Is Your Company Website Legal?

Online business may seem straightforward, but there are certain requirements websites must follow to comply with federal and state laws.

For many of us young entrepreneurs, our websites are our storefronts. Using the internet to build a business may seem really straightforward, but there are certain requirements that websites must follow in order to comply with federal and state laws. Here are the basics:


Privacy Policy

If you collect even one iota of information from those who visit your website, you need a privacy policy. For example, if you have a blog that gives visitors the option of signing up for your newsletter or RSS feed by entering their name and/or email address, you need a privacy policy.

Online businesses often collect a variety of sensitive information from their visitors. A privacy policy is designed to let visitors know what information you are collecting when they visit your site, what you use this information for, whether you share their information with third parties––Hint: You do! PayPal, Mail Chimp, etc.––and how they can review or change the information of theirs that your company has on file.

Lastly, include a statement about how you’ll notify visitors if and when your privacy policy changes. This is usually done by an update to the privacy policy page on your website. You may think you can just cut and paste a privacy policy from any old website but this is not the case.

You should think about your own information collection processes and draft a plain English policy that fits your website and business. Or, better yet, hire a lawyer to do it for you.


Terms of Use

In a recent article, I shared Rachel’s Rule of Thumb, which is: have a contract for every relationship your business enters into. That includes your businesses relationship with website visitors, subscribers and clients; particularly if you sell products or services from your website.

Terms of use, also known as terms and conditions, serve as the contract between your business and website visitors that make purchases from your website. Your terms will be useless unless they are tailored to the way you do business and interact with folks via your website.

Terms of use can cover a wide variety of topics; some examples include:

  • Your right to use information posted by users on your site.
  • Whether and how your intellectual property posted on the site may be used by users.
  • Payment terms, warranties and liabilities waived, account management, site security, jurisdiction for any lawsuits arising from their use of your site, etc.

Consider the ways in which clients and visitors could be injured (physically, financially, etc.) by your site. Are you giving advice on a particular topic? Selling services or products? Making promises or guarantees? All of these things could open you up to liability, so having terms that limit that liability is essential.


Disclosures, Advertising, Etc.

Besides a privacy policy and terms of use on your site, what else do you need to operate a legally sound website? Generally, good judgment. Be honest with your website’s visitors and subscribers.

  1.  If you use someone else’s photographs be sure you have permission and give them credit for the photo. Check out Link With Love’s campaign on respecting the intellectual property of other’s on the web.
  2. Are you quoting someone? Give credit or provide a link to the author.
  3. Additionally, disclose your affiliate marketing relationships to your readers, which is now an FTC requirement, and be honest in sharing testimonials and in your advertising.

Our generation is known for being socially responsible in business, so make effort to continue that reputation by using honesty as your guide.


Disclaimer: This post discusses general legal issues, but it does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  YFS Magazine expressly disclaims all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this post.


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