The unfortunately truth is that we live in a legalistic society where people can, and do, sue. Website owners are not exempt. There have been a large number of online cases where a website owner has been sued by a user. You may think that setting up a dog grooming website won’t have any risks, but when a user singes their dog with a hair dryer based on your advice, then they may choose to sue. Okay, this is a bit far-fetched, but is does illustrate the point.
Here are the most common areas that people are sued for on the internet:
- Copyright and Trademark Infringements
- Trade liable
- Unfair competition
- Interference with contract
- Emotional distress
- And, of course, the list goes on. People are creative!
By developing a Terms of Service you can protect yourself online. This document tells people the conditions for using your site, and that you take no liability or blame for people using any information that is included on your site. It can also protect your valuable information. You most likely spent a lot of time writing content for your website. You don’t want anyone just taking this information and using it or claiming it as their own creation.
Terms of Service should clearly be displayed as a page on your website. You can see the link to the one on this website in the sidebar. Other sites have a link in the footer. When people click on it, they will be taken to the page which can include a variety of information such as conditions of use, copyrights, scraping, fraud, legal jurisdiction, and many more items. Be sure to have a whole page dedicated to your Terms of Service. It is that important. The website Terms of Service becomes a legally binding contract when a visitor comes to your site…yes even without clicking an “I Accept” Button (although some websites have an I Accept button to provide even more support). Crazy, huh? And sad.
Developing a page for your site is relatively straight forward. There are a range of free form services online that provide you with general wording. Entrepreneur.com has been around for quite a while and the forms have been tested. It is simply a case of downloading the forms and making them specific for your website by changing the website name and the location of your jurisdiction for any legal matters concerting these terms and conditions.
Sometimes it pays to get legal forms from a legal service that has an internet specialty. One of the most popular places is LegalFormsGenerator. This is very popular with entrepreneurs and even with large corporations. Simply visit their site and choose the legal forms that are relevant to you and your site. There are several other web forms that can be important to your site, content, and protection, so it is good to take a look around at what else you will want.
It is unfortunate that we live in a society where people are willing to sue over the smallest thing. While the Courts are in place for a reason, and there are a lot of legitimate claims, there are a lot of frivolous law suits as well. There was recently an article noting that a Chinese company, who was ripping off Apple products was trying to sue Apple because they couldn’t access Apples Applications on their device! Moral of the story: as a website owner you need to cover yourself as best as you can. The best way to do this is via a website Terms of Service.
What documents do you have on your site?