Most freelance bloggers probably assume that they have very few legal issues to contend with, and in general they tend to face significantly fewer potential legal hassles than their incorporated, multi-employee counterparts. Freelance bloggers usually work from home, they’re self-employed, and they may write for a variety of blogs (none of which they own or operate). In this case there are truly not too many legal issues to worry about. Once you start managing your own blogs you become responsible for the content. And if you actually succeed and end up hiring other writers to work with you, the potential for legal issues rises dramatically. But here are just a few legalities that the average freelance writer should be aware of when entering the blogosphere.
The major legal issue faced by nearly any type of writer centers on how information is used. Plagiarism is a pretty dirty word for writers and even accusations of copying the work of others can seriously damage a reputation. Proven plagiarism can also result in a criminal and/or civil lawsuit. If you run your own blog and you get slapped with a plagiarism suit the blame is all on you. But what about when you provide content to other blogs? Are they liable or are you? In truth, you probably both are. And while the offended party may go after the blog in pursuit of monetary damages under the assumption that they are liable (and more likely to have the money or insurance to cover such a ruling), don’t think you’ll be off the hook. The blog will likely turn around and come after you next. For this reason, it pays to do your homework, know what is acceptable when it comes to drawing information from other sources, and consider getting some kind of liability insurance to protect yourself.
Another common legal issue for many freelance workers revolves around contracts, or more specifically, the terms of employment and pay. If you fail to work under the umbrella of a contract it’s really only a matter of time before the wires get crossed and you end up working virtually for free. Any document by which you and your client agree to terms of work and pay will suffice as a legal contract (even the simplest purchase order will work), but many freelancers choose to create a basic contract of their own to ensure that there are no questions about the amount or deadline of payments. This is a necessary precaution for anyone that wants a legal leg to stand on if they have to go to court to secure payment for a job.
You may also have to deal with non-compete clauses, non-disclosure agreements, publication rights, and any other terms that your clients dictate, but if you don’t like the terms all you have to do is turn down the job. Otherwise you could be prosecuted for a failure to comply with contractually agreed-upon conditions. You don’t need a masters in criminal justice to know that breach of contract is grounds for a lawsuit. Of course, this also works in your favor; if your client fails to hold up their end of the agreement you also have the right to sue.