both of these affiliate disclaimers (from Simply Quinoa and Spartan Traveler) are written almost like letters to the users. That's a common and effective way to approach this disclaimer since the point of it is to explain to users:
Using something in a letter format helps make a user more comfortable, adds some personality and personal connection to your blog, and is far more effective at conveying affiliate disclaimer information than something much more formal or full of legalese would be.
You can create your affiliate disclaimer any way you'd like, so long as you include the above bulleted information points. A letter style will work, as will a short paragraph covering just the pertinent information.
If your blog allows users to submit content, be it blog posts, news articles, or even just adding comments and reply to comments by others on blog content, you might want to consider a "Views Expressed" disclaimer, or "Opinion" disclaimer.
This type of disclaimer basically states that any views and opinions expressed on the blog belong solely to the original authors of the opinions and can't be attributed to you and your blog.
This is an important disclaimer for liability.
For example, if someone posts a defamatory comment on your blog, this disclaimer will keep you from being attributed to the comment and potentially being held legally liable for the defamation.
Here's an example of a basic but effective "Views Expressed"/"Opinion" Disclaimer from Gerweck.net.
When writing your "Views Expressed" disclaimer, make sure you let users know that any views and opinions expressed:
The "No Responsibility" disclaimer lets your users know that you cannot be held responsible for different damages that may arise out of using your blog.
Some common damages that a "No Responsibility" disclaimer disclaims responsibility for are:
Depending on the nature of your blog, you may need to disclaim responsibility for other potential damages such as for damages arising out of charging a user for a purchase.
Here's an example of a No Responsibility Disclaimer, or Disclaimer of Liability, from BCS.
It breaks down different disclaimed issues into different sections, with a section addressing "false, inaccurate, inappropriate or incomplete information."
Another section discusses third party links and how "BCS has no control over and accepts no liability in respect of materials, products or services available on any website which is not under the control of BCS."
Here's where BCS will include anything it wants to not be held responsible for, broken down in an easy to read way for its users.
Vipex Consolidators structures its legal disclaimer differently but still covers all relevant information.
There aren't sub sections in this disclaimer, but rather there are paragraphs letting the user know that "any and all access or use of our site and any site linked to our site (third-party website), is at the risk of the user" and that Vipex is "not liable in any manner whatsoever for any direct, indirect or consequential damages arising out of the access, use or inability to use this site or any third-party website."
To write your own No Responsibility Disclaimer, let users know that you will not be held liable for damages arising from:
Include any other additional sections that are relevant to your own specific blog that you may wish to disclaim liability for.
A "Use at Your Own Risk" disclaimer is seen commonly on blogs that offer medical, health, legal or exercise advice and information. This disclaimer lets users know that if they use any of the information on the blog, they're using it at their own risk - meaning, they cannot hold the blog owner or writer responsible for any issues that result from using the information found in the blog.
"Use at Your Own Risk" disclaimers are typically very short and to the point, letting users know that if you use any blog information, you're doing so at your own risk.
Here's how Victorian Bar includes this disclaimer as a few sentences within its Conditions of Use agreement. The final sentence makes it clear that "you use all information at your own risk."
"Concept2 informs users that "by voluntarily undertaking any exercise displayed on this website, you assume the risk of any resulting injury."
Users are also told that it's their "responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition, or that of your clients, and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information or content on this website."
To write your "Use at Your Own Risk" disclaimer:
In the US, section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 allows some copyrighted material to be used for purposes such as teaching, education, research and a few other similar uses.
If your blog uses material under this fair use statute, you need to disclaim this to your users so they know you aren't infringing on copyright laws of the fair use material.
Here's how Global Public Media adds its "Fair Use Disclaimer/Notice" to its website. It lets users know that the site contains materials that are made available under the fair use statute for "research and educational purposes" and includes a link to the statute itself.
The Syracuse Journal of Science and Technology Law includes a "Fair Use Act" Disclaimer that lets users know that some educational-use materials are provided under the Copyright Act of 1976. Fair use is defined for users.
When creating your own "Fair Use" Disclaimer, you will need to include the following:
Including a link to the statute and/or a definition of "Fair Use" like the examples above is helpful to your users but is not legally required.
Even without a "Copyright" disclaimer in place, you'll still have legal recourse in the event of copyright infringement.
However, including a Copyright Disclaimer will help make sure that others are aware of your copyright, and may make it more difficult for someone who infringes your rights to claim that it was done so innocently.
A Copyright Disclaimer can be short, like this example from Baxter.
It lets users know that "all content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Baxter International or its affiliates for use on this site only" and that any "unauthorized use is prohibited."
This simple notice and reservation of rights is effective as a Copyright Disclaimer.
You can choose to make a more robust Copyright Disclaimer if you want to, such as this one from the American Wood Council:
This Copyright Disclaimer/Notice doesn't stop after letting users know that all material is owned by AWC and that all rights are reserved by AWC. It continues on to say that "content may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, distributed, downloaded or transferred in any form or by any means without AWC's prior written consent, and without express attribution to AWC."
AWC does include one exception to its reservation of copyright, which is that "one temporary copy may be downloaded into a single computer's memory and one unaltered permanent copy may be used by the viewer for personal and non-commercial use only, with an attached copy of AWC's Disclaimer Notice."
This shows how flexible your Copyright Disclaimer can be with how you reserve your rights and how much of them you reserve.
To write your own Copyright Disclaimer:
There are a lot of other useful disclaimers for blogs, but these are some of the most common, versatile and important clauses that you should include in your blog.
This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice.