So, you started an online business. Maybe you already created (or paid someone to create) your very own website. Possibly, you even already have paying clients. You are up and running! Congrats! But wait, is your business legally protected? Is your website legally compliant? I know what you’re thinking: Hmmm…how important is this really? I mean, lawyers are soooo expensive and if you are like most small start ups or entrepreneurs, your budget is tight. The legal stuff can wait til you’re making good money, right? WRONG. As an attorney and a business owner, I had to make these tough calls for myself as well.
Why you need to legally protect your website from the very beginning…
Starting a business is hard. The time, the energy, the sweat, the worry, the stress, the money! All of it adds up. You need legal protection from the very start up of your business to avoid putting in all that effort for nothing. Because, here’s the thing, one seemingly simple legal mistake could cost you your entire business.
If you are like me, you became an entrepreneur partially because you wanted more control. Control over your time, control over your income and control over your life. And I’m here to tell you that having that control is so freeing!
But as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I need to share that there’s one thing still mostly out of your control as a business owner — legal risk and legal consequences. Anyone can be sued at anytime. Businesses are exposed more and in turn, are more susceptible to lawsuits. Additionally, there are a ton of regulations out there that govern business and what a business is permitted or not permitted to do online. No matter how small your business, your website and online presence is still subject to these regulations. Regulations that if violated will subject your business to monetary fines (up to $24 million dollars or 4 times your business’s annual revenue!!!) and maybe even shut down your website. Do I have your attention now?
Before you run for the hills to avoid the lawyer coming at you, there is good news too. With a little planning and a small (but necessary) investment, you can mitigate (lower) your risk of negative legal consequences. There are 3 things you can add to your website TODAY that will act to protect your business, mitigate risk and ensure that you are in compliance with the laws regarding websites. Even better news, you can obtain these 3 things without hiring a lawyer and having to pay those expensive hourly rates. Read on to find out more…
3 Legal Sections for Your Website You Cannot Ignore and Why
Here’s what stands out to me from these regulations…violating the GDPR may subject your business to administrative fines up to $24 million dollars or 4 times your business’s annual revenue. Violating the CalOPPA subjects your business to possible fines ranging from $2500 – $7500 per violation. In addition to these fines, these regulations give private consumers the right to sue your business and seek monetary damages for some violations. I’d say that’s some big risk!
2. Disclaimer: Second on the list of the 3 legal sections you need on your website is the disclaimer. Some people may call this a disclosure. Disclaimer, disclosure. Tomato, Tomahto. Both serve essentially the same purpose – to legally protect you regarding the content you post on your website.
You need a disclaimer to mitigate the risk of someone relying on information found on your website which in turn could result in damage or negative consequences to them. Whether your website content centers on parenting, health and wellness, recipes or fashion, someone, somewhere will likely take your word as the holy grail and rely on it.
Picture this: You run a cooking blog. One of your followers burns themselves while cooking your recipe. Now, it’s very likely this follower incurred a burn due to her own negligence or just happenstance. But she claims she followed your blog to the “t” and if not for the instructions on your blog, she would not have gotten burned. Sound like nonsense? Believe me I’ve seen lawsuits filed over facts even more nonsensical than these. Without a disclaimer, you won’t have much to protect you from the liability that may result. It’s this type of risk that a disclaimer or disclosure is intended to avoid.