You’ve already discovered that the Internet is a great
medium for promoting your business. But just as you
can use the Net’s various components like the web,
email, chat and newsgroups to network, to make new
contacts and to generate leads, you can easily find
yourself in hot water over legal disputes and legal

Doing business on the Net can be fraught with legal
perils for those who act unthinkingly or unknowingly.
In some situations, laws governing cyber activities are
clearly defined and reflect the laws that govern our
activities in the real world. In other cases, the Internet
is still a “gray area”, and laws will be established
through the outcomes of court cases.

Although situations differ, as do laws in various
jurisdictions, the following tips might help you stay
clear of trouble:

1. Registering a domain name doesn’t prevent legal
challenges to your right to use that domain name. Many
a web site owner has been dismayed to hear from a
company claiming his or her domain name is a trademark
violation. To avoid problems in this area, conduct
appropriate searches before registering, and consider
registering your own domain name as a trademark.
Businesses that register domain names can help you assess
your options.

2. You risk copyright violation if you copy the
content, graphics, layout, name, look or feel of
another web site without express permission.
Several countries of the world, including Canada,
and the US, have signed an international copyright
convention that protects copyright in member countries.
If discovered in violation of copyright, your penalty
could be as small as being asked to remove the offending
material to as large a penalty as a court might see
fit to award.

3. If your web site contains bulletin boards or chat
rooms, you can be held liable for material posted by
visitors to your site. To reduce the potential for problems,
check your forums and chats regularly and remove
any content that could create trouble. Material to
watch for includes anything that could be considered
libelous, promotes hate, could be considered adult
content (and you do not have an adult site), could be
perceived as threatening or harassing to others, or
promotes an illegal activity, etc.
4. Avoid advertising statements that would be
illegal or prohibited in other media. Be particularly
cautious if your site advertises alcohol, tobacco,
pharmaceuticals, financial services, gambling, contests
or adult entertainment.

5. If linking to another web site, avoid deep linking
and avoid capturing the other site in your frames.
Most web site owners welcome links to their site
because links generate traffic and increase their ranking
with some search engines. Rarely will an owner complain
if you link without permission. However, you are not
entirely safe. Legal battles have been fought regarding
unauthorized linking. To minimize your chances of
running into trouble, make sure you link to the home
page instead of to an inner page and code the site to
open in a new window instead of within your frames.

6. Create an Internet and email policy for your employees.
If your employees are charged with sending harassing emails
or distributing copyright MP3 files while at work, for
example, you can be held responsible. Having a short
email policy stating that your employees must use email
in a legally responsible manner can go a long way to
protecting you in case of problems.

7. If purchasing packaged content for distribution and
publication, be sure you are dealing with a reputable
company. There have been instances of companies
selling packaged content without the permission or
knowledge of the content creators. This is copyright
violation, and you could be putting yourself at risk
if you use these materials.

Finally, please remember that these tips should not be
construed as legal advice. Consult with legal counsel
for matters specific to your own situation.

About the Author

June Campbell, “How-to” Booklets, Guides, Templates, & eBooks
-Business proposals
-Business plans,
-Joint Venture Contracts… More!

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