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Website Legal Requirements: What your site needs to comply with common online law.

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As business owners and entrepreneurs, we are experts in our chosen fields and when it comes to servicing our clients, there is no doubt we are on point. However, when it comes to the legalities of our websites, confusion reigns supreme! …. And that is ok, after all, we can’t be amazing at everything. So, we are here to help.

Take a look at our seven (7) step guide to the virtual legal stuff you need to know, ensuring that your website is as compliant as possible, when it comes to the legalities of the online world.

Step 1 – Review Your Content & Licensing

One of the first but most important steps you can take to ensure your website is legally compliant, is to review your content and licencing. User generated content should always be your number one go to in terms of web content, but in the event, you have used some generic images purchased from another website, it is vital that you reduce the risk of plagiarism claims and ensure that your content is original, utilised in its correct form if purchased, and that you h9old the relevant licences for use.

Step 2 – Privacy Policy

Once you have reviewed your content and licencing, ensuring that your site is compliant in terms of content, the next legal requirement is a privacy policy. A privacy policy is a statement or legal document that discloses some or all of the ways that you will gather, use, disclose, and manage the data of the visitors to your site. A privacy policy will inform the visitors to your site, what information you are collecting from them and what you will do with this information.

Step 3 – Terms and Conditions

Like a privacy policy, having website Terms and Conditions is essential, even more so, if you intend to make sales through your website. Just as you ordinarily have your clients sign agreements with you when engaging your services, a website terms and conditions is essentially a contract between your business and your site visitor, outlining the terms of use of your site. What is acceptable, what is unacceptable, and what your expected standards are.

Whilst terms and conditions are specifically a legal requirement but given at some stage you will more than likely encounter a tricky client, it is highly recommended to incorporate into your site.

Step 4 – Copyright Designation

This is easily the simplest task you will ever undertake as a business owner and involves placing a little © symbol on your website. The effect that this symbol has is that it ensures that people can’t just copy and paste the content on your site and pass it off as their own. Your site, your content… amazingly simple.

This © symbol should be placed on your site, together with the name of your b us8iness, the year that your business commenced and the current year. Ideally, to be effective you will need to place this in either the header or footer section of your site pages, to ensure that it is accessible from every page of your site.

Step 5 – Cookies (unfortunately we don’t mean the biscuit)

It is now a legal requirement to take steps to ensure that visitors to your website are advised as to whether or not your site uses cookies, and businesses must take reasonable steps to notify the visitor.

Most site, use a pop up to achieve this, by having their visitor, client a button to accept that the site uses cookies. Alternatively, another option to satisfy this requirement is to have a “Cookies Policy” or ensure your cookies information is included as part of your privacy policy.

Step 6 – Accessibility

A website is considered to be accessible when sufficient steps have been taken to ensure that there aren’t any barriers that may prevent individuals from using the website. Whilst this may seem irrelevant or yet another hurdle to jump through in terms of website compliance, providing equal access is a way to ensure that you do not discriminate, which would be bad business practice anyway, but it is also the law!

If you are unsure if your website is accessibility compliant, you can undertake a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines test or partner with a web accessibility partner, who can work with you to ensure your site meets the requirements.

Step 7 – Disclaimers

A disclaimer transfers responsibility from one party to another and is therefore vital for your website. A disclaimer on your site can transfer responsibility from you to your customers and operates by taking a foreseeable event such as a risk or potential injury related to a product or service and transfers the responsibility to that of the user.

A poorly drafted disclaimer, or one that does not comply with the laws of your state could have disastrous effects and leave your business susceptible to a myriad of claims, so this is one element of your website that is best left to the experts.

Whilst legal com0pliance can seem like a boring task, it is certainly vital to ensure the longevity and overall success of your website. We hope our seven (7) step guide has provided you with an excellent starting point to assist you in ensuring that your business’ website is legally compliant.

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