All it takes it one simple oversight to find yourself in a legal nightmare. Avoid these bad website mistakes that could cost you your business.
After months of hard, tedious work, you've finally got your company's website up and running. You've read all about the importance of generating regular content, and you downloaded a bunch "free for commercial and personal use" photos. Sounds reasonable, right? Think again. This is one of a few common bad website mistakes that could get your business sued.
Use of content on the Internet is becoming significantly more complicated when it comes to legal best practices. Stay in compliance and avoid these potentially costly errors when putting together your company website.
1. Using images without permission
Using copyrighted images without permission is one of the most common mistakes that companies and especially personal bloggers are making today. The reason has to do with a somewhat confusing "Fair Use" doctrine, which allows copyrighted images to be used without pay or credit to the author under certain circumstances.
Those circumstances, however, are rarely satisfied with images plucked from places like Google Image Search. In fact, even if you do credit an author, you may still be liable for copyright infringement.
The best thing to do in this case is to pay for stock photos with a commercial license. Many are available for nominal fees, and you can bet that the amount you pay for stock photos will be significantly less than what you'll pay in damages if you're found liable for copyright infringement.
2. No terms and conditions
It's essential to include a prominent "terms and conditions" page that outlines your right to use information posted to your website by visitors, as well as other things such as payment terms and security policies. Require visitors to read and agree to this page before they can access the content on your site. This will drastically minimize your liability.
3. No legal review
Web content has become complicated. It makes sense to involve an expert in the creation and launch of your website. If you don't have in-house legal counsel, hire an attorney who specializes in web content to ensure that your site doesn't have any vulnerabilities. Sure, lawyers can be expensive, but again, so are lawsuits if your business is sued. Don't risk it; make the investment in proper legal counsel.
4. Vague contracts
In a similar vein, whether or not you choose to use legal counsel, it's imperative that your contracts are specific and enforceable. There are many contract templates out there, as well as existing contracts, both of which are tempting to borrow. But if you hastily piece together a contract instead of taking the time to create a precise and thorough one, you might find yourself the subject of an expensive lawsuit.
Worse is to have no contracts at all, which is shockingly common. Small businesses with limited budgets especially tend to overlook this crucial component, operating instead on a system of trust with their clients. The problem, however, has less to do with trust and more to do with how people interpret things. The only way to make sure you and your clients are on the same page is to have substantial, specific contracts in place.
5. Lack of website disclaimers
Whenever you claim a thing to be true or effective on the Internet, you're opening yourself to liability. If a visitor does something because your website suggested it was a good idea or if a visitor spreads a rumor that started from misunderstanding something like a satirical post on your site, you could be sued for failing to notify your users that your content may only be conjecture. Don't overlook disclaimers; they're an easy and inexpensive addition to any business website.
6. Security breaches
Unfortunately, hackers exist, and they're probably here to stay. The most important thing you can do is to make an investment in protecting your content from any security breaches. There is software available to help with this, and a good web developer will be able to increase the security in the code of your site as well.
In the event of a security breach, you'll need to notify your users immediately and be able to tell them about any compromised information. Prevention is ideal, of course, but proactivity is the next best thing.
7. Legal violations
If your website has anything to do with, say, the medical industry, you need to be very careful that what you post remains in compliance with HIPAA regulations. The same goes for the many other federal regulations that govern what information you may and may not disseminate to the public. Whatever your industry may be, make sure that you've done your research on existing regulations.
Legal troubles are no joking matter. Contact your Pekin Insurance agent about your options for business insurance, and we will make recommendations for protection and help put together a business insurance policy you can afford and feel good about.