12 E-Commerce Legal Issues to Consider When Running an Online Business
The following article provides a high-level summary of some key e-commerce law issues that online business operators face when running a website or other e-commerce business. Doing business online or maintaining a website can expose businesses and individuals to unforeseen legal obligations. The following is a brief survey of 12 key e-commerce law issues to consider:
1. Internet business and electronic commerce
A good starting point is to analyze a company’s online presence and audit its procedures to determine how to expand its brand and online influence. As part of this, company agreements and websites must comply with the myriad laws and regulations affecting websites and online businesses, such as COPPA.
2. Acquiring a domain name
Domains are often the key to an online business, but they can create a number of problems. Domain name issues include initially securing a domain name as well as protecting domain names from adverse parties who attempt to trade the goodwill associated with a company’s brand. Sometimes a company needs to secure, retrieve and protect domain names on the Internet.
3. Compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).
Companies operating websites, especially where third-party content may be uploaded directly, should consider adopting agreements and procedures to protect themselves from claims of liability and copyright infringement. This procedure is sometimes called a “copyright policy” or a “DMCA takedown” procedure. Compliance with the DMCA can provide an online operator with safe haven from liability.
4. Online Privacy
Privacy online continues to become a bigger issue. With the proliferation of mobile devices, tablets and apps, privacy issues are becoming more complex. Companies should consider drafting or updating their privacy policies as well as adopting internal security protocols aimed at protecting the online privacy of customers and website users.
5. Social Media Act
Although a powerful tool for building brand power and engaging with customers, social media can create a number of legal issues for online businesses. A social media policy and guidelines provided to employees can be effective steps to reduce risk. A few key areas to consider are social media use related to employment, privacy, sponsorship and branding guidelines.
6. Privacy Policies
Privacy policies should not be copied from online templates or competing companies. They should be comprehensively drafted to address the unique issues of a particular online business and accommodate future growth. Whether a company wants to collect analytics or more personalized information, the company should focus on its specific business needs and risk factors. Privacy policies should be updated as the business evolves.
8. Electronic Commerce Agreements
E-commerce agreements come in many forms such as licensing, advertising agreements, and payment processing agreements. E-commerce agreements should be drafted to address the underlying legal risks associated with a particular e-commerce contract or business transaction.
9. Online lotteries and games
Online sweepstakes, contests and games create a number of legal pitfalls. Depending on the sweepstakes, contest or game, compliance with the laws of all 50 states as well as the federal government may be required. Registration may also be required in certain countries. Online businesses can benefit from guidance on whether a new initiative is considered a sweepstakes, contest or game.
10. Domain Theft
Recovering hijacked domains can often be difficult and time-consuming. Usually, avoiding domain theft in the first place is much easier than trying to recover a stolen domain. Although it is difficult, it is possible to recover a hijacked domain.
11. Website Agreements
Website agreements can be tailored to limit legal liability and reduce risks of disputes by analyzing the online business’s intellectual property portfolio, business processes and brand objectives. Website agreements can be used for mobile apps in addition to websites.
12. Impersonation and Squatting of Username
Impersonation and username misappropriation can occur when a third party registers a social media account using someone else’s identity. This can lead to harmful posts and information being published on social media. Squatting a username can also prevent a trademark or brand owner from controlling their trademark. Pre-registering usernames is usually the best strategy to avoid username impersonation or misappropriation.
While the above identifies a number of e-commerce and internet law issues affecting website operators and online businesses, further analysis may be required. For more information you can contact E-commerce lawyer.
Disclaimer – As with any discussion of legal topics, this article is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Please seek legal advice before making any decision. Also, keep in mind that this article will likely not be updated, so the law and circumstances may have changed by the time you read this article.
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