Your website is the showpiece for your company. It’s the first thing a client, partner or investor will look at when they first come across you. And despite what your parents always told you – “don’t judge a book by its cover” – the first impression given off by a website is key to business success.

So why leave it with a hole? Why leave it open to attack or abuse?

Consider this blog an introduction to website legals. It isn’t comprehensive by any means, but it is a good place to start. Following these five points will protect you from government fines, from aggressive businesses, and disgruntled clients. Let’s get into it.

1. Website Terms of Use

This is number one for a reason: it’s the most important. A good website terms of use will contain information on how your customers can and can’t use your website. It will tell them what they can and can’t upload or post, it will limit your liability in case something on the website is wrong or misleading, and it will introduce them to the privacy provisions that will follow.

But why bother?

It’s simple. Supposing someone posts something inflammatory, abusive or racist in a section of the website where users can upload content – you want to be able to remove this freely. Or supposing you have some information on your website that someone follows and gets hurt as a result – you have to be able to limit your liability at that point. You have to be able to explain that you aren’t responsible for the content on the website. And, last one, supposing someone ‘borrows’ some of your content and posts it on their own blog or website – you want to be able to claim that back from them or order them to take it down. With website terms, you can do just that.

The list could go on, but that wouldn’t be fun. In short, website terms explain how your clients and visitors can use and access the website – make sure you get some!

2. Privacy Policy

If you are gathering, using or storing user data, you need a privacy policy in place. This isn’t a business requirement, it’s a legal one designed to protect everyone’s personal information.

A privacy policy will explain which user date you collect, whether that is bank details, personal profiles, favorite colors, or favorite football team. Anything. It will explain how that data is collected, why it is collected and what it is used for. It will also explain how users can access their data or request that you delete it.

A privacy policy isn’t a sexy document – it’s dry and it contains technicalities that could send the most seasoned of lawyers to sleep. But it’s required by law, and probably for good reason. If you’re using data on your users in any way, you need one. Be prepared to face a hefty fine or even closure of your business without one.

3. Cookie Policy

A well-worded cookie policy might go like this: “on Tuesdays, everyone has to bring in a cookie of their choice and present it to the Board. Whichever cookie gets the most supporting votes will be shared among the team.”

Not really. Cookies are small files that are downloaded on to your computer when accessing or browsing websites. They allow website owners to track your actions on the website and to improve your general browsing experience. Most cookies are entirely benign – they are simply used by marketers to analyse their websites and work out which bits need to be improved or made more attractive. Some, however, can be invasive and can track you beyond what most people would consider acceptable. That is why cookie policies are required: to make cookie use more transparent and to inform users exactly how companies are using their information.

Like privacy policies above, they are required by law. They contain many of the same provisions, just they relate them to cookies. Without a cookie policy, you are leaving yourself open to fines and closures. GET ONE!

4. IP Protection

This isn’t strictly required to get you legally compliant, but it is sensible and it can protect you as a company. There are different ways to protect your intellectual property and by choosing the best protection for your company, you can make sure no one steals any of your branding or ideas displayed on your website.

Copyright automatically protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission. You don’t have to apply or pay a fee; you automatically get copyright protection when you create original literary or non-literary written work. This includes illustration, photography, software, web content and databases. Since these are all key aspects of building an exciting website, copyright can easily protect your intellectual property.

Trademarks can be used to protect your logo or your website design. They can prevent others stealing the design or passing it off as their own. And it also looks good to have that TM sign next to your business name.

Without properly protecting your intellectual property, your website design or branding can be stolen without legal repercussions. So avoid this by looking into the options at your disposal to protect your mind product.

5. Advertising

Advertising your product is an important part of any business, to attract new customers and celebrate your progression and ideas. There are regulations and guidelines that need to be followed when advertising on your website to make sure that your company is legally compliant.

All marketing and advertising must be an accurate description of the product or service, legal, truthful, honest and socially responsible. By complying with these requirements, you’ll be able to reach a large audience through your website without the risk of your advertising methods being stopped.

Advertising to businesses is covered by the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations. As well as being accurate and truthful, you can’t make any misleading comparisons with competitors like using their logo or trademark or comparing your product with a competitor’s product that’s not the same. This way, you can celebrate your products/services through your website without illegally undermining another company’s product (even if they’re your competition).

So follow these tips to making your website legally compliant and you can build your consumer base and progress your business without having to face time-consuming and expensive litigation!

Linkilaw is committed to stopping inefficiencies, streamline legal services & help legal work become accessible. Through our technology, in-house solutions & legal marketplace, we provide businesses with legal support and offer a free Startup Legal Session.