Privacy Policies, Copyright Infringement, and Spam, Oh My!
You took your business online because technology made it easier. While a lot of the tutorials and “User-Friendly” applications make it sound like the whole business of running a business online can be accomplished by anyone, you probably already know there’s a bit more to it than that. Whether you’re running a strictly online venture or you’ve added social media and a web presence to your real-world business, there are some legal requirements for websites that you might not know. We’ve compiled an easy-to-read list as you manage your website.
Legal Requirements for Websites
Like most things in the legal realm, the wording of the actual statutes are lengthy, often confusing and not the most exciting read. So, we’re going to give you an overview of a few important points to keep your website on the right side of the law.
- eCommerce Considerations. This is a wide topic, but any transaction online is governed by the same laws which govern an in-person transaction. Your online presence may also include public user boards and your user terms of service should be in place. You should also have a “take down” policy for items that are deemed defamatory or in violation of copyright or trademark laws. If you’re selling on your website make sure you have encrypted personal information via HTTPS (to be honest pretty much all sites should now be HTTPS, but it is even more important for sites dealing with financial transactions).
- Collection of Personal Information. There are specific laws which govern the collection of personal information, such as IP addresses. If you’re collecting personal information with analytics or through the function of your online presence, make sure you’re aware of all of the laws that apply.
- Copyrighted Content. Your own content should be protected from copyright infringement through use of symbols and notices of conditions of any reproduction of content. You should also research safe harbor laws to make certain you’re protected from claims of copyright infringement. From an SEO point of view this is also important because if you are caught with content that is not unique on your website, you may be subject to a Google penalty.
- Content Attribution. It’s important to include attribution for any work not created or purchased by your company. This applies to both written content as well photography and graphics. Creative commons images can be easy on your wallet; yet there are differing levels of attribution. Be aware of what usage rights and follow them.
- The Can-Spam Act. If you use any type of email marketing, you can be fined up to $16,000.00 for violations of your email advertising campaigns. Make sure you’re in compliance with the FTC’s rules and regulations. Getting permission from your leads before you email them is vitally important, and not just because of the risk of an FTC fine. Permission-based marketing is a much better way of getting customers than spray and pray spam tactics.
- Accessibility. This is exactly what it sounds like, but you might be surprised to know that there are rules guiding your websites accessibility for the disabled. In general you should try to make your website as accessable as possible to as many people as you can. The more visitors that can use your site the better!
This list is in no way complete, but it is a good start to researching a few of the ways that you may be in compliance or violation of legal requirements for websites. If you’ve read through the laws and aren’t sure, we’d recommend hiring legal counsel to avoid hefty fines or potential damage to your business’ credibility.
What other legal requirements for websites would you add to our list?
How can we help?
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photo credit – top: Michael Coghlan
photo credit – body: Rohan Kar