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Put Contracts in Place to Protect Yourself and Your Mom Blog Writers

Take the time and money to create legal agreements with all your writers. Treat your business like a real business. Find a good lawyer who specializes in copyright and contract law to help you navigate through these legal waters.

Copyright law is weird and tricky, and often defies common sense. Here are the most important things you need to know when you are crafting a legal agreement with your writers:

  • Who owns the copyright of written works? Even if you pay for content, you do not own the copyright to that content unless you have an agreement in writing that states that the author specifically assigns copyright to you. This can be done via e-mail or actual documents, but must be agreed to in writing by both parties in order to be binding.

    This does not apply when a person is a legal employee of your company, when the employing company is the automatic copyright holder.

  • What is the difference between copyright and publishing rights? Copyright is automatically held by the author unless specifically assigned otherwise in writing.

    Publishing rights can be communicated orally or even assumed by the author’s conduct — if the author is posting directly on your blog on a regular basis and taking your money, this is enough to presume that you have legal publishing rights. But in cases where there are disagreements, it’s best to have publishing rights established in writing or granted in an e-mail.

  • What is the difference between an independent contractor and an employee? According to the IRS, “You must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.” Nearly all blogging working relationships are set up with independent contractors.

    Here are some of the primary things you would have to do in order to be considered an employer: You must dictate the schedule that specifies when your writer works, control what that person does for you, how he or she does it for you, and specify that the writer work on materials or goods that you supply, which must be returned to you.

  • How can you enforce a copyright? If you believe that another website is illegally publishing the content you own, you can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice with both the website’s hosting company and/or with Google.

    The way that a DMCA notice works is that after you file it and specify the content that you wish to have removed, the hosting company where the site resides must take down the material in question, or Google must remove it from its index. You must be the actual copyright holder or authorized representative (a lawyer) to file a DMCA notice.

    If you believe that someone has filed an unjustified DMCA notice against you, you can also file a DMCA counter-notice. Only do this if you’re prepared to defend your counter-notice in court, because the counter-notice effectively swears that you legally do have the publishing rights of the material in question.

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