Privacy Policy 101: What Every Website Owner Should Know

By | Federal Trade Commission, Privacy | No Comments

Privacy Policy 101: What Every Website Owner Should KnowHere are Internet Lawyer Mike Young’s answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about website privacy policy requirements. If you own a website, this is vital information for protecting yourself from lawsuits and government investigations.

General Information About Website Privacy Policies

Q: What is a website privacy policy?

A: It’s the legal document that describes the website owner’s policy with respect to the privacy rights of site visitors.

These rights may be multi-tiered.

For example, a website visitor may have different rights and responsibilities than a paying customer with access to a restricted membership area.

Related Article: 5 Warning Signs You’re Using The Wrong Website Legal Documents

In addition to the legal aspects, a good privacy policy builds trust between the site owner and visitors.

On the other hand, the lack of a policy (or a poorly drafted one) creates suspicion the website owner is dishonest or an amateur treating the site like a hobby.

5 Warning Signs You’re Using The Wrong Website Legal DocumentsQ: Are privacy policies required?

A: Although not all jurisdictions require websites to have privacy policies, some countries and states do.

The problem with this is that most sites do not restrict access by geographic location. This means that if you’ve got a site with visitors from another state that requires sites have privacy policies, you have potential liability issues even if the location(s) where your site is based and hosted do not have such requirements.

Even if you win, it’s costly to defend against a lawsuit by a state’s attorney general or a consumer protection lawyer who attempts to get a class action certified again you as site owner for violating privacy laws you may not have even known existed.

Q: Can I save money by writing my own policy from scratch?

A: Probably not. Imagine you broke your arm with a compact fracture. The bone has pierced the skin.

Would you try to stop the bleeding, stitch up the wound, and set the bone at home with a do-it-yourself cast to save a trip to the emergency room? Chances are you’d end up spending a fortune later in medical bills trying to save the arm from amputation.

The same principle applies to legal issues like online privacy rights. It’s penny-wise and pound foolish to cut corners here pretending to be an experienced Internet business lawyer…

Does Your Business Lawyer Draft Contracts That Encourage Dispute Resolution Or Lawsuits?

By | Business Contracts, Dallas Business Lawyer, Intellectual Property | No Comments

Does Your Business Lawyer Draft Contracts That Encourage Dispute Resolution Or LawsuitsImagine your most important business agreement has been breached by the other side. What would you do?

For many companies, the answer is a costly lawsuit that often sucks up more time and money than the amount of damages caused by the breach in the first place.

Is there an alternative to a breach of contract lawsuit?

Yes.

Have your agreements drafted an experienced business lawyer so that they favor resolving disputes quickly and at minimal cost.

How?

Here are three key issues to cover in your business contracts that should fix most problems:

(1) Include a comprehensive alternative dispute resolution process;

(2) Make the law that governs the agreement favorable to you; and

(3) Have disputes settled in a location that minimizes your costs.

Related Article: 5 Things You Should Review With Your Business Lawyer Annually

1. Alternative Dispute Resolution Clauses

5 Things You Should Review With Your Business Lawyer AnnuallyYour agreements should provide for a multi-step process for solving problems without going to court.

Common stages of dispute resolution include informal discussions between the parties, mediation, and arbitration (binding or non-binding). Many business attorneys who are not trial lawyers prefer binding arbitration for their clients because it typically saves time and is cost-effective.

2. Applicable Law

Make sure that the law governing your agreement generally favors you. This is particularly important when the other party is located in another country whose laws on contract enforcement are lax or nonexistent.

3. Venue

Even if you’re not heading to court, you’ll want the location of your dispute resolution process to be in a location that’s convenient for you. Ideally, that will mean having the contract provide that mediation and arbitration occur in the same geographic area (e.g. city or county) as your company’s headquarters. In the alternative, if the other party insists, agree in the contract to resolve disputes at a neutral location that’s mutually convenient.

What contract disputes should your business lawyer encourage be resolved by a court instead?

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary to sue to protect your company’s legal rights. Because of this, your corporate legal counsel will want to carve out exceptions to mandatory alternative dispute resolution to cover issues like intellectual property infringement, violation of a non-competition clause, and related matters where equitable relief from a court may be needed.

Startup Funding – Where To Get Money For Starting A New Business

By | Internet Lawyer | No Comments

startup funding get money new businessNewbie entrepreneurs with their first “million dollar idea” for starting a new business are often cash-strapped. This frequently makes third party startup funding a misplaced top priority.

Pretotyping Not Payola

As a practical matter, the first issue should be validating whether or not your idea is worth pursuing.

For the aspiring entrepreneur with a limited budget, your first investment should be buying and reading “Pretotype It: Make sure you are building The Right It before you build It right” by Alberto Savoia.

Even if you’re convinced everyone needs what you plan to build, save your time, money, and energy by testing that theory through applying the tactics described in Savoia’s book at little or no cost.

According to Texas Business Lawyer Mike Young, if there’s no market ready, willing, and able to pay for what you have in mind, it’s time to regroup before trying to fundraise for a startup no one wants.

After you’ve proven there’s a sufficiently profitable market by pretotyping, only then is it time to consider how you’ll fund the next steps for your startup.

Your Own Money

Before approaching friends, family, or third parties to raise capital, look at your own assets. If you’re not willing to risk part of your assets, why should anyone else?

That being said, think twice before looting a retirement plan (e.g. IRA or 401k) for your new venture. This is particularly true the older you get with limited time to make up any losses before retirement.

If you can’t afford the down side of a 100% loss of the funds, you shouldn’t be using them in your business.

Don’t go into debt to fund your company. Mortgaging your house or running up credit cards rarely results in business success because it creates a sense of desperation that leads to very bad business decisions when debt payments come due but money is tight.

Business Bank Loans For Startup Funding

Unless you have significant assets to use as collateral or a proven track record of building successful companies, banks are unlikely to give you the time of day for a business loan. In other words, banks are rarely interested in loaning money for startups unless you really don’t need their money in the first place.

Friends and Family Startup Funding

Want to ruin a good friendship or having family members never speak to you again?

Borrow money from them or sell them equity in your new venture.

If you insist on doing it, make sure the loan is done in writing (e.g. promissory note), collateral given if requested, etc. And honor the repayment terms of the debt.

Be careful when fundraising from acquaintances, such as co-workers or friends of friends.

Why?

Because there are federal and state securities laws that must be obeyed if you’re offering equity in exchange for startup capital. The regulatory compliance costs often exceed the amount you’re able to raise by this method…and these people are likely to sue you if your company goes bust and they lose their money.

Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

Although some angel investors are adrenaline junkies who invest primarily for the rush of being involved with a startup, you should assume both angel investors and venture capitalists are solely interested in a high monetary return on investment (ROI) with the ability to cash out on their terms.

If you are one of the “lucky” few to get this type of funding, understand there are many strings attached.

One of the primary strings invariably is control. To protect their investment, they will throw you out of your own company if you fail to deliver to expectations. These investors don’t assume every investment will pay off. However, they show little tolerance for founders who drop the ball through laziness, incompetence, etc.

Know thyself.

If your primary reason for starting a new company is to work for yourself, giving up a large chunk of equity and expecting to run things as directed by your investors is a recipe for disaster. You can’t fight those who control the purse strings and expect to win, particularly when they’re in the business of making money from your efforts.

Self-Funding Business

Despite the hype given in the media, your new venture is unlikely to become the next Google, Uber, Amazon, etc.

After testing the concept through pretotyping, if you decide to proceed, seriously consider a model where the business’ incoming revenues fund its growth rather than incurring debt or giving up equity.

And if your startup does have the potential to be the next billion dollar unicorn, investors will be knocking at your door rather than you begging for help when starting a new business.

Crowd Funding

What if you need a serious injection of capital for the startup because of the nature of your new widget is technology that requires hundreds of thousands or even a couple million dollars just to get off the ground?

If pretotyping shows there’s a hot demand for your idea, consider using a crowd funding site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to get the money you need. Just understand there are strings attached to this startup funding too. Whatever you promise to those who crowd fund your company, be prepared to deliver.

Software Development Agreement – Who Really Owns The Intellectual Property?

By | Copyrights, Intellectual Property, Licensing, Licensing Agreements, Open Source, Software, Software Agreements, Software Lawyer | No Comments

software development agreementWhether you’re a developer or a client, one of the most important things to cover in your software development agreement is who owns what intellectual property (IP) rights.

Surprisingly, most developers and their clients either don’t know or having conflicting views on the subject.

Imagine you’re a client that’s just obtained an advantage in the marketplace with new software. Then you discover your developer now works for one of your biggest competitors on a similar software project.

Or, let’s say you’re a software developer. At the end of a project, the client is happy with your work but makes an off-the-cuff remark about owning the new software lock, stock, and barrel. You wonder if the client understands that’s not the case.

According to Dallas Software Lawyer Mike Young, there are two competing interests at play. “The client wants ownership while preventing the developer from re-selling the software to others,” he said. “On the other hand, the developer wants to keep ownership because some code can be recycled and used on projects for other clients instead of having to reinvent the wheel from scratch.”

So, how do you balance these competing interests in a software development agreement?

One method is to use a combination of licensing with non-competition provisions.

How does this work?

The developer retains IP ownership, licenses the software to the client, and agrees to restrict the purposes for which the code can be recycled. Often, this means the developer is agreeing that for a period of time, the developer will not use the software to compete with the client or recycle the code and sell it to one of the client’s competitors.

What if the developer doesn’t own some of the code used in the software?

The general rule of thumb is you can’t convey what you don’t have.

When it comes to software development, there’s often is some code the developer does not own. For example, a developer’s license has been purchased from a third party, the developer is using open source licensed code (e.g. GNU General Public and Creative Commons licenses), or some of the code has been taken freely from the public domain.

In other words, there may be multiple tiers of intellectual property rights associated with a single piece of software. And if those are not clearly identified in the software development agreement, it’s a recipe for confusion, hard feelings, and litigation.

What if the developer is the company’s employee?

Even if employees are doing software development for an employer, it’s risky to assume the software is the employer’s intellectual property as a work made for hire for two primary reasons.

First, certain criteria must be satisfied before the software is considered a work made for hire.

Second, the employee(s) developing the software may have licensed some of the code, used open source code, or taken code from the public domain.

Employers can reduce these risks by taking preventative steps before development begins. These actions can include written employment agreements that cover works made for hire, implementing employment guidelines to ensure the work-for-hire criteria is satisfied, and establishing a clearly defined project scope of work to identify the coding resources for the project and related intellectual property rights.

IP Ownership Is Negotiable

Whether you’re an independent contractor, client, or an employee involved with a software development project, it’s important to understand the intellectual property rights are frequently negotiable, i.e. there’s no one-size-fits-all standard to apply across all projects.

Before negotiating, work with your software lawyer to identify what you must have, what would be nice to have, and what you can live without. This makes it easier to cut a deal where each party gets what they want from the project.

On-Call Scheduling Of Hourly Employees: Should Employers Use It?

By | Employment Agreements, Featured Articles, Texas Business Lawyer | No Comments

on-call schedulingSome businesses require hourly employee on-call scheduling (also known as on-call shifts) to ensure there’s just enough workers to meet labor requirements for shifts. This means employees have to put their lives on hold, calling in a couple hours before coming to work to see whether not they’re actually needed for a particular shift.

For the employer, this appears to save money because during slow times labor costs can be minimized by telling an employee not to come in for all or part of a shift. And if the business has a high turnover, such as fast food restaurants, it may make sense to double book employees with the expectation one will quit or simply not show up.

For example, if two employees scheduled for the same position on a shift call in and expect to work, it’s easy to tell one he isn’t needed while requiring the other to show up.

Is On-Call Scheduling Illegal?

As pointed out by Daniel Wiessner in “Retailers to drop on-call scheduling amid state probes,” some states’ attorneys general contend on-call scheduling violates applicable wage laws because it requires hourly employees to perform some work (e.g. calling in one or more times) without getting paid. That’s in addition to the moral issue of putting workers in limbo where they cannot make concrete plans for a day they may or may not be working.

Implementing On-Call Shifts Effectively

If you’re going to use on-call scheduling in your business where it’s legal to do so, be sure to compensate the employee for the burden of being placed in limbo and try to keep such scheduling to a minimum per employee (e.g. no more than one shift per pay period). Just as you don’t want customers to get your goods and services for free, don’t steal your employees’ lives away by abusing their work schedules.

Alternative To On-Call Schedules

Although wage and hour laws vary by state, a better method to meet labor requirements is to replace on-call shifts with a financial incentive making it worthwhile for an employee who has a day off to want to come in and work an extra shift if requested to do so by management. Because the act is voluntary and compensated, employee productivity is likely to increase, legal risks are minimized, and the employer is less likely to abuse the system when there is a direct additional cost to making a call for more labor.

An experienced business lawyer can help you avoid the legal pitfalls of on-call scheduling and other employee wage and hour practices.