Using the Internet Profitably
Whether you buy or sell on the Internet or use it only for information, you should be aware of your legal rights and obligations. You need to take steps to protect your intellectual property, including trademarks and copyrighted materials on your site, and be in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations about unfair business practices, on-line privacy, children's privacy and other issues affecting internet commerce. Among the items you should consider for your website are:
Website use agreements
Your website needs to have a contract governing its use. The contract will protect your trademarks and copyrights and can limit your liabilities. We have prepared such agreements for our clients' websites. We can help you write effective website use agreements.
Website sales agreements
If you are selling products or services on your website, you need an enforceable contract to determine where the sale is made, how payment is to be received, and what court would have jurisdiction if a dispute arises. This contract should also clarify the rights of each party and limit your liability.
Website privacy policies
Privacy is a major concern for Internet users. You need a written policy on your site explaining what data you collect when a person visits your site and what you do with that information. You also need to know how laws affect what information you can collect and what restrictions are placed on you. If your website is directed at children, you need to be aware of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). If your site involves medical information, you need to know about the regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and establishing privacy rules for the use of identifiable medical records. A poorly written policy can lead to legal action against you.
By linking to another website, you may become an "agent" for the other website. This means that you may be held responsible for the other website's actions, even if you do not know about them. You need to know how to protect yourself from potential web linking liability.
If your company provides e-mail service to your employees, you need a written policy concerning its use. E-mail is permanent and can bind your company just the same as a letter written on your letterhead. You need to know how to limit your liabilities. You also should define whether e-mail is private or can be reviewed by the company.
Your website does you no good if it is not up and available on the Internet or cannot be viewed by browsers when they want to access it. When you have your website designed, you need a contract that ensures your site is being designed correctly. Your agreement with your Internet service provider should contain commitments for uptime, maintenance, and other provisions to make sure your site is on the Internet when your customers are online.
Not only do you need to be concerned about what is happening on your website and the Internet but you also need to know about what is happening in virtual worlds such as Second Life. Are your trademarks being infringed in a virtual world? Has someone or an avatar copied your work? Are your trade secrets exposed in a virtual world? You need an attorney who can help you and understands virtual worlds.