These days, creating a website is easier than ever with website building platforms like WordPress and Wix. For business owners, a professional, enticing, and functional website is crucial for attracting and retaining clientele. But apart from the creative content that draws in customers (think: product descriptions, company bio, and images), websites should also include terms and conditions to protect owners from liability. Well-written terms and conditions function as a legally enforceable contract: they define what the website user is allowed to do on the site, as well as the website owner’s obligations in operating the website. While posting terms and conditions on a website is not required by law, it is highly advisable. In some cases, website privacy policies must be posted as a matter of law.

Getting Started on your Terms & Conditions.

So where can you find the right set of terms and conditions to best protect you and your business, and how do you know if you are legally required to include a privacy policy? It might be tempting to simply copy and paste the terms and conditions from another website onto yours, but doing this will expose you to two very serious types of liability.

First, copying an author’s work without permission exposes you to a copyright infringement lawsuit. This is true for text that includes the copyright symbol as well as text that doesn’t, because any original work (written terms and conditions in this case) is automatically protected by copyright law the moment it is created. Copyright infringement applies to derivative works, so switching up the organization of the text or adding a few words doesn’t shield you from a lawsuit.

Second, the terms and conditions on someone else’s website most likely don’t include all the provisions you need to limit your business’s liability. For example, if your website offers services through a subscription, you should include payment terms. If you run a social networking website, you should include terms that address the privacy of all the users as well as prohibited conduct like harassment or discrimination. If your website includes any explicit content, you need to verify users are at least 18 years old and include terms that make it clear your website is not directed toward minors. Finally, the terms and conditions should specify where lawsuits can be filed, and which state’s laws apply in case of a dispute. A small business in rural Alaska certainly would not want to be forced to travel across the country to defend a lawsuit in New York.

In addition to publishing customized terms and conditions on your website, you may also need to post a privacy policy. Posting a privacy policy on your website is mandatory by law if you collect any personal information from people who visit your website. Personal information can include names, dates of birth, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, or billing addresses. The privacy policy tells visitors of your website what type of information you collect, the purpose for collecting the information, how you store and use the information, if you share the information with third parties, and if you use cookies.

Law 4 Small Business is here to help you.

Developing legally enforceable terms and conditions for your website might not be your idea of fun. That’s where we come in. Let us customize the right set of terms and conditions (and privacy policies if necessary) for your website so your focus remains where it should be: the heart of your business.

Ready to speak to an Attorney? Contact us or give us a call at 505.715.5700

Law 4 Small Business, P.C. (L4SB). A little law now can save a lot later. A Slingshot company.

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