With services like WordPress, Weebly, and Squarespace, it seems very easy to create a website. You can input information, add pictures, and your website is online. Like most cookie cutter services on the internet, there is more to the story.
What website owners may not realize is that there are important legal considerations. These considerations should be addressed even if you are just blogging or selling items as a hobby.
If these legal considerations are not properly addressed, the website/business owner could be putting all of his or her personal assets at risk.
Limit your Personal Liability
The unfortunate fact is that if you are operating a website business or even simply publishing a blog, there is a risk you may be sued. Before you start selling products or publish your first blog post, it is important to have properly established a Limited Liability Company or Corporation.
By creating an LLC or Corporation, you can limit your liability to a potential creditor to the assets of the business, rather than your personal assets. Note, filing with the Ohio Secretary of State alonedoes not give you limited liability protection. You will want to work with qualified legal counsel to ensure you company is property formed and maintained, thereby protecting your personal assets.
Use only Licensed Content
If your website uses an image or text without license or authorization, your use constitutes copyright infringement. There are companies, such as Masterfile, that exist for the sole purpose of finding unauthorized use on websites.
These copyright enforcement companies use programs that search for use of its clients images. If they find your website contains an image without a license, you will first receive a demand letter. This demand letter will likely request payment of $1,000 – $3,000 per image. If you fail to respond or negotiate, the enforcement company may file suit in federal court.
What if the website designer made the mistake and failed to get a license? Are you still liable? Yes, the owner of the website is still liable.
For more information on this topic, read our Article related to online infringement claims.
Create a Website Contract (also known as Terms and Conditions)
When a person visits your website, you and the visitor are entering into a contract. This contract may be for the sale (or exchange) of goods or services, for the visitor to view information you have provided, or for the visitor to post information on your website.
Some website owners may consider copying the terms and conditions from another website. Using another website’s terms and conditions may create duties and legal standards you are not able to follow; thus you would be in breach of your own contract. Moreover, for the reasons stated in number 2 above, copying another website’s terms and conditions could be copyright infringement.
As with all contracts, it is best to work with a licensed attorney to ensure you and your website are protected.
About the Author
Elliott Stapleton is an Attorney in Cincinnati Ohio who helps families and business owners avoid unnecessary risk and plan for success. As a Partner with CMRK Law, Elliott focuses on Business Law and Estate Planning. Follow Elliott on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn or Google Plus.
Other Relevant Topics:
- Form an Ohio LLC or Corporation; which is best?
- Protect against what others may post on your website
- Damages for using a person’s picture in an advertisement without permission
- Protecting Customer and Employee Personal Information: Ohio’s Data Security Breach Notification Law
- The Top Five Blind Spots for Ohio Business Owners
- Does my Business need a Work for Hire Agreement?