LESSON #43: Legal Compliance & Legal Documents for Your Website

Throughout this lesson series, we’ve been covering the basics of building your online business. And now that you’re establishing a web presence, there are some steps you’ll want to take to help keep yourself out of legal trouble.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer. I have no legal qualifications. I’m just presenting this information based on my own experience and research. Before taking any actions that might have legal consequences, you should consult with a lawyer.

(Watch this video…)

Join my coaching club

Main points:

  • Why you should care about protecting your business:

    1) Civil Lawsuits
    2) Legal compliance (FTC, FDA, State Attorney General, etc)

  • Steps you can take…

    1) Choose an appropriate business entity

    -Consult with an attorney or tax advisor about this.

    Potential benefits of corporations over sole proprietorships:

    -They protect you personally from certain legal liabilities
    -They may reduce your tax liability

    Resource: LegalZoom

    2) Avoid risky niches

    For example…

    -Gambling
    -Adult content
    -Medical
    -Illegal/unethical things
    -How to make money

    But don’t let FEAR stop you from going into a niche you’re truly passionate about.

    (See video for horror stories, etc.)

    Do NOT assume that you can fly under the radar of the FTC. Instead, assume you are on their radar, and make sure you’re in compliance.

    3) Educate yourself

    Look to the governing lawmakers for your country.

    In the USA, the most important for Internet marketers is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    Update: Here is the FTC “.Com Disclosures” document from March 2013:
    http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf
    (I recommend reading this entire document)

    Information for businesses: http://ftc.gov/bcp/business.shtm

    Here is a helpful document containing FAQ: FTC’s Revised Endorsement Guides

    Ecommerce: http://ftc.gov/bcp/menus/business/ecommerce.shtm

    Other helpful sites:

    FDA: www.fda.gov
    Copyright: www.copyright.gov
    Small Business Administration: www.sba.gov
    US Patent and Trademark office: www.uspto.gov

    -Do a TESS search before registering a domain or naming a product.

    -Consider hiring a lawyer.

    4) Use appropriate legal documents

    How to get the documents:

    1) Hire a lawyer who UNDERSTANDS Internet business law (Best option)

    Probably $500 to $5000

    2) Buy some documents (2nd best option)

    The key here is to get some that are:

    A) up to date
    B) written by a real lawyer

    Resources:

    Attorney Bob Silber: www.websitelawforms.com (Approx. $2800 to license his docs)

    Attorney Mike Young: Website Legal Forms Generator (Approx $197)

    Discount legal form provider: Find Legal Forms (Approx. $15 per document)

    Beware of WebLawGenerator or anything that looks like it is a resale rights product. Do not buy it.

    3) Find some free documents (worst option)

    Why you might not want to use free documents:
    http://blog.ebusinesslawgroup.com/2008/08/why-shouldnt-you-use-free-terms-of.html

    Idea: You can take some free docs, customize them yourself to meet the needs of your website, and then pay a lawyer or paralegal to review and revise it as necessary.

    Free Terms of Service:
    http://www.webmasters-cavern.com/tools/tosgen/
    http://www.website-law.co.uk/termsandconditions.html (UK)

    Free site disclaimer:
    http://ericstips.com/legaldocs.zip
    http://prioritydigital.com/free_disclaimer.htm
    http://www.website-law.co.uk/disclaimer.html (UK)

    Free privacy policy:
    http://ericstips.com/legaldocs.zip
    http://www.dmaresponsibility.org/PPG/
    http://www.website-law.co.uk/privacypolicy.html (UK)
    http://www.easyriver.com/myprivacy.htm
    http://www.freeprivacypolicy.org

    Free copyright notice:
    http://ericstips.com/legaldocs.zip

    Action steps:

    1) Continue to educate yourself about the legal aspects of your business.

    2) Put the appropriate legal documents on your website.

    In the next lesson we’re going to begin learning how to create an information product.

    As always, you are welcome to post your questions and comments below.

    Have a great day!

  • 132 comments on “LESSON #43: Legal Compliance & Legal Documents for Your Website

    1. Shane Hale

      Eric once again very informative and I will be checking these out.

      Reply
    2. Tom

      Depending on the site you have, in EU there are as well legal requirements concerning docs.

      Reply
    3. Rosemary

      Hi Eric,

      Thank You for this lesson. I’m really glad you posted the .gov sites to visit. I usually bookmark those pages so I can go to them later and check out any questions I might have on a subject.

      Thanks again.

      Rose

      Reply
    4. Eric Post author

      I have not used Adspy Pro lately, so I can not speak for certain whether it is still as effective. But I have not heard anything to the contrary. So without doing much investigation, yes I would say my recommendation still stands… particularly due to the price: at the current sale price of $27 you don’t have a lot to lose by trying it.

      Reply
    5. Jenn

      Very helpful info! Appreciate it very much!! I need to bookmark this page here so I can remember all these great sites you are linking to!

      Thanks,
      Jenn

      Reply
    6. Elizabeth

      Hi
      Please could you provide a link for lesson 19 re niches? Thanks
      Elizabeth

      Reply
    7. Kristina Lim

      I was wondering where you got the legal documents for the lolministry site since that’s very similar to the site I’m setting up.

      Reply
    8. Eric Post author

      I’m really not sure where I got them. Prior to doing this lesson, I had a lot of sites where I sort of pieced together the legal docs from various sources. For this reason I will probably replace them when I get a chance with ones like I currently have on this site.

      Reply
    9. Jeff

      Eric,

      great tips and often times overlooked part of setting up a web business

      Reply
    10. Tres

      I’m interested in a product regarding alternative smoking. Does this niche fall into the health, diet, fitness legal disclaimer notices that one must provide?
      Any tips or opinions on this legality?

      Reply
    11. Eric Post author

      Is it an information product or a product that is physically consumed?

      If it’s just an info product, you might be OK with standard disclaimers for a health related site. If it’s a physical product that the customer actually uses in alternative to smoking, then I’d definitely talk to a lawyer to make sure you’re covered.

      Reply
    12. dyuane

      thanks for the info. I see the legal stuff on the bottom of peoples pages but just ignored it. I never realized. thanks,

      Reply
    13. Andres

      You really terrified me with this.

      I’m in the hosting business with one of my websites and because of clients losing their domains because not knowing how to use their email properly, I used to register their domains as mine without guessing the trouble I could get.

      One day the police came to my house and they took me to the police station accusing me of scamming people selling business opportunities, but in reality those were made by a client (but his domain was under my name).

      Fortunately, the client admitted his fault and I got out clean, but was a very scary thing. Goes without saying that every domain is registered now under the person’s name and I don’t care if they lose it or not!

      You could even get in trouble being an affiliate if you promote gambling products to US people.

      These legal things are horrible because sometimes you even don’t guess that you could have any trouble at all (as happened to me if you don’t think anything bad could happen, and even if you did, you couldn’t think of something that doesn’t come to mind and for the same reason, you will not ask the lawyer about it if you had one).

      Reply
    14. Gordon

      Hi Eric on the 41 section I didn’t get the full explanation through the fault of the shortness of the white line which geos across as you explain the situation.

      Sincerely
      Gordon

      Reply
    15. Eric Post author

      I’m not sure what you mean…

      Reply
    16. Noel

      Thanks Eric! Legal debates must be handled by legal attorneys.

      Reply
    17. Claudia

      Great information Eric…and very important.
      Thanks so much.

      Reply
    18. Paul

      Hi Eric
      Just read your lesson on Legal paperwork for a website. We are in the beginning stages of creating a World wide Beach bed and breakfast directory. Our research has shown that most sites have a disclaimer, privacy policy and copy write. We are based in Canada and are wondering if those document websites work for us, or do we have to find docs that are written up here in Canada?
      Thanks for any advice you can give us.
      Cheers
      Paul

      Reply
    19. Micah

      Hello Paul,

      The sample documents should work just fine for you.

      Reply
    20. Robbo

      Hi,
      I have a registered business with a domain. An advertising company uses my registed name unlawfully as a tag. I challenged, but you don’t allways win. If you cannot beat them, join em.

      Reply
    21. Charles

      Hi Eric,

      I am not an American citizen, but my web host is.
      I am a Norwegian living in Thailand. Who will be at risc if I do something “wrong” on my web site?

      Reply
    22. Eric Post author

      It depends on what you did. If you committed an international crime that affected US citizens, then the US authorities may be able to come after you. But you’d have to do something pretty bad to warrant that. Otherwise I think it would fall under the jurisdiction of the local authorities (just my guess).

      Reply
    23. Aini

      Thanks so much for this lesson Eric.

      Reply
    24. Best Man Speeches

      This legal stuff always gives me the creeps!

      Probably you will find the US govt has deals in place with many other governments in relation to business law, international transactions etc and have forced many countries to accept them, especially since 9/11.

      John

      Reply
    25. David

      Hi Eric,

      I am learning a lot of this great series of lessions. Thanks.

      I used the http://www.istockphoto.com/holmlund1 link from one of your earlier lession to add graphics to my website. Some of the images are really great. I found a few for my website and added them to my website. I am pleased with the current result.

      By the way, you may want to amend the line on the lession43 page:

      Attorney Mike Young: Website Legal Forms Generator (Approx $97)

      The price is now $197 (soon to be $247).

      Just to keep the expectation level at the right level.

      Can this product be used to generate code for more than one website without paying more?

      Kind Regards,
      David

      Reply
    26. Eric Post author

      Thanks! And thanks for the heads up on the pricing change 🙂

      Yes it can be used to generate the documents for all your websites.

      Reply
    27. GP

      Eric have you heard anthing good/bad about Len Thurmond’s “AutoWebLaw Pro” legal documents?

      Reply
    28. Eric Post author

      I had heard that the old version was quite out-dated, and therefore not recommended.

      However, my understanding is that the product was fully updated after the new FTC rules of Dec 2009, and is once again recommended by several well-known internet marketers.

      In fact I’ve got an affiliate link for it:

      AutoWebLaw

      thanks

      Reply
    29. Juergen

      Hi Eric
      Watched todays lesson and think you are right on target for my start up I got a package from legal forms for about $50 and having had a business before I was able to put together something with the information researched at the ftc website and with the help of the product I purchased from you.
      And thanks again that you are sending me all that good stuff you are a person that gets to the point of what counts in doing business on line once I have my sits up and running the way I see it in my mind I am going to put up a link to your site. It may take a little while, it just took me about 1 year before I finally did something with my account at Just Host and about a few months ago I started also using Hostgator. Since I am more of the doing and creating type off person loving to mess around with new things I talked to a good friend of mine over the weekend who is an IT man so I am so eager setting up my own server and so on over making some money online. May be this is some kind off an adiction to create rather than making some money to support all this. we’ll see may be I make a buck some day and as always thanks again
      Juergen

      Reply
    30. Sean Breslin

      your advice and the resources in this post are spot on Eric… I will be looking over a few of those sites myself!

      Reply
    31. Joe Bradley

      Thanks for all the useful information, Eric.

      I had tried Auto Web Law myself but found that I often had to make corrections to the documents generated.

      Joe

      Reply
    32. fidel pavot

      HI, ERIC YOU JUST OPENED MY EYES WITH ALL THIS LEGAL OR ILLEGAL MATTERS IN DEALING WITH INTERNET MARKETING, NOW I SEE HOW SERIOUS THIS THINGS ARE. ANY MINOR MISTAKE LIKE YOUR BLOGGERS MENTIONED CAN PUT YOU IN PRISON.SOME MARKETERS MARKET PRODUCTS WITHOUT KNOWING THE THE LEGALITY AND CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR ACTION.I APPRECIATE VERY MUCH YOUR HELP WITH THIS VERY IMPOTANT INFORMATION, AND IT WILL GREATLY HELP ME IN MY FUTURE INTERNET MARKETING.
      THANKS AGAIN, AND KEEP UP THE GOOD DEEDS.

      Reply
    33. Jacy

      Eric,
      This video was a real eye opener, thanks. I am an affiliate marketer and do i need to reveal on my site that there are affiliate links on my site and if someone makes a purchase through the links, i will get a commission.
      Thanks

      Reply
    34. Al Smith

      Thanks a lot Eric. That is one aspect that seems to get totally ignored with IM and to be honest I don’t think much about it much. We never seem to hear about the legal aspect of online businesses but they are still there.

      Reply
    35. Mike

      Wow, this is an eye opener.

      Does it apply to people outside of the USA?

      Reply
    36. will

      Hi Eric THX for the info. What about 2.0 properties like squido etc… ?

      Reply
    37. Eric Post author

      Web 2.0 and other 3rd party sites have their own legal documents, so you do not need to post any. However, it is important to keep in mind that you are still probably liable for what you post, and if you are doing affiliate marketing, you may still need to include an affiliate disclaimer per the December 2009 FTC guidelines.

      Reply
    38. Eric Post author

      The laws are different everywhere. But in general, yes it does apply, particularly if you’re selling to people in the USA.

      Reply
    39. helen

      Dear Eric,
      your tips are very useful especially to me searching for a legal internet marketing business
      .i receive so many invitation yet i doubt about their invitation if its legal ,or a scam for i heard also from other sources that they have bought so many items yet they didn’t receive any item back and if they want a guarantee it didn’t really pay back to them,so its is good that you give us some tips so we may know how and the legality of these product is and the said business it claimed in the internet world,Thanks and God Bless you for sharing us about these stuff.

      Reply
    40. Keith Carberry

      Eric,
      Great tips! I am presently working on a site that will solve most legal issues for most websites (programmer is almost done). The site is in pre, pre beta. I am not an attorney but have retained one for this new site. You shared some very helpful information. I hope the people start taking the e-commerce crack down seriously real soon.

      Take Care,

      Keith

      Reply
    41. Kris Varma

      Your tips have so far been very helpful. I took legal advice prior to creating my website. This has been extremely useful in adding documents. I wanted your advice on conducting surveys through the website. What is the best method and how do we ensure that all legal obligations are followed? How do I ensure that people are driven to my website and complete the survey?

      Reply
    42. Prue

      Thanks again for these wonderful tips. I guess you are the best teacher for internet marketing. I am so glad I chose you as my teacher. The information could not be better.

      Reply
    43. Mady/Joshua

      Thank you for the information. When you say Mike Young has legal forms generator. what does that mean ecactly because i see it as meaning he has a software that generates legal documents.

      If so how is that suposed to relate to you personally?

      Reply
    44. Eric Post author

      You basically fill in the blanks in the software, and it creates the legal forms for you. These are fairly generic documents, suitable for most (but not all) websites. You can then put those docs on your website, like the ones linked at the bottom of this page.

      Reply
    45. Eric Post author

      If you’ve got the proper legal docs on your site, then it should cover any survey done on your site (privacy policy, information submitted becomes our property, etc.). And I’ve not heard of any particular legal problems arising from conducting surveys. As far as getting people to complete the survey, the best way is to incentivize it with a freebie of some sort, which can be downloaded upon completion of the survey.

      Reply
    46. Nathan

      there goes another homework to do…

      Reply
    47. Nathan

      “export duty on an ebook!” that interesting. Who know maybe USA will go after tariff duties.

      Reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *