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5 Business Website Disclosures And Disclaimers

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents

website disclosures and disclaimersWhether they’re part of your “Privacy Policy” and “Terms of Use,” or a separate legal document, you should include website disclosures and disclaimers to provide transparency to visitors plus reduce your potential legal liability.

There is no one-size-fits-all set of website legal documents because the content of each site is different. For example, a website that sells children’s clothing will need different legal language than a site that sells nutritional supplements to retirees. One site may require an affiliate program agreement while another does not.

Related Article: Privacy Policy? What Website Legal Documents Do You Really Need?

However, here are five of the common types of disclosures and disclaimers you’ll see on websites.

1. Material Connection Disclosures.

In essence, a material connection is the connection to a product or service being promoted on a site. Whether you’re the site owner, or an author whose article is posted on someone else’s site, you need to disclose material connections so that consumers can make an informed decision when purchasing the recommended products and services.

Perhaps the most well-known example of a material connection is affiliate status. If you’re promoting as an affiliate in exchange for compensation on sales made, you should disclose that fact. Bloggers frequently fail to do this and it can lead to government investigations and lawsuits.

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

Another material connection is your relationship to the person selling the product or service. If you’re promoting because of friendship with the vendor, or because you have agreed to cross-promote to each other’s audiences, those can be material connections that a potential client should know about in order to have key facts needed to make an informed purchasing decision.

2. Age Disclaimers.

If your website isn’t for minors, particularly children under the age of 13, you should make that clear on your site. There are additional legal requirements for sites that target children. Don’t assume it’s obvious that your site isn’t for kids. Make it clear with age disclaimers.

Of course, if your website contains adult sexual content, you’re going to need additional disclosures and disclaimers that most sites don’t have.

3. Health Disclaimers.

If you’re selling anything that’s health related – from nutritional supplements to a diet eBook – it’s important to include health disclaimers to limit your potential liability. You want to make it clear that you’re not giving medical advice and that medical issues should be handled by an appropriate medical professional instead of relying upon your website’s content, products, and/or services as a substitute.

4. Earnings Disclaimers.

When your website sells anything related to finances, including make money online (MMO) opportunities, you should reduce your legal risks by using earnings disclaimers that make it clear that you’re not promising website visitors or clients will make a certain amount of money, or any money for that matter.

Note that business opportunity (biz opp) websites typically have additional disclosure requirements.

5. Warranty Disclaimers And Limitations.

To reduce legal risks, you may want to disclaim and/or limit warranties for products and services you sell on your site. For example, you may wish to disclaim that a widget you sell is fit for a particular purpose or limit a warranty period (e.g. a one-year warranty).

It’s important to remember that website disclosures and disclaimers reduce, but do not eliminate legal liability exposure. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may ignore such disclosures and disclaimers when determining whether your site violates federal consumer protection laws. However, other government agencies (and courts in lawsuits) may consider such legal language as a positive factor in your favor.

Related Article: Do Your Website Legal Documents Give You Ownership Of Submitted Content?

One thing is certain – it’s better to properly disclose and disclaim than attempt to pull a fast one on the public by failing to do so. This includes making sure your website’s disclosures and disclaimers are easily accessible (no small/hidden links), easy to read (avoid tiny fonts), and provide all the key information a prospective client would want to know before buying a product or service from your site.

Where To Get Website Disclosures And Disclaimers

Your company’s Internet lawyer can prepare a customized set of website disclosures and disclaimers as well as your website’s other legal documents. Be sure to check out our firm’s flat fee Website Legal Protection Package.

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.

How to Get Professional Website Legal Documents to Protect Your Business

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents

website legal documents protectionDid you know that most Internet business owners are frustrated because they can’t keep up-to-date on Internet laws, don’t know if they are breaking the law, and are afraid of getting sued because of their websites?

Internet Lawyer Mike Young can prepare the right legal documents to protect your website.

Based on the results of a Professional Website Legal Diagnostic, Mike can prepare the right privacy policies, terms of use, and other website legal documents to reduce your risk of getting sued because of your ecommerce activities.

What type of legal documents does your website need?

The answer to this question depends upon the nature of your e-commerce company, including the types of products and/or services you’re offering for sale.

Mike frequently prepares the following types of docs for clients’ sites:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Terms of Service
  • Anti-Spam Policy
  • External Links Policy
  • Earnings Disclaimers
  • Affiliate Program Agreement
  • Affiliate Material Connections Disclosure
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice
  • Health Disclaimers
  • Refund Policy
  • Returns Policy
  • Customer Satisfaction Policy
  • Membership Website Agreement
  • Listing Services Agreement
  • Hosting Terms of Service

Some sites will only require 2-3 legal documents for protection. Others need more.

How do you get Mike to prepare your website’s privacy policy and other important legal documents?

If you want to protect your company website,* it’s time to (1) set up a telephone appointment with Mike or (2) you can start by getting your website professionally analyzed by Mike.

* Mike will not review websites or prepare legal documents for websites involving publicly traded companies and/or alternative “cures” for medical problems.

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When to Use an Affiliate Compensation Disclosure

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents
affiliate compensation disclosure

Should you use an affiliate compensation disclosure?

Exactly what is an affiliate compensation disclosure?

It’s language you use to let readers of your website, blog, and commercial emails know that you’re an affiliate for a product or service that you’re promoting directly or indirectly in your content. Its very different from an affiliate program agreement (don’t confuse the two!).

For example, if you write a blog post about Widget X Software, and use your affiliate hyperlink in the post, you should disclose that you have what the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calls a “material connection” to what’s being promoted.

Why does the FTC want you to make this affiliate compensation disclosure?

So the reader can make an informed decision that includes the key fact that you may be biased because you get paid an affiliate commission on each sale. Without knowing you are an affiliate for the software you’re promoting, the reader might mistake your promotion of it as an unbiased reporting of the software’s merits.

Of course, that’s been a big problem on the Internet because some affiliates are creating fake review sites that are nothing more than sales pitches.

Types of Material Connections You Should Disclose

Now, it’s important to note that material connections you should disclose include more than just your affiliate status.

For example, if Internet Lawyer Mike Young promoted Website Legal Forms Generator software as an easy and affordable do-it-yourself solution, he would disclose that there’s a material connection to the company.

In this example, Attorney Young co-owns the software company and this law firm owns the copyrights to the website legal documents created by the software.

Of course, if he were just an affiliate for the software instead, he would still need to make a disclosure because of that material connection. And if a relative or friend owned the software company, it would be necessary to disclose the existence of a material connection too.

By the way, the first place to start if you have any questions about affiliate compensation disclosures is to speak with an experienced Internet lawyer.

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How to Protect Your Company with a Website Design Agreement

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents
website design agreement

Are you protecting your business with the right website design agreement?

One of the biggest Internet problems business owners face today is the failure to use a comprehensive written website design agreement when building a professional-looking online presence for their companies.

Remember that a verbal agreement or a series of emails that are vague can lead to unrealistic expectations as to what is going to be delivered and the costs involved for website design.

Of course, any contract is only as good as the parties involved. A dishonest website designer will likely sign anything with no intention of delivering as promised.

Before signing a website contract, small business owners should perform due diligence by reviewing prior sites put together by the designer.

Don’t let the designer cherry pick a few good ones. Instead, ask for a list of at least 10 websites and pick from those which ones you want to review both for quality and for references.

Just because a site looks good doesn’t mean the business owner(s) didn’t go through hell getting the website designer to perform.

Beware of the Standard Website Design Agreement

In addition, never take at face value a website designer’s claim that there’s a “standard contract” that’s non-negotiable. Ideally, business owners will want to use their own website design contracts with terms that are fair but favorable to the owners.

If you accept a designer’s “standard design agreement,” chances are the contract’s terms heavily favor the designer or alternatively is a document patched together by the designer without the input of an Internet business attorney, i.e. there’s probably legal risks if you sign it.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your website has a professional grade privacy policy and other website legal documents regardless of the design you pick. Don’t rely upon your designer to provide these legal documents because that’s likely unauthorized practice of law by a non-lawyer.

5 Key Website Design Contract Issues

Here’s a few issues you will want to discuss with the Internet lawyer who is drafting your website design agreement.

1. How to structure payment terms to encourage performance by the designer.

2. How to protect your business’ intellectual property while at the same time providing the designer access to technology and content needed to create a professional website for your company.

3. How to set up the website hosting to protect your company’s data and ownership of the content.

4. Whether it makes sense to incorporate ongoing website maintenance into the website design agreement.

5. How to resolve disputes between you and the designer.

By using a website design agreement drafted by your attorney to get you what you really want, you’re saving yourself time, money, and preventing legal headaches.

If you need a new website design agreement for your company, or need to have a contract reviewed before signing, chances are you’ll want to book a telephone consultation with Internet Lawyer Mike Young.

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