Writing a disclaimer is one of the easiest and most useful ways to protect yourself from unnecessary lawsuits. It is always better to safeguard everything you publish with one, as a safety measure. Penlighten tells you how to write disclaimers for present-day scenarios.
Did You Know?
While advertising certain kinds of products, the inclusion of a statement from the seller, that declares certain critical information about the product, as well as its limitations, is mandated by the government. This is known as a mandatory disclaimer.
A disclaimer is essentially a statement, a paragraph, or (in the case of legal disclaimers for businesses,) a full-page document, that lets others know that you are not liable for the consequences of someone else following the advice you gave, using the products you created or endorsed, using your services, and the like. It does not, however, allow you to walk away scot-free if you have indeed broken the law. But still, in many cases, a disclaimer comes in handy if you need to get out of a sticky, or ambiguous situation.
Each and every business has used a disclaimer at least once. For example, the message that can be seen printed on the side-view mirror of an automobile, saying, “objects seen in the mirror may be closer in reality”, or the note that appears at the beginning of a movie that states that, “all characters in this movie are fictitious, any resemblance to any living or dead individual is a coincidence”, are disclaimers that recur often. This is a brief guide to write an all-inclusive disclaimer, in case you ever need to.
1. What is the need of writing a disclaimer?
A disclaimer is an absolutely necessity for any business, product, document, service, website, or even a blog where the author has self-published his or her post. In the case of a commercial venture, it is needless to stress the legal repercussions of not drafting the necessary documents.
But with artistic work too, such as a weblog post, book, song, video posted on YouTube, something written on a social networking (like Facebook), or microblogging website (like Twitter), and so on, one should not omit a disclaimer if it is required, for two simple reasons;
- Copyright:- It is a common occurrence that work inspired from some other already-published, copyright-protected piece, may end up very similar to the original. In such cases, without a disclaimer that clearly states that “my work is original, similarities to previously published material is coincidental”, the author could be in line for a lawsuit!
- Moral Responsibility:- An author of a book, blog, or website may publish all kinds of information, the integrity of which may not be absolutely determinable. For example, someone writing about a diet may talk about things that worked for him or her personally, but these same measures that were taken, could be potentially harmful to another person who follows them. Moreover, the author may not be a qualified dietitian, or physician. These facts need to be laid out in front of readers so as to prevent them from being misled.
Therefore, anyone, and everyone should write a disclaimer to absolve themselves of the responsibility for any negative outcome of their product (or work), and also to clearly spell out the policies or ethics that are associated with their venture.
2. How do you write a disclaimer for a blog, or a personal website?
Blogs can be of many different kinds. While some may be serious, and address issues that are sensitive in nature, like world issues, politics, profiles of known personalities, etc., and provide the author’s take on them, others may be light, funny, sarcastic, and for the purpose of entertainment. There are blogs about sports or music, ones which provide factual information, ones that are essentially a collection of how-tos, and others which give advice about matters like relationships, health, and business. The best part of writing a blog disclaimer is that it can be either serious or light, in keeping with the tone of the blog.
The following are points that need to be included in your blog’s disclaimer without fail:
As the author of a blog post, you are solely responsible for its content. You need to steer clear of copyright violation and things like libel, which could get you into serious trouble. Do not forget to cite sources appropriately if required. But over and above all, you need to explicitly state that your work is original, probably fictional, not inspired or copied from any protected, previously-published work intentionally, nor written with the intent of hurting the sentiments or reputation of any individual or reader. You could also state that you are not responsible for any interpretation of your content that differs from what you meant.
Accuracy of Information
You must mention the degree of accuracy of the information you have furnished in the blog, in your disclaimer. If you have just stated your opinion of a matter in your blog, do not miss out that point in the disclaimer. Also, advise readers to consult experts or professionals before making major life decisions based on the information published in your website or blog. It is also ethical to declare if you have been offered remuneration in exchange for writing a post, or if your post is sponsored in any other way.
- Many blogs are hosted by bigger domains, and those websites allow third-party advertisements to appear on your blog. To protect your reputation, you can post a disclaimer saying that you have nothing to do with any link to a page outside your blog.
- Additionally, your blog may spark a barrage of comments. To wash your hands off being held accountable for the nature of the comments, which could be anything from hurtful or racist, to a mini-debate that offers advice parallel to the kind you give through your blog, you need to make sure that you clearly state that too in your blog’s disclaimer.
- Another thing to remember is that, suppose you are employed by or are representing another organization, it is obligatory for you to write in your disclaimer that your employer’s views are not represented in your blog.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and the views of my employers, ABC Corp., and all other organizations I am related to, are not implied in anything written by me. The ad links featured on the various pages of my blog also have nothing to do with me, and do not reflect my personal interest or endorsement in any way. Furthermore, as the author of this blog, I am not responsible for the comments posted on this blog, and cannot be held liable for anything inaccurate, insensitive, racist, defaming, or profane.
If you wish to protect the content you authored, you could also mention your ownership in your disclaimer. This part is both optional as well as it varies from blog to blog depending on the content. There are various laws that may be applicable based as per your location, which you need to look into before you assume ownership and make a sweeping declaration against reproducing your content. Another thing that could be declared is that if someone decides to share or reproduce your content, and their intent is misuse, you cannot be held responsible.
As the owner of this blog, I reserve the right to discontinue briefly, or entirely shut down this blog. Your comments on my blog are public for everyone to read, and I am not answerable to anyone for anything not written by me. The content published on this blog, although not copyrighted, is for entertaining the reader only, and in case it is reproduced or shared in whole on any other platform, I am not personally responsible for any misuse of this content.
Although it is a sensible idea to designate an overall disclaimer page for your blog, sometimes you will need to additionally specify a disclaimer for a post, especially if the content in that particular post requires a disclaimer because of its disputable nature. In such cases, arguing that your blog has a generic disclaimer may not work in your favor in case you are sued.
3. Do you need a disclaimer for posts on social media/mass-sharing websites?
Writing a disclaimer for a status update on Facebook, a tweet, or on YouTube for a posted video, is not just unnecessary, but also self-incriminating.
This is because saying that you are not responsible for any unintended copyright infringement, and also stating that you do not possess the rights to the song, music video, or anything else that you have published, is a direct contradiction, and actually proves that you have wantonly uploaded media that you do not own. A disclaimer cannot be used as an excuse, nor will it give you a free pass if you publish any material that is protected or sensitive, and a better idea would be to avoid the act of doing so in the first place.
However, if you have created an unofficial fan page for any celebrity, or any company/product that is widely recognized, then depending on the nature of the content, you may need to write a legal disclaimer that needs to be drafted quite carefully.
Things to remember
- You cannot state anything in your disclaimer that is untrue. Therefore if you are declaring that you have not made use of any copyrighted pictures, song lyrics, or information in general, in your fan page, you need to make sure that even by mistake you have not defaulted on that statement.
- Sometimes, in a fan page, you may have to invariably use copyright-protected material. In that case, to avoid liability, you can state in your disclaimer that you do not “own” any of the copyrighted media, you are merely “hosting” it, from the point of view of a fan.
- Clearly spell out that you have no affiliation with the company, brand, or celebrity, in any way.
- Do not allow your disclaimer to contradict Facebook’s disclaimer policies.
- If your page allows other users to post content, state in your disclaimer that you are not responsible for any material, copyrighted, derogatory, or offensive in any other way that any other party has posted on your page. Extend this statement even to advertisements and external links posted by any other reader/contributor.
- Place your disclaimer at a strategic location on your page so that it will not be missed by anyone visiting the page.
- Get your legal disclaimer proofread by an actual attorney, to correct your faux pas and also to know of its validity as per your location.
- In the disclaimer, always thank the subject of your fan page and commend them for their success.
We would love to end this guide (which we hope you found helpful) with a little disclaimer of our own;
Disclaimer: The above guide was for information purposes only. If you wish to draft a disclaimer notice for your registered product or business, feel free to use our guide to lead the way, but also make sure that you consult a lawyer for professional, and absolute directives. We are not responsible for the consequences if you choose not to heed this disclaimer.