August 4th, 2015
Visitors Are Welcome to Play By Your Rules.
You wouldn’t let just any old person walk on to your property, act kinda crazy, throw stuff around, take a few of your belongings, interrupt your life or the life of your invited guests, graffiti your fence, leave and sell the stolen stuff for their own personal gain, would you?
Then, why would you let that happen with your online property (aka website)? Or, why would you even risk it?
Unlike the old days where we operated physical businesses and personally interacted with or witnessed every person that visited our shops or businesses, with an online business we often don’t know who is visiting our business or their reasons for being there. Most of the time, most visitors behave. But sometimes they don’t.
Think of your Website Terms & Conditions as part “Welcome!” sign, part “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.”
What does a well-drafted “Terms and Conditions” cover? Quite a lot!
– Your properly drafted Terms and Conditions should, in a very clear manner, let your visitors know how the site can be used and set limits on use as well.
– It should provide appropriate disclaimers, and limit the liability of the site owner – presumably, that’s you – while identifying certain specific scenarios of limited liability including events where the site may be down or removed or deleted in its entirety.
– Your terms and conditions should also limit the liability of your employees, officers, affiliates and directors.
– It should inform your visitors of any representations or warranties being made, and provide a proper indemnification, where appropriate.
– Your Terms and Conditions should identify where and how any disputes will be resolved – citing the jurisdiction, and clearly informing them of any restrictions on their right to have the dispute adjudicated in court, i.e. if disputes are subject to confidential binding arbitration, or whether class-action rights are precluded.
– If you provide any refunds of your product or amounts paid for your services, your refund policy might be clearly stated here (or otherwise addressed in specific terms and conditions for each product or service).
– Your Terms and Conditions should also address your Intellectual Property (IP) rights such as copyrights, etc, related to the content created, produced and published via your website.
– Finally, as mentioned above, your “Terms and Conditions” can preclude the continued use of your website by anybody who doesn’t agree to your terms.
These are the main topics, but there are other important terms that can be covered in this section of your website as well.
I hope you can see that there is a lot of very important ground covered in a properly drafted “Terms and Conditions” – the importance of setting yourself up for success by covering these basics for your online business cannot be emphasized enough.
Although many online entrepreneurs skate by for awhile, all it takes is one instance of theft, mistreating a fellow website visitor (via membership sites, comment sections, or other posting spaces), or some other kind of weirdo doing something inappropriate with your online space or intellectual property to require your full attention on this topic. And by then, some damage might already be done.
You certainly can’t guard against all risks. But you can and you should treat your business like a business, otherwise others won’t be inclined to.
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS POST MAY CONTAIN LEGAL INFORMATION, BUT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. NO RELATIONSHIP, INCLUDING ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP, HAS BEEN FORMED AS A RESULT OF THIS POST. YOU ARE ADVISED TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN YOUR STATE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.