Today’s online companies face a multitude of legal issues related to
their online presence.  These unique and novel issues have given rise to
the emerging legal field of eCommerce and Internet Business law.

Today’s online companies face a multitude of legal issues related to
their online presence. These unique and novel issues have given rise to
the emerging legal field of eCommerce and Internet Business law.

What is eCommerce and Internet Business Law?

Internet
Business law relates to those unique legal issues and challenges
presented by all companies with any sort of web presence, including
issues relating to their company web site, blogs, social media, and
related agreements with designers, web and software developers, web
hosts and advertisers.

By comparison, eCommerce refers to
the buying and selling of products and services over the Internet.
These days, one can purchase almost any type of product online, and an
increasing number or services are becoming available for purchase over
the Internet.

While all companies with any sort of web
presence should address Internet business legal issues, eCommerce
companies have additional legal issues to resolve. eCommerce companies
are those companies who not only have a web presence, but also buy and
sell products or services over the web. The added elements of
commercial transactions, such as payment and delivery terms, warranties,
etc., are in addition to the Internet Business law issues described
above.

eCommerce and Internet Business law combine
traditional legal areas of intellectual property law (patent, trade
secret, trademark, and copyright), business and commercial transactions
law, and regulatory law. In addition, however, the unique and mercurial
nature of business conducted on and over the web presents unique
challenges not addressed by traditional law firm practice groups. Thus,
while the core of eCommerce and Internet Business law involves a
blending of traditional legal practices, the combination of these issues
and areas, as well as the unique challenges presented by the global
reach of the Internet, make eCommerce and Internet Business law its own
legal sub-specialty.

Common eCommerce and Internet Business Law Issues

eCommerce
and Internet Business law encompasses a myriad of legal issues and
matters, many of which relate to specific types of industries or
business activities. Below is a list of some of the more common matters
that companies with an online presence must address:

Common Internet Business matters include:

  • Domain-name registration and transactions
  • Domain recovery actions and domain name disputes
  • Privacy and publicity issues
  • Unfair competition and false advertising issues
  • Online advertising practices
  • Metatag use
  • Keywords and Google® AdWords®
  • ICANN proceedings (including those under the UDRP)

* Online marketing

* Online privacy and terms of use policies

* Social media policy

* Anti-spam policy

* External links policy/agreements

* Disclaimers

* Copyright retention

* Trademark usage policies

Common eCommerce matters include:

  • Compliance with COPA and other laws affecting eCommerce
  • Issues associated with website development/hosting and copyright ownership
  • Trademark and brand issues online
  • eCommerce businesses and projects
  • Trade secrets and online business practices
  • Linking agreements
  • General eCommerce law and Internet laws * Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
  • Patent issues related to eCommerce
  • Click-through agreements
  • Database protection
  • Electronic signatures/verification
  • Website membership agreement
  • Compliance with federal and state consumer protection laws
  • Information licensing
  • Refund & returns policy
  • Export controls and other trade regulations
  • Warranties and Limits of Liability
  • Other online contracting issues

In
addition to the above-referenced types of matters, there are a number
of “offline” legal issues involved in eCommerce and Internet Business
law, such as:

  • Outsourcing agreements
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agreements
  • “Software as a Service” agreements
  • Copywriting agreements (e.g., web content, blogs, etc.)
  • ebsite design/development agreement
  • Joint venture/joint marketing and “affiliate” agreements
  • Technology transfers
  • Web hosting agreements
  • Listing agreements
  • Hosting terms of service
  • Website sales and lease agreements
  • Nondisclosure Agreement/Confidentiality Agreements

Special Issues

The
universality and anonymity of the Internet requires online companies
deal with a number of special issues beyond those faced in the offline
world, such as the following:

  • Because web sites can be
    accessed from virtually anywhere in the world, compliance with a complex
    web of state, federal and foreign legal requirements and systems can
    present significant challenges.
  • In addition, web sites may be accessed by children, which are protected by a number of state and federal rules.
  •  In some instances, site users can post materials that infringe the
    intellectual property of third parties, creating potential liability for
    the site hosts.
  • Some web sites offer software and other
    technical data for download. These sites must ensure that the
    information is not exported in violation of US trade laws or provided to
    terrorists.
  • Sites obtaining private data and financial
    information are often the target of cyber-terrorists, identity thieves
    and other criminals, so they must ensure their sites and the data are
    secure.
  • Finally, in the event of a dispute, there may be
    questions regarding where it would be proper to sue, whether the courts
    have authority over all the parties, and whether any judgment can be
    enforced.

Conclusion

In
conclusion, eCommerce and Internet Business present a number of legal
issues and challenges, many of which are addressed by various
traditional legal areas. However, the global accessibility and
ever-present nature of eCommerce and Internet Business law require not
only an appreciation of the interplay between these various areas of
law, but also an understanding of the novel and unique legal issues
presented by a company’s online presence.

E-Commerce & Internet Business Law Overview

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