Top 5 Legal Gotchas to Avoid for Your Company Website

Top 5 Legal Gotchas to Avoid for Your Company Website

Whether your company is launching its first website or its umpteenth, redesigned website, there are several legal considerations of which you should be mindful.  If not, unfortunately, your company faces legal exposure.

1. Ensure Ownership.  As basic as it sounds, ownership and control is a must when it comes to what is one of the more valuable assets of a company, especially those that operate solely online.  Make sure that you have control over the domain name that houses your website, including access to the same with your chosen Registrar, and that it is set to auto-renew with a valid payment.  Equally important, make sure that any and all content displayed on the website is owned by or properly licensed to your company.  The last thing you need is to have your web host remove your website because of a third party notice pursuant to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), let alone sue your company for copyright infringement.

2. Publish Terms and Conditions.  Your company would not provide a service without a contract, right?  Similarly, your company should not offer its website without, at a minimum, a Terms of Use or Terms of Service.  This document is where your company can mitigate its risk by including such things as a limitation of liability, choose where and how disputes are resolved and otherwise dictate specifics related to a visitor, and more robustly, a customer relationship.  Companies that allow third party user-generated content should also include a Copyright Policy, and follow the steps required to avail themselves of the Safe Harbor under US Copyright Laws.

3. Pay Attention to Privacy.  While the above mentioned website agreements are recommended, some state laws (e.g. California) now require a Privacy Policy that clearly and conspicuously notifies website visitors what personal information a business has collected about them, how it acquires such personal information, what is used for, whether it is being shared or sold and to whom, among other things. Regardless, your company needs to know what it collects, stores, shares, and uses with respect to user data.  This is particularly true for international companies in light of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

4. Be Accessible.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does apply to websites.  Opportunistic Plaintiffs attorneys know this and have filed numerous lawsuits against company’s that have websites that fail to comply with law.  While fluid, numerous U.S. courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ) point to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA success criteria as the standard for sufficient website accessibility.  Numerous resources exist to help guide compliance efforts in hopes of mitigating against not only monetary legal exposure, but also ensuring proper accessibility by, among others, blind persons.

5. Pay the Tax (where necessary).  E-commerce taxes can be due to various states based upon online sales.  This area of law continues to change and, as such, knowing where payments are due can save numerous headaches in the future.  This is particularly true in the event of an acquisition.

Some diligence with respect to the above will hopefully ensure that a company website continues as the face of a company and its on-ramp to business development and sales.