Maybe you’re just getting ready to launch your website or maybe it’s been live for some time now. Either way, we need to talk about compliance. There are many costly mistakes made by small businesses and failing to comply with the relevant website laws is indeed one of them.
While you’ve likely spent a lot of time making your site user-friendly and improving its visibility and reach, you could be violating website rules surrounding intellectual property, privacy, ownership and plagiarism without even knowing it. So, does your site comply with the relevant website laws and guidelines? How can you protect your website and small business? Get our checklist below to cover your bases.
1. Protect Your Domain Name
Most people don’t know that you can’t buy a domain name outright. However, you can register a domain for a period no greater than 10 years at a time with the option to renew. Consider registering your own domain name, as allowing someone else to do so gives away all the control over that name. Another owner could sell the domain or hold it hostage during a dispute, neither of which is ideal.
2. Know Who Owns Your Site
There are lots of options for do-it-yourself web design and hosting. However, many websites are located on servers that belong to a web hosting company. Carefully read user agreements and terms of service to make sure you understand who owns the design and content of your website. Can you move your site to another host? If you don’t own the site design, you may be forced to start from scratch if you move it elsewhere.
3. Prevent Trademark Infringement
Registering a domain name doesn’t grant you the right to infringe on a trademark. Even if you could register the domain www.pepsi.com, use of that domain constitutes trademark infringement. While that example is easily avoidable, infringement still happens and website and copyright laws are often unintentionally broken. If you believe someone is infringing on your trademark—or you receive notice that you’re infringing on the trademark of another business—call your LegalShield provider law firm.
4. Avoid Plagiarism
Beyond hurting you from a legal perspective, posting unoriginal content can tank your search engine rankings and result in penalties from Google. Be sure to run any written content through a plagiarism checker to ensure originality and avoid violating any website laws. If you hire someone to develop your website, ensure your agreement grants you rights to any content they provide. If you reference external content, cite your sources. Also, consider taking your own pictures, purchasing the rights to stock photos or obtaining the rights to images from a photographer.
5. Defend Your Intellectual Property
What happens if you’re the victim of intellectual property theft? What if someone else begins using your company name to sell identical or similar products as yours? What are the prevailing website laws and guidelines in this case? The best way to protect your innovations and creations is through effective enforcement of intellectual property (IP) law. If you need assistance, contact an intellectual property attorney to know your rights.
6. Ensure FTC Compliance
If you’re thinking about advertising online or you already do, be sure to follow the website rules and guidelines outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC created these rules to prevent fraud, deceptive advertising and anti-competitive business practices. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these rules to ensure that you never make claims that are untrue or unsubstantiated, even unintentionally.
7. Consider ADA Compliance
According to Forbes’s Ran Ronen, there has been a rise in website accessibility lawsuits in recent years with plaintiffs citing American Disability Act (ADA) violations. If your business has 15 or more employees, you may be required to comply with ADA’s website rules regarding accessibility. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to follow ADA rules. However, making your products or services accessible to everyone makes perfect business sense. You can find an in-depth explanation of ADA website requirements here.
8. Safeguard Security & Privacy
One of the most important rules for a website is to take every necessary step to protect personal customer information. To avoid data breaches and the resulting legal action, make sure your site is secure and that you are compliant with payment card industry standards. If you have a web presence in the EU, even if your business is located in North America, you should familiarize yourself with the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) which dictates how you collect, store and handle private customer data.
9. Monitor Visitor Behavior Ethically
If you allow site visitors to add comments or content—on a blog post, for example—it’s important to monitor for obscenity and inflammatory, defamatory or discriminatory material. In addition to potential liability, such information can damage your reputation. If your website collects cookies, which are used to monitor behavior and deliver a personalized experience, you may wish to inform your visitors. When in doubt, reach out to a lawyer to get clear on the relevant legal requirements for your website.
10. Include Disclaimers
There are many reasons to add disclaimers to your website. The type of disclaimer needed depends on your business as well as the content and function of your site. If you sell toys, you may wish to include a disclaimer explaining how to use the products safely. If you offer online fitness programs, you may want to warn visitors about any physical injuries they could sustain as a result of engaging in these programs. Talk to your LegalShield provider law firm about what type of disclaimer is appropriate for your business.
Run Your Business Confidently With LegalShield
A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into building a business. And nothing dims that shine faster than realizing you’ve violated website laws surrounding intellectual property, privacy and security. Let us help ease your mind. With Business Plans starting at just $49 a month, a LegalShield lawyer can help you navigate all the relevant website legal requirements with confidence and ease. Contact us today to get the small business legal services you need to run your business with confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions: Website Legal Requirements
How do I check if a website is legal?
Fraud and malicious behavior is prevalent on the internet. To see if a website is legitimate and legal, consider using McAfee’s free WebAdvisor tool. You could also search the site’s name on Trustpilot, a website that hosts more than a million reviews of businesses worldwide. It couldn’t hurt to run your business website through these tools to flag any areas of concern.
How can I legally make a website?
To legally make a website, ensure that you aren’t infringing on the right of any third party. Be certain that you have the right to operate under your chosen name or trademark, run any written content through a plagiarism checker, source imagery wisely and ensure FTC and ADA compliance.
Are HTTPS safe?
HTTPS is more secure than HTTP. HTTPS, which is widely used on the web, provides secure communication over a computer network. HTTPS authenticates the accessed website and protects the integrity and privacy of the data exchanged in transit. HTTPS also helps prevent attacks, tampering and eavesdropping by malicious “middlemen.”
LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at legalshield.com for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.