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…)

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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. asas

      ClickBank or other affiliate network products is safe ?

      Reply
    2. Ervin

      It’s a must to know about Internet business laws Eric, you’re always on the dot on every lesson as usual, it make sence of what you said about the last option of getting free docs. You don’t know exactely what you’re getting.I will start in Find Legal forms myself and i’ll go from there. Thanks…

      Reply
    3. Richard

      Thanks for the awesome information Eric. It was an eye opener

      Reply
    4. Eric Post author

      In general, clickbank and other major aff networks are safe. BUT you as an affiliate are still responsible for complying with the law in your promotions of any product.

      Reply
    5. Liz

      So true Eric, every site that goes up in the US at least has to have a privacy policy, I am in calif even has more rules. I have checked out patterns for privacy policies, some are free and others pay, but you have to be so careful and there are rules to follow.

      Thanks so much about this lesson.

      Liz

      Reply
    6. Thomas

      Your article comes at a very appropriate time for me, thank you for all of your tips.
      None of us think that it will ever happen to us, but the cold hard fact is that we now live in a sue happy society and it is important to CYA. (cover your A–) Thank You Eric, I will.

      Reply
    7. Liz

      Another site I follow, I hope it doesn’t get this statement ejected. its IM30daychallenge.com ran by Gina Guadio Graves who was practicing law when he life turned to the internet. Do you know of her story, excellent material. I have not spent enough time there yet but plan to. Along with yours I feel very secure,

      Thanks again
      Liz

      Reply
    8. Dan Pueppke

      Hi Eric,

      I thought that I remembered an additional resource for this type of thing on the FTC site. Well, it turns out that this old brain misremembered. What I had found before was actually the site http://www.dmaresponsibility.org/ , they have many useful resources there. Yes, including a few privacy policy generators. As always, verify your source and the applicability to your situation.

      I hope that this information will help someone and I thank you for your thoughts on this subject. What many of us do not realize upon entering this business is that we can not put the genie back into the bottle once he has escaped into the Internet. Documents placed on the Internet live on in infamy and we can not retract that indexed… at least not easily. Ask any college grad with a crazy Myspace page.

      The whole point of the lesson is thus: Do Your Due Diligence!

      God Bless,
      Dan Pueppke

      Reply
    9. Luca

      Hi Eric,
      When I first started my blog I came across a plugin to create a privacy policy page. I had totally forgoten about it until your video. I’ve seen it on few sites though. I’m starting to get more traffic now so this is a timely post. I see that you have a link for privacy and earnings disclaimer in your footer. I’m not comfortable with changing template code. Is there an easy way to do that or a resource you can recommend?
      Or is it better to create a page?
      Thanks Eric

      Reply
    10. Eric Post author

      Yup, California has some extra rules, and since we may have customers/subscribers in CA, we should comply with CA rules also.

      Reply
    11. Eric Post author

      This reminds me… Eric Giguere has a privacy plugin for WordPress blogs… specifically made for WP sites that are using AdSense:

      http://www.synclastic.com/plugins/privacy-policy/

      as far as putting link(s) in the footer… It’s really easy. Just find your footer.php file in your WordPress theme. And add the links to it just like you would add them to any HTML page.

      It’s a super easy job, so you could probably find someone to do it for $5 on a forum or rentacoder.

      Reply
    12. Craigslist Search

      Wow. I really wish I had this information 3 months ago when I started my website. As somebody here already said, this is the eye opener. Thank you for the valuable info

      Reply
    13. Mike Russell

      I’ve got X-Site Pro and am considering using it to upgrade one, or more of my sites. The application generates some legal pages; are these valid?

      Reply
    14. Dora

      Eric, what about the scum who cheated me of $3,500/- by telling lies about a product that would generate $6,000 weekly? Would the FTC help me get back a refund if I send emails of his lies as proof? Whoever heard of a product with only threee days guarantee?

      Reply
    15. Pat

      I like your articles and tips, in fact I have now put up a privacy policy, website usage policy and copy right policies.

      Reply
    16. DANIEL

      yehforgames and power leveling

      Reply
    17. Scott

      Eric, Just wanted to add another resource to your list. Prepaid Legal is bringing high powered. Highly reputable attourneys within reach of the ordinary people
      J
      J

      Reply
    18. Eric Post author

      That’s a good question. I am assuming they are valid, but the question is whether they are inclusive of all the up-to-date verbage, and whether they are appropriate for your particular business.

      I would be interested what X-site would say about it.

      Reply
    19. Eric Post author

      It could be hard to get your money back, but it might be worth a try. First, you better be sure it is truly a scam and not just a “bad deal”. Because accusing someone of a scam can be an offense in itself if its not justified.

      Before opening up that can of worms, I would probably get in touch with the vendor and give them ample opportunity to give you a refund before you go public with it to the FTC, etc.

      And yes if you do pursue any kind of a case, you can use every email he sent as evidence.

      Reply
    20. Elaine

      Eric, great resources as always! I’d like to add another.

      For those of you marketers who believe “content is king” be sure to check American University’s Center for Social Media at this link: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/

      You’ll get a quick education on copyright law as it applies to text and even video creation on the internet.

      Reply
    21. Carl Street

      Eric is 100%+ Right on this. Be VERY careful of CAN-SPAM violations.

      Recently the FTC has gone into high gear and the penalties are ENORMOUS — $1,000 per violation — each email is considered a separate violation — if you send out 50 improper unsolicited emails you can be on the hook for $50,000. Since this is a criminal violation you CANNOT go bankrupt on it.

      BTW, under the Homeland Security Act ISP’s are now required to maintain auditable records of all emails indenfinitely. IF you sent out unsolicited emails say 3 years ago you are NOT out of the woods — FTC auditors can visit you and write violation tickets for emails you cannot even remember sending — they have up to SEVEN YEARS to do so.

      If you think they are only chasing the BIG violators you are WRONG — go to their website and see who they are prosecuting — it will give you religion, RIGHT NOW!

      Reply
    22. Gar Pettit

      Hi Eric,
      Really glad this lesson came up…working at the hospital tonight so can’t view the video until I’m home(the main points look great though with a lot of links and choices).I’ll diffently have to make this a priority since I have a couple sites up.Thanks again.

      PS: BTW…I enjoy following you on twitter with the occasional pics you post!
      🙂
      160 Websites with Your Paypal Payment ID on Each

      Reply
    23. Ryan

      Eric, I’ve been following this seiries since the day one and I’ve picked up a lot of tips and ideas. This topic is one of the most important step that I didn’t really give it much thought. It’s better to take steps to protect yourself or somebody above said “CYA”.

      Thanks for taking the time to give us your guidance and sharing your experiences. It’s WAY better than some $497 home-study course I’ve seen being pitched out there.

      Cheers,
      Ryan

      Reply
    24. Gord

      I wouldn`t trust PrePaid Legal I used them and I got used from them and lost 2700.00 in a legal disbute with a customer I`d check out the Lawyer they refer you to. That`s why I went and got a private Lawyer that way the big corp don`t take you for your money

      Reply
    25. Mel

      Hi Eric,
      The info in this lesson is invaluable. I’m glad that you mentioned FTC implications for people outside of the US, because I was wondering how useful it would be to look at US info. When I started out, I called our gov authorities (inquiring about GST with the tax office in particular) and got passed from pillar to post with no one knowing about any laws in regards to internet marketing. They kept saying that I would have to pay export duty on an ebook! So I think the websites that you have given will be very helpful.
      As far as I’m aware, trademarks are registered per country? So as an internet marketer it might pay to look at trademarks in other contries.

      Reply
    26. N.Vaidyanathan

      Hi Eric,

      Your lesson on legal technicalities is really an eye opener for internet marketers who might enter danger zones unknowingly. It is helpful an for people who are interested in safe online business and protect them legally.

      Reply
    27. matt e

      hi eric, great stuff here. I di da lot of research into things on the various gov’t websites, and anyone who hasn’t should. you would be amazed at little things that you have to do, or have to do a certain way that msot would not consider.(such as the ftc stating that your terms and privacy policy should be in plain english, as too much legal jargon can hurt you because no one can understand it.

      Reply
    28. Pete Moring

      Eric, it’s a shame, but I think you must’ve changed your video production software or methods as you last few video’s are just ‘SUCKING’ so much juice that the video’s shut down before they’re finished.

      Dave Guindon’s video’s do the same. Have you switched to ‘his’ preferred method? 🙂

      I’ve gone back to your earlier video’s and no problems. Hmmmm?

      Cheers, Pete.

      Reply
    29. Chris

      Hi Eric,

      I need your advice,

      I bought the product on 21 Apr 09 and I found out the product is not suit me therefore I ask for the REFUND which is on 19 June 09. The product has a 60 days money back guarantee which in their sale letter. Am I still eligible to claim the REFUND? If yes, how? But they REFUSED to REFUND back my money back and claim that I already exceed the days. So what am I going to do?

      Please forward the your advise to my email. Thanks.

      Reply
    30. Michiel Van Kets

      Making us more aware of the legal obligations can never be bad. So much focus is on how to get yourself out there that sometimes people forget to make sure that what they have out there is ok. Thanks for the info gives us all a chance to rethink what we have on offer!

      Reply
    31. Paul Counts

      Great job Eric! I was shocked when I realized how quickly my business could be taken away if I didn’t protect myself legally. I personally use Website Legal Forms Generator and absolutely love it! I appreciate how you always keep your subscribers updated on things like this.

      Take care,

      Paul

      Reply
    32. Romson

      Wow thats scary, never knew the FTC can go after ppl living outside the US.

      Reply
    33. Eric Post author

      Yes some countries have their own trademark registries. But I still think the USPTO is the most important one the check, because holders of US trademarks are mre likely to enforce their trademarks. While I’m sure it happens, I have not heard any stories about non-US trademark holders enforcing their trademarks internationally.

      Reply
    34. Eric Post author

      hi Pete,

      I’m basically using the same video settings in Camtasia that I’ve been using for all the lessons. The only thing that has changed is I started using a different player, and my videos are even more compressed… the files are small, so they should not be too demanding on your computer.

      Have you tried the stuff on this page?

      http://www.ericstips.com/trouble-viewing-flash-videos/

      Reply
    35. Eric Post author

      Well technically June 19th would have been the 60th day… so that’s a tough call. I think it could be difficult to get your money back. If it was a Clickbank product, you could try contacting Clickbank directly and see if they are able to make an exception for you.

      Reply
    36. Angelina

      Very practical advice, Eric. And thanks a lot for the free resources. Hope I won’t be needing a lawywer save for the legal documents…

      Reply
    37. stan

      Eric,
      while reading one of your old posts, I came across: adspy pro. That was 2 yrs old post.

      Now do you still recommend or not?
      Now we have plethora of these eg. ppcbully and GCD 2.0 but very expensive side.

      Thanks.

      Reply
    38. Michaela

      Eric please give me one more time the affiliate link for Traiding Pro System, I know you give it to us but I don’t know where it is
      Thanks
      Michaela

      Reply
    39. Mark

      I came across someone who provides legal help and there sight is called Auto Web Law. It is by Len Thurmond. Does anyone have any experience with them. I could not find any adverse opinions on web searches.

      Thanks in advance for any help.

      Mark

      Reply
    40. Eric Post author

      I did research that product during my studies for this lesson. Len is a friend of mine, so I was hoping to recommend it. But what I found is that it was not as up-to-date as the other solutions I mentioned, particularly Mike Young’s Legal Forms Generator which is a similar price.

      Reply
    41. Carl

      Thanks for the info Eric. I was thinking about this while creating a site for a make money niche.

      The $97 sure is cheap, compared to possibly getting fined $1,000+.

      By the way, did you already do a lesson on bookkeeping and accounting?

      Thanks

      Carl

      Reply
    42. Joanne

      THANK YOU! This was great. In fact I was going to spend today putting a ppc campaing together for my website, but instead, I’m going to spend some time making sure “I’m legal” before I send more traffic.

      Thanks so much for all your great info Eric!

      Reply
    43. Jan

      Hi Eric!

      As always…very good content!

      I do have a question on a different subject, however. Yesterday, after taking advantage and donating to your friend, Dani’s family need, I never got the “Fire Sale” link to receive the products (maybe it’s because I had to get off the site at that moment!!)I’d so appreciate your help with this situation!!

      Thanks and God Bless You!
      Jan

      Reply
    44. Eric Post author

      just emailed it to you. If you need any help with it, please email Dani.

      Reply
    45. Eric Post author

      thanks. no I haven’t covered bookkeeping yet, but that’s a good idea 😉

      Reply

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