By November 24, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Website Legal Stuff

Website Legal StuffOnce you’ve decided how to set up your website, it’s a good idea to follow a few basic legal rules to help keep your business trouble-free.

Most of these rules are based on common sense and good ethics – and there can be big financial reasons to follow these guidelines, too. The list below is by no means complete, but it’s an important start.

Use Original Text

As much as possible your website should publish only original text, written by you, to describe your products. Copying and pasting others’ works without permission is definitely unethical, and there’s a more than just a legal risk in copying from other websites.

That’s because search engines like Google can recognize content that looks like it’s copied from existing sites, and could penalize your website with lower search rankings if it appears that you’re using others’ material.

Use Only Images that You Own or License

Never publish others’ images on your website without the copyright owner’s permission. Today reverse image search engines like Tineye make it easy for copyright owners to find content that’s published online without permission, and to take legal action.

If you think your website will use stock photos, check out low-cost stock image sites*. Today many of these sites offer very flexible licenses to use stock images, for as long as you like, for as little as a dollar per image.

Publish a Privacy Page

Your online store should have a privacy page that says how you will use and protect the private information that you collect when visitors buy your products, submit a form, or send you email. It’s a good idea for every page of your website to link to the privacy page from a menu or footer.

Your choice of payment gateway, shopping cart, and online advertising will largely determine what you should say on your privacy page. You can find help from these providers, and it’s also a good idea to survey other websites that use the same services to find common, well-written policies that you can use as examples and follow every day.

Protect Others’ Information

Your privacy statement will require that you do not disclose others’ private information like names, phone numbers, email addresses, and purchase histories. This means that you’ll need to follow safeguards to make sure that you and your suppliers don’t reveal this information to others.

Your payment gateway can securely collect customers’ payment card numbers without ever disclosing them to you. Even so, your shopping cart (and possibly other software) will collect plenty of other information that’s of value to criminals.

For this reason it’s important to follow the security recommendations of your shopping cart provider, and to protect your computers that download and store customer information with antivirus, a firewall, and other up-to-date security. It’s also important that you never disclose customer information to an outside party (such as a fulfillment company) unless they agree in writing to abide by your privacy page.

Show Your Trademark and Copyright

Every page of your website should have one copyright statement (like ©2014 Moonlight CEO), usually in small print on the footer. The first occurrence on each page of your unique product or store name should show your trademark symbol “™”.

Use of these symbols can help keep honest companies from using your material without permission, and can sometimes help persuade other website owners to remove material they’ve copied from your site.

You may eventually need to register your trademark with the USPTO to keep unscrupulous advertisers from using your product name in their ads. That’s because Google and others won’t take action unless you can prove that you have registered your trademark and show the “®” registered symbol.

Once you set up your website and plan for these basic legal requirements, it’s time to choose a shopping cart.

Next: Get the Right Shopping Cart


* This is not a paid endorsement.

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