Having practice internet law for well over 10 years, I've come to realize I'm not getting any younger. Fortunately, the passage of time has also brought at least some wisdom when it comes to understanding where many sites go wrong from a legal perspective. In this article, let's take a look at a few of the common ones in the hope that you don't run afoul of them.
Images and Content
Oh, the mighty temptation. The web has made everything so easy, perhaps too easy in many circumstances. The fact that you can highlight something, copy it and then paste it onto your site does not mean you should. Most people know about copyright if only because they received a nasty letter for downloading their favorite music for free. Well, it is a nasty area and one you can really get into trouble with. If you use someone's image without permission, then the statutory damages under the law can be as high as $70,000 an image. Since nobody copies just one image, the numbers can grow quickly. There are plenty of free content sites out there, so don't make this mistake.
Nothing drives me nuts more than email agreements. This is the digital version of the handshake agreement in the brick n' mortar world. Two parties negotiate out a deal by passing emails back and forth or instant messaging. They then go into business together. Something changes with the search engines, product or whatever and suddenly they have very differing views on how things should work. A dispute arises. Guess what? The terms you discussed via email or chatting don't mean anything. Instead, you end up in court with a 60 year old judge who can barely turn on his computer deciding how to distribute the content of your site. It usually ends in tears, so don't make this mistake. Get everything in a contract up front. If the other party doesn't want to put it in writing, that should tell you something!
I have to admit I have never seen a field where more people burn bridges than the online business industry. While it can sometimes become a legal issue, it is mostly a practical one. Are you nuts? Why do this? There is an old saying that you should be nice to the people you pass when climbing up the business ladder because you'll be seeing them again when you are on your way back down. A lot of people are learning this now given the horrors of the Great Recession. Just because you are on the web, you shouldn't go with a scorched earth policy. Leaving people with a bad impression can come back to haunt you in the future...a future where you might just need a break or a job.
The internet has created an entirely new medium for business. All and all, the digital revolution has been pretty amazing. You should partake of it. Just make sure you don't leave yourself open to legal or practical problems.