When I advise a client that they should have them, and then offer to prepare them, their first reaction is often: “No, don’t worry, I’ll just copy them off someone else’s website”
Putting aside the fact that this would make them guilty of copyright infringement, this is a terrible idea and in this article, I’m going to explain why.
They help you comply with the law
According to Google boss, Eric Schmidt, the UK is a world leader in ecommerce. This can, at least in part, be put down to the trust we have in the online traders we do business with.
This trust comes from the laws that help protect our personal and financial details whenever we share them whilst shopping online.
For example, if you use a web form, to collect names and email addresses of people you wish to market to, you’re collecting personal data. There are rules about what you can and cannot do with this data and they’re set out in the Data Protection Act 1998.
However, many of my clients don’t take this risk seriously. They think it will never happen to them. Whilst the risk of being sued may be small, if they don’t comply with their legal obligations they face a much greater risk with far more serious consequences.
If they don’t comply, there’s a very real risk that their Facebook or Google accounts will be shut down, or they could be blacklisted by their CRM provider for failing to comply with their terms of service.
If this happens, they can no longer advertise or send out broadcast emails. As you can imagine, this would be disastrous for their business. When I point this out to my clients, they suddenly sit up and take notice.
They protect you from being sued
Many business owners have a blog on their website through which they provide advice to potential clients. Obviously, this advice can’t be specific to an individual and it’s unlikely to be as comprehensive as the advice you would give face to face in a meeting.
The advice can also become out of date or it might only be relevant to a particular audience or location (for example everything I write about is based on English law).
If someone takes your advice, acts on it and it was wrong, they may try to sue you for any losses they incur.
“The content on our site is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our site.
Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our site, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up-to-date.”
This is usually combined with a limitation of liability clause so if someone does try to sue you, the amount they can claim is limited to an amount you specify.
They protect your intellectual property rights
Your website is full of intellectual property, making it one of your most valuable assets.
Therefore, you must protect it and if you don’t, you risk losing it.
You can protect individual elements of your website in different ways. For example, your brand will be protected by trade marks (registered or unregistered), the content you have written will be protected by copyright and the whole website may be protected as a database right.
Also, there is a little-known fact about taking legal action for copyright infringement. If you don’t have a clear copyright notice on your website, you’re unlikely to be able to claim any compensation from the person who did the copying. The best you will do is get a court order preventing them from copying you again.
They enable you to control visitors to your website
If there’s a members only area you can set the rules about who can join and you can prevent unauthorised sharing of login information. If they don’t comply, they’re once again in breach of contract and you can revoke their access, even if they’ve paid to be a member.
If you have any questions about complying with your legal obligations in the online world, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.
Take a look back at some of our other favourite David Walker articles:
- The benefits of a shareholders’ agreement for small business owners
- What happens when terms and conditions are only signed by one party?
- How to get comfortable having awkward conversations
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