Protecting Your Businesses from Unintended Website Liability

February 2, 2018
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In the Digital Age, It Is Important For Businesses To Make Sure Their Online Presence Won’t Lead To Unintended Website Liability

In the digital age, even most small businesses have a website. Whether you use your website to sell products or simply advertise your services, it is important to make sure that your online presence won’t lead to unintended website liability.

Protecting Your Business From Website Liablity

Photo courtesy of Marcus Spiske (Unsplash.com)

Proper Licensing of Content and Images

Some of the most common website pitfalls revolve around intellectual property. To avoid possible exposure to a copyright or trademark litigation lawsuit, it is imperative to ensure that all content used on the website is owned by your business or properly licensed.

Many businesses learn the hard way that just because images are readily downloadable from the Internet, they are not free to use without permission. Since photographs are automatically protected by copyright when they are created, businesses must generally obtain the owner’s permission — often in the form of license — prior to using them. Many “stock” images are actually owned by licensing companies that aggressively police the Internet for images that are used without permission.

Protecting Website User Privacy

Privacy should also be a top priority, given the legal and reputational harm that can result from a data breach. While the terms will vary by industry, every business should include a detailed privacy policy on their website that addresses the various types of private data collected from users and how it will be safeguarded and used by the company in the future.

Depending on the type of business, privacy policies may also need to comply with a range of state and federal laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Website Legal Disclaimers

Business websites may include legal disclaimers, the specific nature of which will depend on the nature of the site and the business. The basic premises of a disclaimer is to seek to limit the liability that could arise from the website by defining the rights and responsibilities of your business and website users. Other issues typically addressed in disclaimers include advertising and links to third-party websites. Importantly, your sites may also be appropriate for the inclusion of click-on agreements with your users.

Finally, it is also important to remember that what you write online can be used against you in a lawsuit. For instance, lists of business locations, service areas, or locations of customers could impact personal jurisdiction or venue issues. In addition, statements about your products or services that are misleading or inaccurate could also result in a false advertising claim and harm your company’s credibility.

Given the potential website pitfalls, it is important to work closely with your web developer with technology law counsel which represents your interests online.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, David Einhorn, at 201-806-3364.