Topic: Internet Law
Your website is designed and you’re ready to unleash it to the world. So now you may be wondering, “should I have an attorney draft up a user agreement?” It’s a simple question with a complicated answer, but the best short reply is, “Yes, if you want to protect yourself and optimize your site.” Individuals or companies with e-commerce or kid-friendly websites, most definitely have to have a user agreement, due to various consumer protection laws and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, respectively.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t need a user contract, I just have a small affiliate marketing website that only brings me $20 a month” – think again. The truth is that online laws are rapidly changing, and even a blog that hangs out in digital no-man’s land should have a standard disclaimer that absolves the operator of liability with regards to third-party comments posted on the website. And believe it or not, many SEO-gurus have proved that search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, award agreement-sporting sites with slightly higher SERPs. Also, various behavioral studies have shown that the average Joe or Jane has more trust in websites with posted user policies than those that don’t — just knowing it exists puts potential purchasers at ease. A user agreement won’t be your electronic ticket to the front-page of Google, but every little bit of on-page SEO helps
Licensing terms are a prudent thing to outline in a terms of service agreement. It let’s visitors know if they can copy information found on your site. If it doesn’t matter to you that people steal content from your site and post it elsewhere on the Web, let that fact be know in your terms of service statement. If you want people to give you credit for your content, or restrict the copying of content and images all together, then you should make that clear in a user agreement. Internet defamation lawsuits are on the rise; so as an added layer of protection, include a disclaimer of liability on your website.
If you sell anything on your site, the terms and conditions surrounding the sale must be made public via a user agreement. Now don’t get giddy about the possibility of enacting any ‘ole rules you want for your user agreement. It needs to adhere to applicable federal and state laws.
If your goal is to attract customers in Europe, you must outline how your website follows Safe Harbor standards. Product and brand affiliates must also disclose this point in an online user agreement.
Online regulations, however, are changing. Therefore, the importance of a solid website user agreement becomes more important every day. The Web used to be the Wild West – laws governing online business were few in number. Elected Officials are finally catching up with the digital age; as a result, site operators are required to follow more and more regulations.
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Contractual agreements are called many different things. Privacy disclaimer, terms of service and acceptable use policy are all oft-used names for user agreements. Whatever the nomenclature, they’re the stipulations a consumer agrees to when accessing a website or online service or piece of software. Think of it as the proverbial fine print.