Nearly every company has an online presence. However, website legal disclosures are a field of mysteries for many business owners.
Including terms of service on your website is usually a good business practice. Your terms should state that users accept the terms by using the website, but you must also make it easy for users to find your terms. The most common place is in a link in the footer of your website. And if you are running an e-commerce website, it is a good idea to require users to check an “I agree” box when registering. That way, you have evidence of the user’s agreement to your terms.
Your terms should discuss the rights and obligations of your business and your users. Typically, users are not allowed to use automated tools to scrape information from your website, and they must refrain from copying your works that are protected by intellectual property or other laws. Along those lines, be sure to disclose that the content on your site is owned by, or licensed to, your business.
If users can submit content to your site (photos, comments, etc.), then you should make sure your terms state that the user gives you a license to use that content on your website.
You should also consider whether your website is directed to children under 13. If so, and if you collect personal, identifiable information, you may need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
And if you allow users to make use of APIs, outline your API rules in your terms or create a separate policy for your API program.
First, your policy should describe what information your website collects. You may collect things like IP addresses, page flow, clicks, mouse movements and more. And if you use things like cookies or other Web beacons, disclose that as well. If you have any kind of registration process that collects names, addresses or other information, include a reference to that in the policy also.
Second, you should describe how you use the information you collect. Include disclosures on how you use the information internally, for instance, to improve search features, to make better recommendations or to communicate with users. And be sure to disclose whether you give or sell the information you collect to third parties.
And don’t forget to follow your own policies! All employees who interact with your website or the information it collects must be made aware of your policies and adhere to them.
Copyright Policy (DMCA Policy)
Lastly, if your website displays or distributes content provided by users, you should consider creating a copyright policy. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows certain website operators to avoid liability for intellectual property infringement that results from user uploads, provided the operator has a procedure in place to allow intellectual property owners to request their content be taken down, to allow the user that uploaded the content to protest and to remove repeat infringers from the website.
Although this article provides a good overview of the things you should know about your website legal disclosures, there are certainly more things to consider. If you have questions, be sure to speak with a lawyer about your unique situation.
This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.