As specialists in UK internet and technology law, we offer expertise in everything to do with the internet, including domain names and internet related contracts.
When trading online your brand name (and logo) will be one of your most important assets, and it pays to check that you have full rights to use it. A brand name is how you protect the growing goodwill in your name, and protecting it at an early stage with a trademark is highly recommended. Similarly, be sure to look at our domain pages linked on the left for information about the relevance of domain names to a brand.
If people cannot find you on the web, this is potentially a lost sale, and if your clients are diverted to a site operated by someone who is using your brand name, or something very similar to it, then in addition to a potential lost sale, your brand name may be diluted and its reputation damaged. If you have a distinctive name it will be easier to protect your brand online.
Consequently we advise on all issues concerning domain names, domain disputes, and trademark registration.
It is important when a website is commissioned, to ensure you check the contract for the design, development and hosting of your website. Contracts come about orally, and not just if you sign something. Oral contracts will generally be to your disadvantage, and could lead to messy disputes.
The consequences of not owning copyright in the design of your own website, or having an adequate licence to use it, can be disastrous for a business that wants to sell or move its site. As the internet is global it is also important to be aware that consequences may flow in other countries due to the information included or not included on your website.
More than half of company websites fail to comply with the law by omitting information required by the Distance Selling Regulations. If you are one of these, then when it comes to enforcing your contracts you will find that the cooling off period has been extended 3 months as a result of your failure to comply with the law. Other consequences are that you will not:
- Be able to sell data collected on your website if you do not comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act
- Be protected abroad because you do not have terms of business, or they are inadequate to protect you.
- Avoid the risk of being sued in defamation
- Be in charge of the company formation process.
These are just some of the ways in which we can help.
The internet brings huge benefits and marketing opportunities to businesses which far outweigh any legal risks. Nevertheless, there are a few pitfalls to be aware of. As it is much cheaper and simpler to prevent problems than to cure them, ensure you are complying with the law from the outset and managing the risks when you set up an online presence.
Points to be alert to:
- Checking out trademark rights in any domain names you are going to be using for your site.
- Common misconceptions about copyright when writing content. Beware there is software on the web that enables site owners to detect if you have copied their content.
- Information you may need to put on your site, such as terms of site use, disclaimers, privacy policies, copyright notice, links policy, terms of business. Getting clearances from anyone whose work you may be using on your website, such as musicians, photographers, illustrators.
- Steps you can take to protect your designs.
- Using hypertext links and link agreements.
- The importance of having more extensive terms of business if you are going to be contracting online - every selling situation varies, so it is advisable to talk through your selling proposals with lawyers, and ensure their advice is fed through to the people developing your site.
- Distance selling, marketing and advertising regulations you should be aware of.
- As websites are accessible worldwide, ensure that English law and court jurisdiction prevails. In international law it is recognised that contract clauses may specify which laws apply to a contract, and which country's courts have jurisdiction over disputes.
Copying from other websites
If you have a website, take care what you copy from other sites. Often newcomers to the internet freely copy and paste from other websites, whether there is a copyright notice on the site or not, but particularly if there is no copyright notice because they assume they can use any work they like on the internet, or that the lack of a copyright notice means that the work is in the public domain.
How to get permission to use content of other sites
But be careful
However, do remember to ask where they got the content from, to make sure they have the right to give you permission to use the material. For example, if a copywriter produced the entire text for them, then the copywriter will own the copyright, and is the appropriate person to approach. Alternatively, the copywriter may be joint owner of the copyright, in which case both the site owner and the copywriter would need to give you consent to use the material. So, further probing is necessary.
Are you having a new website created for you?
Are you about to start selling something online?
Has your website designer failed to produce the website you asked for?
Do you need help in buying less commonly available domain names?
Do you need a contract drafted to trade online?
Are you engaging the services of an adwords or search engine optimisation specialist?
For these and countless other internet related matters, contract us for a preliminary free chat.