Post outlining legal matters you should know about as a website owner (US law and generally).
Just because you have your own website does not mean you have complete freedom. Posting on the World Wide Web brings on a whole set of legal issues and, oftentimes, a puzzling and complex contract.
Be an informed website owner so that nothing comes as a shock for you, like a shutdown domain or a pricey lawsuit.
Common Legal Issues
Your posts can be a few clicks or written words away from a lawsuit. No matter what topic your website focuses on, knowing these legal matters can potentially save you a dispute with the law.
Read Your Contract
Whichever website you choose to register your domain through, read over the entire contract. It is not uncommon for website owners to claim they were scammed by their registrar. The law is not necessarily the end-all, be-all for domain owners; it is actually your contract.
Also, realize that your contract may not give you any property or ownership rights to your domain. While you are likely paying to use it, it is not necessarily yours.
Prepare for Potential Shutdown
Unless you are writing about a controversial topic, your website likely will not be shut down. Registrars’ contracts usually do allow themselves to do so if they find it necessary, however. In the past, an anti-Islam film site has been shut down. Also, multiple websites about travelling to Cuba had their domains shut down.
A majority of registrars’ agreements do not require any warning of a shut down. So if you are discussing anything controversial on your website, let this be your caveat.
Ask for Permission
Generally, all original images and original content on someone’s website is protected by copyright. If you copy the work without authorization, you break the law by infringing the copyright of that website owner.
Pay a Small Price
If you need images, consider paying for a subscription to sites that provide quality photographs, graphics, video and audio. There are typically millions available and have a large variety of categories.
Another way to avoid legal issues – create your own original content. Hire a photographer, a graphic designer or a copywriter. Paying for these services is significantly cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
Watch What You Write
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to free speech. However, be sure to write only the truth. Anything written about someone that is false and could potentially affect their reputation can be considered libel.
Libel is not just limited to celebrities and well-known figures. Even venting about your next-door neighbor on your blog could bring along a lawsuit, given the information is untrue.
Be Wary of Trademarks
Businesses and services have trademarked words, slogans, pictures and sounds to identify themselves. Using another person’s trademark could potentially cause confusion or deception for the public. This is considered trademark infringement.
Be careful when you mention another party on your website. Trademark infringement can be done unintentionally, so it is best to do your research before publishing online.
This article was submitted by Lewis Jacobs, an avid blogger and tech enthusiast. He enjoys fixing computers and writing about internet trends. Currently he is writing about an internet in my area campaign for a local provider.