This post contains the main points taken from my WordPress Website Classroom presentation through Network Live Virtually on Thursday, January 14, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. EST. My live-streaming classroom presentations, much like this one on Website Legal Compliance, are free to attend and available weekly.
First, let's be clear. I am not a lawyer, barrister, solicitor, or other legal professional in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, the E.U., or any other legally constituted jurisdiction. The information in this post should not be considered as legal, or other professional, advice. It is simply a summary of my own experience and the result of personal research.
Use this information on website legal compliance, if you wish, as a starting point for your own research and as a basis upon which to seek legal advice. If you find yourself involved in any of the website undertakings outlined here you may need to take action to protect yourself. Professional legal advice in this regard is generally the best course of action.
Website Legal Compliance
Does your website...
- collect emails addresses or other personally identifiable information from visitors through optin-pages, forms, or other methods?
If yes, you probably want to have a suitable Privacy & Communications policy available on your website.
- send periodic emails, newsletters, or other electronic correspondance by the Internet mail system, to prospects, subscribers, clients, or others?
If yes, you need to be in compliance with the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) of 2003 which provides standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- allow your visitors to post text, video, image files, or other materials (often called User Generated Content) on your website?
If yes, it is very important that you have some type of User Submission Policy, a properly drafted DMCA Policy and file a DMCA Registration Form with the Government Copyright Office.
- have customer endorsements involving claims that may be seen as extraordinary or otherwise do not reflect generally expected results?
If yes, you need to make any required FTC generally expected results disclosures.
- display photos or images of anyone, or present audio or video endorsements from others?
If yes, you should use a publicity consent & release agreement with each recognizable person.
- provide any cash, free products, gifts, coupons, etc. to customer who provide positive reviews on your website?
If yes, you need to make appropriate material connection disclosures on your website.
- offer affiliate or reseller products or services, or do you review products or services, and receive commissions, free gifts, etc. for doing so?
If yes, you need to disclose any material connection you may have with the seller of the product.
- present any results based claims regarding your products, including any earnings or income claims?
If yes, the FTC wants you to make necessary disclosures so your claims and ads aren’t materially misleading. Otherwise, they may be considered deceptive.
- offer any business opportunity or related product or service, or does it engage in multi-level or internet marketing offerings that make earnings or income claims?
If yes, in addition to any specific website disclosures, your website should also include a general earnings and income results disclaimer.
- sell digital goods, provide services or some other intangible product, such as downloadable digital items?
If yes, you may want your customers to be required to register and enter into an appropriate customer product agreement before purchasing.
- pass customer billing information on to third parties to be used in the sale of some other product or service that may not be directly offered by you?
If yes, you should STOP! This is now illegal under the Restore Online Shopper’s Confidence Act (ROSCA) which you probably should research.
- operating as a
Post-Transaction Seller that receives customer billing information from third party affiliates or associates?
If yes, you need to obtain informed consent from the third party customer before engaging in business transactions with them.
- offer, and charge customers for, recurring charges under a negative option billing plan?
If yes, you need to provide notice of the negative option plan and obtain consent.
- Is your business a bank, savings and loan or credit union (i.e. a financial institution)?
If yes, you need to implement an identity theft prevention program as per the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).
- collect and/or store customer credit card information?
If yes, an ESL won't cut it. You need to be in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS or just PCI). The PCI applies to ANY organization or merchant, regardless of size or number of transactions, that accepts, transmits or stores any cardholder data.
- collect personal information from children under the age of 13?
If yes, you need to follow the requirements under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and make required disclosures on your website.
- send cookies to visitors' computers or other devices?
If yes, you need a proper cookies policy on your website. It's a good idea to fully understand cookies yourself and realize that you could be distributing third-party cookies (such as if you embed a video from YouTube on your site) even if you don't otherwise use them yourself.
While none of the above issues on website legal compliance should be grounds for panic, they should serve to make you aware of some of the more serious issues that can confront a website owner and provide a starting point for your own research, learning, and decision making.
For more information on website legal compliance, and/or WordPress website support, check the websites linked here.
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Government Copyright Office
- U.S. Government Patent & Trademark Office
- LegalZoom - affordable online legal advice.
- Network Live Virtually - networking presentation site.
- WizardsPlace - WordPress support site.
- WP Business Network - WordPress for business site.