Legal tips for moving your business online

Legal tips for moving your business online

Linkilaw Startup Advice & Tips

Businesses around the globe have been challenged as never before due to the coronavirus outbreak, especially those with brick-and-mortar establishments. As a result of these challenges, we’ve seen a great number of companies quickly pivot to carrying out their business exclusively online.

The speed with which businesses have been able to adapt is a feat of entrepreneurial spirit to be sure, but with so much on the line and so little time to prepare, the legal implications of moving your business online are often an afterthought.

In this article, we’ll go through our top legal tips for running an online business.

Legal tips for moving your business online

1. You need a Privacy Policy (and it needs to be thorough)

A Privacy Policy explains what types of personal data you collect, why you collect it and how you use it. A Privacy Policy is legally required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Although the GDPR is an EU regulation, many non-EU countries (including the UK) have implemented near-identical laws or regulations, so it’s more likely than not that your website needs to comply with the GDPR’s rules.

Not only do you need to have a Privacy Policy, it needs to be bespoke and it needs to be thorough. You’re required to explain a number of specific aspects of your data use processes, including the legal basis you’re relying on to allow you to use each type of data you collect. Needless to say, it’s worth consulting with a lawyer to make sure you get all of the details right and avoid subjecting yourself to potentially massive fines.

2. Those cookie pop-ups are not optional

Yes, they’re annoying, but implementing a banner or pop-up informing visitors of your website’s use of cookies is non-negotiable. Under the GDPR, you’re required to get a user’s active consent before you place any non-essential cookies on their device.

You really do need a message that’s shown as soon as the user enters your website, and it’s important that they actively click something to get rid of it.

You’re also required to clearly explain each type of cookie you use and to give users the ability to control any non-essential cookies. (The best way to do this is to use a plugin or service that enables you to give users all of the necessary information and options.)

3. Website content is valuable intellectual property, so treat it accordingly.

Website content is an extremely valuable asset to online businesses as it demonstrates who you are as a company, what your value proposition is, and that users can trust you. As with any intellectual property you put on public display, it’s important to take the necessary legal steps to protect against others exploiting your content (such as by copying it without your permission or using it to impersonate your company).

Your website’s terms should make it clear that all the content on your website is intellectual property that belongs to you, and explain what users can and can’t do with it.

On the flip side, if you want to publish any content you didn’t create (such as text or images) or use another company’s name or logo, be sure to do your homework before you do so.

Many companies have information about using their intellectual property in their website’s Terms & Conditions (or Terms of Use), so you can often reference their terms to determine whether your desired use is allowed. If you’re not sure whether your use of someone else’s content will be in line with their terms, it’s better to ask permission.

4. Set rules for how your website can and can’t be used.

It’s important to set rules for how visitors can and can’t use your website to limit your liability and establish your rights and remedies against anyone who misuses it. These rules are typically set out in a Terms & Conditions or Terms of Use.

Among other things, a website’s Terms & Conditions typically provide guidelines for what a user can upload or submit, preclude the introduction of viruses or harmful material, and set conditions for downloading content and linking to the website. They also limit your liability for the website malfunctioning and for content that is inaccurate or out-of-date.

Bottom line

Taking your business online can be a great strategy to provide an alternative source of leads, customers and income, both in the current global climate and in the future. However, it’s important to keep these key legal considerations in mind to mitigate the risks that come with an online presence. Investing the time and resources in legal protections for your website will set your business up for long-term success.

If you need assistance with legals for your website, we’re here to help.

Legal tips for moving your business online