Disclaimers protect businesses and websites against legal liability, making them an essential element in online operations.
If you own or manage a website that gives advice, or contains content that could put you at risk of litigation, you need a legal disclaimer.
Find out what a disclaimer is, and which types of disclaimers you may need.
1. What Is a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer is a legal disclosure that shifts responsibility away from your business or website. They are used by many online operations as an essential protection measure.
Disclaimers can cover topics from advice to copyright to affiliate partnerships. Different websites, apps, and content creators use different disclaimers depending on their unique activities and potential liabilities.
One easy way to think of a disclaimer is as a warning sign for your site. This warning lets users know that they use your site at their own risk, and establishes your rights, as to protect yourself against advantageous users.
2. Do I Need a Disclaimer?
Most websites, apps, and online businesses need some type of disclaimer, if not multiple types of disclaimers.
If you operate a blog or website that deals with any of the following subject matters, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may require that you post specific disclaimers:
The FDA requires sites that discuss medical information or provide recommendations about products or services to include a disclaimer that any information discussed is for educational purposes only, and any advice given shouldn’t substitute discussion between an individual and their doctor or primary health care provider.
Even if you’re a doctor, or you operate an official medical website, you need to say that your discussions of medical or health/wellness information for general consumption shouldn’t be interpreted as a professional recommendation, or as the creation of an established doctor-patient relationship.
Failure to display such a disclaimer may put your site at risk of liability if a reader becomes ill or suffers harm as a result of reading your site’s content.
Similar to sites that provide medical advice, if your site discusses laws or general legal matters, you need a disclaimer that says laws may differ in different jurisdictions, and that any legal information on your site shouldn’t constitute qualified legal advice.
Even if you’re an attorney or represent a legal firm, you need to alert readers that any legal discussions are theoretical, for general education, and don’t count as formal retainer or representation.
Here’s an example of such a disclosure in In House Op’s disclaimer:
Because laws vary between states and there are different restrictions by trade, any professional advice shared on your site should be disclaimed as general educational information, rather than legitimate professional advice.
For example, if you operate a website about plumbing, you may write an article about how you would solve a specific structural issue. You need a disclaimer to specify that such content does not substitute your professional advice, and official contract, or an estimate for services.
Products and Services
If you offer products or services, or you post reviews of products or services, you need a product disclaimer. Such a disclaimer can say something like:
Use at your risk
This type of disclaimer limits your liability in the event that a reader misuses a product based on your offerings or advice.
Do you receive compensation from affiliates for linking to, mentioning, or reviewing their products, services, or content? If so, you need an affiliate disclaimer.
Two specific programs that require affiliate disclaimers are Amazon Associates and YouTube.
If you earn money through the Amazon Associates program, you need a disclosure that says:
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you upload sponsored content to YouTube, this is considered an affiliate relationship, and you’re required to disclose your sponsor in the video description. Here’s an example of a simple YouTube disclaimer on a Ryland Adams video:
You can see from the example that Adams disclaims his sponsored relationship, and specifies that the views expressed are his alone. This is a common practice, and your sponsors or affiliates may request you make such a disclaimer.
These are only a few common disclaimer examples and website activities that require disclaimers. Even a general opinion blog most likely requires a disclaimer in order to mitigate potential liabilities.
3. Where Should I Put My Disclaimer?
You should display a link to your disclaimer in the footer of your website or in your website’s menu.
Additionally, you need to add disclaimer statements to relevant content and pages. For example, if you have a blog post sponsored by the Amazon Associates program, you need to add your Amazon Associates disclosure directly to that article.
If you have a dedicated disclaimer page, you can link to that page from your terms of service to make your practices and disclosures even more accessible to users.
4. How to Create a Disclaimer
Now that you have a better idea of why you need a disclaimer and what kinds of disclaimers your website requires, it’s time for you to make one for your business.
You can base your disclaimer on examples, consult an attorney, or draft a disclaimer that covers your unique business needs by using our free disclaimer generator.