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Internet Lawsuits

5 Ways To Resolve Internet Business Disputes Without Going To Court

By Internet Lawyer

internet business disputes resolutionIn many cases, Internet business disputes can be resolved in a short period of time without filing a lawsuit. This includes both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) conflicts.

Here are five things you can do to make your ecommerce life easier.

1. Put your ecommerce conflict resolution policy in writing.

Ideally you’ll want your written agreements for products and services to include provisions that clearly state how disputes will be handled if there’s a disagreement. That way everyone is on the same page for handling problems before they occur.

Related Article: 7 Keys To Picking The Right Internet Lawyer For Your Business

If you don’t set up a roadmap ahead of time, chances are you’ll get sued by an unhappy party with a very happy lawyer collecting fees for going after you.

At the first sign the other party might be considering a lawsuit, if you don’t already have an agreement in place for dispute resolution as part of a binding contract, reach out and see if everyone can agree to alternative dispute resolution rather than rushing to the courthouse.

2. Try informal dispute resolution first.

In this era of emails and text messaging, a lot can get lost in translation. This can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and the destruction of an otherwise healthy business relationship.

Commit that you’ll try to talk things out informally face-to-face, by telephone, or videoconferencing (Microsoft Skype, Apple FaceTime, Google Hangouts etc.) if there’s a problem. You’ll be amazed at how many ecommerce problems simply disappear by this method.

3. Mediation is a good second step for Internet conflict resolution.

If you can’t come to a solution by dealing directly with the other party 1-on-1, bring in a qualified mediator to help you solve your problem. There are experienced mediators who can meet face-to-face or provide online mediation via telephone, Skype, etc.

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

4. If mediation doesn’t work, try binding private arbitration instead.

Having a neutral party arbitrate your dispute and render a decision is a lot like having a judge do it in court. The primary advantages of arbitration over lawsuits are cost, speed, the ability to select the decision-maker, and improving your chances of keeping your dispute confidential.

5. Cut your losses in Internet business disputes and walk away.

If the choice is between (a) an expensive lawsuit that will take years, and (b) chalking up a loss as a life lesson by walking away, consider what’s really best for you and your company.

If you’ve been wronged, rarely will you achieve true justice in court even if you technically win. And even a “win” can often be appealed by the side that loses, racking up more time and expense for everyone.

If the return on the investment of your time, energy and money justifies pursuing a lawsuit to resolve one of your Internet business disputes, go for it. However, carefully weigh your conflict resolution options before telling a trial lawyer “I want to sue someone.”

How Safe is Your Business Website from Lawsuits?

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents

internet lawsuitAlthough people seem to sue companies for just about any reason these days, too many business website owners create unnecessary risk of lawsuits because of their online content.

Here are five things you should check in order to reduce your chance of being taken to the cleaners in court.

1. Are your website’s legal documents up-to-date?

You should review your site’s website legal docs at least annually (more often if there are material changes in the site or Internet law). For example, your privacy policy should match your current method of collecting, storing and sharing data from website visitors and clients. Similarly, your site’s refund policy must accurately reflect how you handle client requests for a refund.

2. Do you have the legal right to use the content on your company website?

Just because you pay someone to create content for your site doesn’t mean you’ve got the legal right to put it there. Unfortunately, there are people who will rip off content from other websites and then charge you for the content as if they created it. Unless you’re using services like Copyscape and TinEye, chances are you won’t be the wiser that you’re paying for stolen content until the owner’s lawyer contacts you.

Perhaps the biggest intellectual property theft issue that costs website owners money is the use of photos and graphics found on the Internet. Just because you or someone who works for you can find a nice image online that fits your site doesn’t mean you have the right to use it. In most cases, there is a copyright owner out there whose permission must be obtained first before you can legally use the image (this usually involves paying for the use).

One of the easiest ways to avoid this type of risk is to use reputable stock photography sites, paying a licensing fee for use of each image you want to use. It’s better to pay a buck or two for an image license than get threatened with a lawsuit for $150,000 per copyright infringement and a shakedown offer of $5,000+ to make the matter go away.

3. Are your website testimonials and case studies stale?

For some products and services, testimonials and studies are evergreen, i.e. what the client or client says will be perpetually accurate. However, in many cases, what was said at the time becomes stale, inaccurate, or flat-out misleading over time.

This is particularly true if you’re selling a product or service related to technology or health. What was true about results or performance just a year ago may not be true today.

This means you should either update the old testimonials and case studies with new information from the client or replace them with more recent case studies and testimonials from other clients that are currently accurate.

4. Have you kept your business entity intact?

Many online entrepreneurs hate to deal with paperwork, particularly if it involves boring stuff like legal and tax issues. Unfortunately, this means it’s quite common for the limited liability company (LLC) or corporation that owns a website to become defunct because legal formalities were not observed and/or taxes were not paid (e.g. corporate franchise taxes).

If you’re handling your own site’s legal and accounting matters, rather than relying upon an Internet lawyer and accountant, be sure to put ticklers in your calendar to make sure you’re keeping your business entity in good standing. The failure to do so could be exposing yourself to a lawsuit as a sole proprietor and risking your personal assets (home, bank accounts, car, etc.) to satisfy any judgment against you in such a suit.

5. Are you protecting your client’s data from hackers?

No matter what size your online business is, you have a responsibility to protect your clients’ sensitive data. This can include credit card data and home addresses. If you’re selling health related products or services, you may also have HIPAA privacy compliance issues for your clients’ personally identifiable information (PII).

Let’s face it. It comes down to what you keep at the end of the day, not what you earn and subsequently lose.

Don’t throw away years of hard work by losing everything in a lawsuit that could easily have been avoided by take preemptive steps now to put the right website legal protections in place. If you have any questions, talk with your Internet lawyer, accountant, and tech security professional.

Internet Lawsuits: The Saga of Charles Carreon and The Oatmeal

By Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Lawyer

What started out as a copyright infringement dispute between The Oatmeal and Funny Junk has spawned numerous lawsuits and some unwanted publicity for Internet Lawyer Charles Carreon and alleged hacking of his business’s website. for a great overview of this tragic comedy of errors, I recommend reading ‘The Oatmeal’ Internet lawsuit dismissed, but litigation continues.

What are the lessons you can learn from these Internet lawsuits?

1. Copyright infringement issues continue to bedevil the heck out of website owners and the Internet attorneys who represent them.
2. Social media contains a court of public opinion that is sometimes more effective than a court of law.
3. There are no winners when a lawsuit gets filed. At best, you’re dealing with mitigating damages. Often, it’s a case of digging a deeper hole.

This is not the first case where an Internet lawyer ended up with an online backlash. For example, there’s an Internet attorney who asserted a copyright for the HTML on his website and apparently was Google bombed for it.

One of the great things about my Internet law practice is that I focus exclusively on Internet business transactional law instead of lawsuits. Although it means occasionally crossing swords with Internet scam artists, that doesn’t involve hostile social media responses and lawsuits. After all, Internet con men don’t want their dirty laundry aired in court.

Website Attorney: Group Think – Why Some Gurus Break Internet Laws

By Internet Lawyer

website attorney group thinkIf you want to know why some Internet info product marketers break the law and think they can get away with it, take a look at the Eight Symptoms of Group Think. As a Website attorney,  believe these 8 symptoms cover most situations.

1. Illusion of Invulnerability. The marketers take unnecessary risks because they’ve never been caught by the government or sued. Combined with the ego stroking of having cult-type followers, there’s a sense that nothing can touch them even when they break Internet laws.

2. Collective Rationalization. Anyone who warns against misconduct is discredited by the Internet marketers and their followers. The attacks are personal and designed to distract from what actually occurred.

3. Illusion of Morality. Morality is based on whether a launch is profitable to the product’s creator and the affiliates. Something is “wrong” only when a launch flops.

4. Excessive Stereotyping. Anyone who doesn’t believe that “money = morality” is stereotyped as unsuccessful, jealous, or a loser regardless of the underlying facts.

5. Pressure for Conformity. Those who don’t go along with deceptive and fraudulent Internet marketing tactics are considered traitors. Pressure is applied by blacklisting or threats of blacklisting. Commonly this takes the form of refusing to do business with those who rock the boat or encouraging those with large e-mail lists not to promote as an affiliate.

6. Self-Censorship. Fear of blacklisting causes some Internet gurus to keep quiet when they see others engaging in unethical or illegal online marketing practices.

7. Illusion of Unanimity. Because no one publicly dissents, some large Internet marketers that promote for each other assume that everyone agrees with hidden continuity, deceptive billing, false earnings claims, and other illegal Internet marketing practices.

8. Mindguards. The big Internet kahunas serve as the filter for the lesser gurus for information as to how things should work pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. As if handing down the 10 Commandments in stone, these gurus define what’s acceptable in online marketing regardless of legality.

The dangers of group think are exposing cracks in the foundation of Internet marketing cliques as Congress, the FTC, and various law enforcement agencies are beginning to take a dim view of Internet scams that hurt consumers, particularly those involving health or biz opp. If you’re practicing group think in your online business (your Website attorney can help you with feedback), re-evaluate the long-term prospects for your ventures. If you can’t do business legally and ethically, chances are you won’t be around in five years. Whether it is the government or a lawsuit, karma has a way of taking down those who score big at the expense of others.

To your success!

-Mike the Website attorney