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Is My Website Legally Protected?

My Website Was Legally Exposed

I’ve been building websites for years. But I’m going to admit something: there was a BIG piece that I was missing and the ramifications are HUGE. I didn’t know that legally, you need to have certain provisions on your website. It wasn’t until I connected with our guest blogger, Attorney Christy Westerfeld, that I fully understood what every website needs to have.

I immediately hired Christy to work on the legal docs for my own website and asked her if she would be so kind as to share her knowledge with all of you. This is perhaps one of the most important and must-read posts on our blog.

So without further ado, here is our featured blog post from Christy. (Don’t worry….she doesn’t speak in legalese!) For more information, including information about her website bundle, visit www.christywesterfeld.com  and go to “Legal Information”.


 

Legal Armor for Your Website

As online business owners, one of the first things we do is create beautiful, content-driven, interactive websites. This is the first step in creating and building an email list, getting potential customers to “opt-in” to our freebie, and building a following with our blog postings.

Whether you are an online coach, designer, blogger, network marketer, or you are selling physical products of some kind, there are certain specific legal documents that NEED to be in place the moment your website goes live! (Not a week later, not a year later…before you start building your list and driving traffic to your website.)

As an attorney and online business owner, I have seen far too many online entrepreneurs encounter legal issues and incur fines for offenses that could have been avoided by following a few quick legal steps. I don’t want you to be one of them! I promise it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and confusing, and you will be SO thankful you took these important steps now, rather than leaving your business exposed!

Here are the three documents that need to be in place the day your website goes live, and why they are important.

Privacy Policy

The Privacy Policy is the number one MOST important document to have on your website before it goes live. Why? Privacy laws require it. If your website has ANY sort of interactive component…meaning a visitor could enter their name and email, or payment information, etc. onto your website, you are legally required to have a complete and thorough Privacy Policy on your website.

What happens if you don’t? While small businesses haven’t traditionally been a primary target of enforcement, you never know when that will change, and you don’t want to be on the wrong end of the spectrum, risking a potentially huge fine. How much might that be, you ask? …It could cost you up to $2,500 PER offense – meaning, you could incur a fine of up to $2,500 for each time someone visited your website without a Privacy Policy.

…Are you doing the math on that one right now? That means you would only need 40 people to come to your naked, Privacy Policy-less website before you were looking at a six-figure fine.

So what IS a Privacy Policy? This is the document where you tell your visitors, viewers, and subscribers what information you collect from them, how you use it, how they can correct their information and/or unsubscribe to your list, and confirmation that your website does not market or advertise to minors.

Does where you live affect these requirements? Yes and no. One of the cool parts about online businesses is that we are not limited by geographical location – many people have clients and customers from all over the world – which is wonderful!! With the increase in technology and the Internet, our websites can be seen virtually anywhere that has an internet connection. The strictest Privacy Policy rules are in California and Canada. So, for those of us in the U.S., if your website can be seen in California (which…spoiler alert…it can!) you NEED a Privacy Policy regardless of where you live, since you are marketing and appealing to those in California.

Disclaimer

A Disclaimer is a legal document placed at the bottom of your website that advises visitors and viewers you are not liable for their interpretation of the content on your website, and that the content you provide is meant for informational and educational purposes only, not advice.

So let’s back up for a second, and discuss that in actual English, shall we?

Like we said with the Privacy Policy, one of the most amazing parts of having an online business is your ability to reach people far and wide, and spread your message to everyone. However, we don’t have control over who is coming to our website, what they are reading, and – most importantly – how they are interpreting or using the information they read on our website.

Here’s where the Disclaimer comes into play. By advising your readers that the content you post on your website is purely for information and educational purposes only, and not legal/financial/medical advice, you may avoid some tricky liability or issues down the road, should someone misunderstand or misuse information they find on your website, and endure some kind of harm as a result.

How would someone misuse or misinterpret your content? Listen, we’d all love to think everyone coming to our website has a certain level of common sense, a base knowledge of what we do, and understands what you are trying to convey with your blogs/programs, etc. right? But sometimes that’s just not the case.

Let’s say you’re a health coach, and your website includes diet and exercise tips for your readers to follow. Now let’s say someone comes to your website, reads this information, and decides to follow your tips to get thin or lose bloat! Awesome, right? …Yes…but…what if this person also has a medical condition which would make it unhealthy for her to follow the suggestions on your website?

Now, if you could speak her in person – what would you say? You would of course tell her she should follow the advice of her doctor first, and that she should only take your website and information into consideration with approval from a medical professional, right? BUT – since we can’t tell each and every person who comes to our website how to use the information we post…we instead post our Disclaimer, to do this very thing! *praise hands emoji!*

Terms and Conditions

Last but not least, we need our Terms and Conditions, or the “ground rules” for our site. This is essentially the contract between you and those visiting your site, where you explain to them how they can and cannot use information and content from your website, and clarify how any disputes or concerns will be resolved. You can (and should!) also add additional limitations of liability and disclaimers, depending on the specific type of business you run.

The primary purpose of your website is to share your business, and what you are about, right? This includes your content, programs or packages, blog, and any other original content you may have created for your website. This original content is called intellectual property, and you need to protect it! In your Terms & Conditions, you will advise your website visitors that you own all content on your website, and that they may not copy, use, steal, or otherwise claim your content as their own. If you have any free content available, you will also explain the limited way(s) they can use that information without violating your rights. This is what protects you, should someone steal content from your website – you can direct them back to your Terms & Conditions, and note that they agreed to abide by these rules when they visited your site.

Another important piece of the Terms and Conditions is the dispute resolution paragraph. So far, we’ve highlighted a few ways legal problems that can arise from the way in which your business travels across state and country lines. This can also create a bit of a snag should a dispute arise between you and a website visitor. Let’s say someone has an issue with your website, and chooses to file a claim against you – they may do so in their country or state. If luck isn’t on your side, and this person lives in another country, you may be looking at needing to go there in order to defend yourself! Now, I love a good spontaneous vacation as much as the next girl, but this is not really the vacation you’d want to fork over airline fees, attorney costs, and other travel expense costs for.

So how can we help avoid this? In the dispute resolution paragraph, you can advise website visitors that any and all disputes related to your website will be resolved under the laws of your state/country, in the county where you live. You can also take it a step further here, and identify the way in which you want disputes to be resolved – via Arbitration, or small claims court. Setting this all out ahead of time prevents surprises, confusion, and the stressful news that you may be spending some hard-earned money on an unplanned trip.

Recap:

So let’s bring it in here, and summarize what you need to get on your website ASAP: (1) Privacy Policy, (2) Disclaimer, (3) Terms and Conditions. These documents can all go on the bottom of your website with a little hyperlink to the actual document.

Where can you get these documents??

I have created template versions of each of these documents, specifically for online coaches and entrepreneurs, ready for you to plug into your biz!

For more information, visit www.christywesterfeld.com. Under “Legal Information,” you’ll find all products and packages I have available, including the Website Bundle, which includes all three of these documents, along with step-by-step instructions for how to properly complete for your business, and email access to me with any questions.

PLUS…current and future clients of MavroCreative LLC get a special discounted price for my website bundle! Check in with the fabulous women of MavroCreative for more info!

XOXO,

Christy Westerfeld, Esq.
Christy@christywesterfeld.com

 

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Donna

Hi... I'm Donna, owner of MavroCreative and creator of the BYO Website Online Course. I'm also the proud mom to twin girls, who have recently made me an empty-nester (tear wipe!)I've helped hundreds of female entrepreneurs just like you (and me!) build their own website without the tech overwhelm.If you're ready to start your next chapter and need a website to showcase your dream business to the world, be sure to check out my FREE workshop!Get all the details here.

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