Welcome to the Simplifying Legal podcast, brought to you by Businessese. I’m your host, Danielle Liss.
Many years ago, someone told me I was the least lawyer-y lawyer she’d ever met because I helped make legal easier to understand. To this day, it’s one of the best compliments I’ve received in my professional life.
If you’ve ever felt legal was too scary, too overwhelming, too complicated, or just plain incomprehensible, you’re not alone. The Simplifying Legal podcast was created to help.
In each episode, we’ll do a deep dive into a legal topic and give you concrete next steps so you can apply it to your business.
My goal is for you to walk away from each episode thinking, oh, that was easier than I thought it would be.
Let’s get started.
Hey there, I’m Danielle Liss. Welcome to episode 4 of the Simplifying Legal podcast.
If you are an online business owner, your website is a probably huge piece of your business. But, even if you aren’t working primarily online, your website still plays an important role within your business. For a lot of small business owners, your website is something you’ve invested in, whether through your time or money. And, it is probably a place that is important in helping your business grow as you connect with leads and sales prospects.
Because your website is so important, it’s key to make sure you are protecting your website with the right policies.
Disclaimer: As always, before we get into today’s topic, a quick disclaimer. This podcast is meant to provide you with legal information only. It’s not legal advice and does not create any type of attorney-client relationship between us. Please don’t take any action without consulting your lawyer first.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk a bit more about protecting your website.
When I refer to website policies, I am referring to the policies posted on your website that create an agreement between you and your website’s audience about how to use the site. Usually, you will find them linked in the footer of a website. Most people think of it as the fine print that no one ever bothers to read. And, even if people aren’t specifically seeking out these policies prior to using your site, they are incredibly important.
This episode is being recorded in mid-January 2021 and website policies have been in the news a lot lately, particularly as different social media platforms have enacted permanent bans for violation of their terms. So let’s get started.
In this episode, we’ll review the most common website policies, what they mean, and if you need them to help protect your website and your business.
The three most common website policies for any website are:
If you have eCommerce on your site, these policies will apply to you, but you may also need more. Spoiler alert – we are covering e-commerce policies in next week’s episode.
Let’s talk about the big three.
Website Terms & Conditions for Your Website
Website terms are the contract between you, as a website owner, and anyone who views your website. It’s where you can tell your audience site how they can use your site.
Your website terms can cover a lot of topics that are specific to your business, but usually, you will want to include the following in your website terms:
First, a section on website usage. This includes how your audience can use your website and the types of usage that are prohibited.
Next, intellectual property notices – this might include statements regarding ownership of trademarks and copyrights. It may also grant a license to your audience for how they can use certain content on your website.
Next, how do you handle third-party content contributed to your website. This could include comments, submissions, or a number of other scenarios that may vary based on your business. What do you accept from third parties, how may you use it, and what license are they granting for your usage.
Next, if you include links to third parties, whether it’s content or products, your terms can include a waiver of your liability as it relates to this content. For example, this might say that you are not liable if they follow a link, make a purchase from another business, and then have a dispute regarding that purchase. Your terms will state that it is not your responsibility what happens after they leave the site.
Next, you may want to include a waiver of any types of warranties regarding the information on the site or site performance
Your terms can also include Indemnity provisions and a limitation of liability. The indemnity provision guides when the user would need to hold your business harmless. The limitation of liability potentially gives you the ability to restrict certain types of damages against your business.
Many website owners also include an arbitration provision. This allows you to handle any disputes related to the terms through arbitration, rather than in court. These provisions often state where such an arbitration would take place.
And, finally, a term that can be very important – a reservation of your business’s right to modify the terms in the future. Usually, this states that you can make changes without notice, but that could be different if it was a membership site or course and you are making a material change that impacts their access.
Now that you know what they are, do you need website terms on your business website? If you have a business for your website, if you don’t already have website terms, this is something you should consider adding. It provides a lot of information about what can and can’t be done on your site and it is usually fairly simple to add it.
Please note, we’ll be talking more about policies for eCommerce sites in the next episode, but if you have a digital product, course, or membership site, your terms may also include additional terms governing usage of these aspects of your business.
First, a list of the types of personal information that are collected. For example, this could include name, email address, IP address, or purchase information. Think about the types of information you collect from your audience. Do you use Google Analytics? If so, you are potentially collecting their personal information. Or, do you have a contact form on your site that allows you to capture information for leads who want to work with you? This is also an example of personal information you may collect.
Next, how the information is collected. For example, is it voluntarily submitted by a user or tracked automatically through a cookie?
Next, how the information is used. Common examples are marketing, purchase fulfillment, account maintenance, site performance.
Next, does your business share their personal information with any third parties? This could include an email service provider (for sending newsletters), a payment processor, scheduling software, other types of software.
Next, include an overview of marketing that tracks behavior, such as usage of the Facebook pixel to create retargeting ads or email newsletters that track user analytics.
Next, what is your policy regarding collecting information from children. Based on the many data protection policies out there, usually, you should avoid collecting information from anyone under 16. If you do collect information from a younger audience, this is a good time to talk to your attorney to discuss what additional steps you may need to take.
Last, you may also need to list the rights of residents of certain areas because of their privacy and data protection laws. This applies to the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, for residents of the European Union, and the California Consumer Privacy Act for residents of California. The requirements for these two laws can be more complicated, so we will be covering them more in detail in a future episode.
Disclaimer for Your Website
The last major policy you may want for your website is a Disclaimer. A disclaimer is a policy that can help protect your business from liability related to the publication of certain content.
The easiest example of a disclaimer is if you look at a site like Web MD. It will say, this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice. This is part of their disclaimer.
Also, to give you another real-life example, I discuss legal information on this podcast, the Businessese website, and the Liss Legal website. As you heard earlier in this episode, I include a brief disclaimer to advise people that it is legal information only and doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, for both of my business websites, I include disclaimers with far greater detail about the company’s disclaimer of liability for how the information is used.
A disclaimer typically includes a notice that all content is provided for informational purposes only. Next, there will likely be a disclaimer of warranties on the content. Then, a disclaimer of liability for the viewer’s use of certain content.
If you are a licensed professional, it may state that you are not providing professional advice and your audience is not in a client relationship with you because they viewed the information.
If you provide information about making more money, increasing sales, or building your business, you may also need to include an earnings disclaimer that states you cannot guarantee results based on the information you provide.
Last, you can also include a notification that the viewer should contact certain professionals for content related to various fields. For example, a medical disclaimer may advise the viewer of the content to reach out to their doctor before making any changes based on the content on the website.
Now that you know what is included, does your business website need a disclaimer? If you provide content that should be used solely for informational purposes on your website and you want to protect your business from liability when someone uses that information, you probably should have a disclaimer. This is often something I recommend for professionals, like doctors, lawyers, dietitians, pharmacists, accountants, etc., since their information could potentially be viewed as professional advice.
Additionally, if you provide content that would typically be professional advice, but you are not a licensed professional in the field, your disclaimer should address this. For example, if you are a health coach who provides nutrition information, your disclaimer may state that you are not a registered dietitian or medical professional and the person should speak to their medical provider for any medical advice.
I am often asked if bloggers need disclaimers and the answer depends on the type of content you publish. The Disclaimer template we sell on the Businessese site has disclaimers for a number of areas that bloggers often discuss, like recipes, DIY activities, travel, and even essential oils.
This wraps up the overview of the three main policies, so now let’s talk about the action steps for this episode.
- Do an audit of your existing website policies. What policies do you already have?
- Are you missing any policies? What do you need to add?
- If you already have policies on your site, when were they last updated? Do they need a quick refresher?
As I discussed in episode 2, website policies are often an area that many people like to use templates for. You can visit Businessese.com/websitepoliciesbundle to check out our most popular bundle for website policies.
I’d love to connect with you outside of the show. Visit Businessese at businessese.com. To find show notes for today’s episode, visit businessese.com/podcast.
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