Websites need to be legal

For the London Free Press – October 28, 2012

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Everyone expects a business to have a website. Not every business needs a complex interactive platform similar to Amazon. In many cases, a two-page static website from a do-it-yourself blog platform is more than adequate to meet a business’s needs.

Here are legal issues to keep in mind when creating your web presence.

Own your domain name: Domain names — such as — are often registered by an advertising agency, web designer or IT provider for one of their customers. They should be registered in their customer’s name, but often register it in their own name because it is easier, intending to transfer it later. That transfer is often forgotten.

Domain names are valuable property, and should be registered from the outset in the business’s name. The domain-name registrant has control over the website at that domain, including the ability to stop email, change the website and the domain account, even sell the domain. That’s a recipe for disaster if there should ever be a problem.

Make sure you have the rights to use all website content: Technology makes it easy to copy video clips, music, graphics, and text into your website. Regardless of the ease of doing that, you do not have the legal right to copy and use published content without the owner’s permission. Using the material of others without permission can result in an expensive copyright fight, and merely taking it down after a demand is not enough to end a damage claim. Take advantage of low-cost or no-cost sources of photographs intended for commercial use. And if you hire someone to create your website, get the actual files from them, and make sure you have an agreement with them that transfers ownership.

Think about global reach: Websites can be seen from around the world. You may not, however, want to, or be able to, sell your products or services everywhere. Reasons can range from professional regulation to shipping costs to product labeling and language issues. Care must be taken to either make it clear where you can sell your goods or services, or to give yourself the ability to refuse to provide your goods or services where you can’t or don’t want to provide them. 


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