Are the people who handle your website opening you up to legal liability? When it comes to website development and management, there are several important things every business owner needs to know. Many business owners are playing a dangerous game that can cost them a lot of money. In this article, we will explore some of the most common ways your web designer or employees could be opening you up to liability – which could end up costing you big money in fines and damages. Ignorance is NOT a defense! Protect yourself! This applies to your website as well as social media.
Things Every Business Owner Needs to Know about Website Legal Compliance
Whether you’re hiring a website designer or making one yourself, there are important rules to follow to keep your website legally compliant. Since the responsibility ultimately falls on website owners, we’re sharing some things every business owner needs to know about website legal issues.
How much knowledge and experience does your web design team share? Between the domain names, website design and settings, and the content on your website there is so much to remember. Whenever a web designer or employee makes a mistake that leads to legal action, it is always the business owner who gets sued. The business owner is responsible for the court dates, legal fees, and any fines or consequences that come as a result of breaking the law.
Unfortunately, if a website legal issue puts the business owner at a financial loss, he or she will have to jump through hoops to recover damages from the web designer or employee responsible and their efforts may very well be in vain. Independent website designers are notoriously difficult to get ahold of, but when you bring something like legal trouble into the picture, all we can say is “good luck!”
It may seem like a petty offense but there are number of ways that your website can land you into real legal trouble if you don’t know what the law requires. Even professionally-designed websites and corporate-run companies occasionally get caught in a legal snag over a website. Big companies like Uber and Wells Fargo Bank were recently covered in the news for alleged data security breaches and getting busted for abusing and sharing private information. There are many other things that can get you into trouble, too- things that you may not even be aware of.
Warning! Be careful to avoid falling into these common forms of legal trouble with your website. Copyright infringement, defamation, and data security breaches can all lead to charges and fines.
There are a number of legal consultation services for small businesses and many more online resources to use for reference. Check out the Website Legal Issues page published by BitLaw to learn more the things every business owner needs to know.
- Using copyright protected images (stealing images or using protected images without permission)
- Stealing written content and copy/pasting text from other websites
- Misusing code or appropriating script
- Using a domain that violates another company’s trademark could result in you losing your domain name (web address)
- Linking to other websites in order to pass off their work as your own is misleading and it is illegal.
- Linking to images that are copyright protected opens up the door to be accused of “derivative work.”
- Making statements on your website and/or social media about a competitor that hurts their image and/or sales
- Misrepresenting another company or brand
- Sharing a specific story or testimonial or customer information without expressed written consent
- If you resell products created by manufacturers, there are often “dos” and “dont’s” as to the way you use their logo, the types of things you can and cannot say about them or their products. Violate these and you could lose the right to sell their products.
- If you allow customers to create accounts and/or buy online, you’re responsible for keeping their information secure. Secret Sockets Layer (SSL) and other security measures are necessary to prevent hackers from stealing information.
- It’s also illegal to share or sell personal information such as email lists, addresses and names, without expressed consent.
Safeguard Yourself Against Website Legal Troubles!
Every business owner should know how to safeguard against legal troubles over a website. Putting your website development and management into reliable, experienced hands is the wisest choice.
You can also provide a code of conduct and accountability policies for your employees or any contractors that work on your website. Demonstrate a proactive policy and legal compliance training to help avoid “institutional neglect or lack-of-control charges.” Create iron-clad policies that hold the employee liable for breaking the company rules. Make sure there is a clause in the service agreement with every digital vendor that they are liable for any claims made against your company for work they do.
The web designers and employees that have website access should be made to sign specific Code of Conduct papers and go through training- especially if you’re taking a chance on a new or independent web designer! The very things every business owner needs to know are things your employees and contractors should be fully aware of. Taking these steps before your website is launched is the best way to avoid trouble down the road.
How well is YOUR website performing for your business?
At DotCom Global Media, our team of expert web developers and content writers have perfected the process of evaluating business websites. We are going town by town, county by county to find the best and the worst websites across multiple industries. The results are documented and used as reference for our ongoing website design study.
Do you want to submit your website for a free evaluation? Once your website is selected, we’ll run reports and grade your site on design, features, content, and authority- and we’ll share the results with you as the business owner, or another member of your management team.
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