12 eCommerce Legal Issues to Consider in Operating an Online Business

The following article provides a high-level summary of some key eCommerce law issues online business operators face in running a website or other eCommerce business. Conducting business online or maintaining a website may subject companies and individuals to unforeseen legal liabilities. The following is a brief survey of 12 key eCommerce law issues to consider:1. Internet Business & eCommerce A good starting point is analyzing a company’s online presence and auditing their procedures to determine how to grow their brand and online influence. As part of this, the company’s agreements and websites should comply with the myriad of laws and regulations affecting websites and online businesses, such as COPPA.2. Domain Name AcquisitionDomains are often the key to an online business, but can present a number of problems. Domain name issues include securing a domain name initially, as well as protecting domain names from adverse parties that attempt to trade off the goodwill associated with the company’s brand. Sometimes, the company needs defense, retrieval, and protection of domain names on the Internet.3. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) ComplianceCompanies operating websites, particularly where third-party content may be uploaded directly, should consider adopting agreements and procedures to shield themselves against claims of liability and copyright infringement. This procedure is sometimes referred to as a “copyright policy” or “DMCA takedown” procedure. Compliance with the DMCA can provide the online operator with a safe harbor from liability.4. Online PrivacyOnline privacy continues to become a bigger issue. With the spread of mobile devices, tablets, and apps, privacy issues are becoming more complex. Companies should consider composing or updating their privacy policies as well as adopting internal security protocols aimed at protecting the online privacy of customers and website users.5. Social Media LawWhile a powerful vehicle to build brand strength and interact with customers, social media can create a number of legal issues for online businesses. A social media policy provided to employees as well as guidelines can be effective steps to reduce risk. A few key areas to consider are employment related use of social media, confidentiality, sponsorship, and branding guidelines.6. Privacy PoliciesPrivacy policies should not be copied from online templates or rival companies. They should be drafted comprehensively to address unique issues of a specific online business and to accommodate future growth. Whether a company looks to collect analytics or more personalized information, the company should focus on its specific business needs and risk factors. Privacy policies should be updated as a business evolves.7. Terms of Use AgreementsTerms of Use (TOU) agreements can limit liability for companies that maintain an Internet presence. These agreements should be optimized to address a company’s specific business and should not be simply cut and pasted from the Internet. What works for one company may not work for another company.8. eCommerce AgreementseCommerce agreements come in many forms such as licensing, advertising agreements, and payment processor agreements. eCommerce agreements should be drafted to address the primary legal risks involved in a particular eCommerce contract or business transaction.9. Online Sweepstakes & GamesOnline sweepstakes, contests, and games create a number of legal pitfalls. Depending on the sweepstake, contest, or game, compliance with the laws of all 50 states as well as the federal government may be required. Registration in specific states may also be required. Online businesses may benefit from guidance as to whether a particular new initiative is considered a sweepstake, contest, or game.10. Domain TheftRecovering hijacked domains can often be difficult and time-consuming. Typically, avoiding domain theft in the first place is much easier than attempting to recover a stolen domain. While difficult, it is possible to recover a hijacked domain.11. Website AgreementsWebsite agreements can be customized to limit legal liability and reduce risks of disputes by analyzing an online business’s intellectual property portfolio, business processes, and brand objectives. Website agreements can be used for mobile applications in addition to websites.12. Impersonation and Username SquattingImpersonation and username squatting can occur when a third party registers a social media account using someone else’s identity. This can result in harmful posts and information being published in social media. Username squatting can also prevent a trademark or brand owner from controlling their trademark. Typically, registering usernames in advance is the best strategy to avoid impersonation or username squatting.While the above identifies a number of eCommerce and internet law issues affecting website and online business operators, an in-depth analysis may be required. For more information, you may want to contact an eCommerce attorney.Disclaimer – As with any discussion of legal topics, this article is intended to be educational only, and is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it provide legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Please seek legal counsel before making any decisions. Also, please note that this article will likely not be updated, so the law and circumstances may have changed by the time you have read this article.

Check For These Signs Before Starting an Online Business

Everyone wants to have a taste of the good life. This is the reason some work beyond the working hours, log up overtime work and work two jobs. And for the others who want to have their own way and be their own boss, starting a business is the best ticket to the good life. Every option works as long as you put your mind and effort to it. But the way things are shaping up; it seems that starting a business seems to be the most preferred way of many.This choice was clear during the height of the economic crisis where jobs are cut, outsourced or completely eliminated. And among the many ways to start a business, one that gained ground is starting an online business. Having one’s own online business is attractive. Just imagine, running your own business in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home! This is the appeal of starting an internet business- you have the time in your hands and you can work from your home or anywhere you see fit.But just because thousands of people have embraced their own online business doesn’t mean that this is best for you as well. Before you jump into a business venture online, you need to make sure that this kind of arrangement is best for you. Learn to check the signs that you are indeed fit for this kind of arrangement.To get you started, here are some signs that will tell you that an online business is best fit for your needs and personality. Try to assess yourself before dipping your fingers in an online business venture.• You are tired of the usual 8-to-5 routine and business is your passion. If this is the case, then the best move for you is to start your own business.• You are in control of the situation and can make decisions in a snap. Given a set of problems, you know what to do and what to rank. Having a good decision-making ability and a good grasp of the situation are important in running a business. And if you enjoy planning and undertaking the plan, then having your own business is a good idea.• In your current job, you feel that your boss is not giving you the opportunity to take the initiative and you are not given the flexibility you need to get the job done. You think that you have the focus and the self-motivation to do the job and you don’t pay much attention to the other rewards whether monetary or in kind.• You want to take advantage of the growing industry online and the growing number of freelancers and online entrepreneurs.• The chance of earning your own money, in your own time excites you. You are excited and feel inspired about the stories of start-ups that become BIG companies. From Apple to eBay, you followed their stories on how they start small and became two of the biggest names online. You also like the idea that you can make your own money that is yours and will not be pooled to become part of the company’s earnings for the year.• You want to do interesting things your way. This is the beauty with starting an internet business. You have the option to only do the things that don’t bore. For all other aspects of an online business that don’t appeal to you, you can always delegate these tasks or outsource these jobs.• You want flexibility not just in the hours worked but in the place where you actually work. When starting an online business, you free yourself from the usual 8-to-5 routine and you are no longer tied to the desk and office chair. You can work from your study, from a coffee shop or even while waiting for the bagel to be served!Learn to pay attention to these common signs before you jump into the bandwagon. Sure there are tons of success stories out there, but keep in mind that all these happened because they are fit for the task. Test yourself if you are up to the task; learn to figure out the signs before starting an internet business.Dany Cooper