Website Protection

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Contributed by Amish Patel

What your start up needs if you have a website.

Start ups go to tremendous lengths to make sure the colors, typefaces, and layouts of their websites are just perfect, often hiring professional web designers in the process. Unfortunately, some start ups often forget to legally protect the website, its content, and the start up itself, once the website is live. There are some essential documents that should be posted on the website and re-visited regularly as the start up grows.

At a bare minimum, start ups should at least consider adopting a: (1) Terms of Use Agreement and (2) Privacy Policy. The breadth of these documents will differ based on the: website’s functionality; type of data collected on the website, if any; website content; frequency for which the content is updated; and nature of the business. As these factors change, start ups should regularly revisit both documents to ensure it meets the start ups’ needs. When drafting the Terms of Use Agreement and Privacy Policy, it is critical that they consider the end user in mind. Therefore, simple, easy to understand language should be preferred over complex language filled with legalese.

Terms of Use Agreement

The Terms of Use Agreement, also known as Terms and Conditions, is a contractual agreement between the start up and the website’s end user. These agreements address a myriad of issues, depending on the start up and its website. Some of the more common issues it addresses are: who owns the website’s content (including content posted by the end user), what an end user can and cannot do with the website and its content, what types of online conduct is permitted, what warranties and representations are disclaimed, and how and where disputes will be handled. Most importantly, a Terms of Use Agreement will limit the website’s liability for certain harms caused by the use of the website.

Privacy Policy

A Privacy Policy is essential for websites that collect any kind of personal data. The collection methods can be via end user input or through the use of cookies. Privacy Policies will describe to the end user how the start up will collect, store, and use the personal data. Additionally, it will describe whether the personal data will be shared with third parties, how the personal data is encrypted (i.e. Secure Sockets Layer software (SSL)), whether the end user can opt out of personal data collection, and how the personal data may be used for marketing purposes. These policies are becoming more important as data breaches continue to rise.

When it comes to drafting a Terms of Use Agreement or Privacy Policy, there is no one size fits all. Taking time to think through the functionality of the website and the content that will be posted will help craft the proper legal protections needed to prevent disputes as the start up grows.

Amish PatelAmish Patel is a Business Transactional Attorney in Morrisville. Amish focuses on helping individuals, entrepreneurs, and business owners proactively plan to protect their personal and business assets. His practice areas include general corporate and commercial law, mergers and acquisitions, and estate planning.