What Your Website Is Missing – The Legal Stuff

When you create a new website or have one designed for you, the last thing you’re likely to think of is legalities. Let’s face it; most personal websites don’t have disclaimers, copyright notices and privacy policies and many overlook this as part of a website design strategy. What’s even worse is when someone you’ve paid to design your site also doesn’t have a clue and is experimenting at your expense, literally. All it takes is a few episodes of court TV and the recurrent, “Did you put it in writing?!” theme to remind us how important it is to set forth how the content on our websites may be used and how data might be collected.

While I don’t have a legal background, the good news is you don’t have to either. For most of us who are not selling products or posting original lyrics and such on our websites a basic copyright notice and usage disclaimer is all that’s needed and these can be found on several free legal sites that provide access to their templates under a Creative Commons license. Below are some of the most common templates you should be using on sites you own or design and a short description of how they should be used from Freenetlaw. Click the headings to access the templates! You’re welcome.

Copyright Notice

A copyright notice is principally intended to assist with assertions of copyright infringement. Historically, a copyright notice could be a prerequisite of copyright protection. This is no longer the case (at least in the most significant jurisdictions). Nonetheless, a notice will help in educating potential copyright infringers, and may make it harder to rely upon an innocent infringement defense.

The free copyright notice covers the following:

  • Ownership of copyright
  • Copyright license
  • Data mining
  • Permissions
  • Enforcement of copyright
  • Infringing material
  • This copyright notice

Privacy Statement

Most websites collect personal information. Personal information may be collected by simple means such as a website form, or through more sophisticated means such as tracking cookies. Some kinds of websites – notably social networking websites and websites with social networking features – collect and process huge amounts of personal information.

EU data protection law and US data privacy law (and similar laws in other jurisdictions) protect individuals from the misuse of their personal information. These laws regulate the collection of data, the storage of data, the use of data, the cross-border transfer of data and the disposal of data. The purpose of a website privacy statement is to help website owners with the the disclosure requirements of data protection and data privacy laws.

The free privacy statement covers the following:

  • Personal information collection
  • Using personal information
  • Securing your data
  • Cross-border data transfers
  • Updating this statement
  • Other websites
  • Contact
  • This privacy statement

Website Disclaimer

The primary purpose of a website disclaimer is to limit or attempt to limit the liabilities that a website owner or publisher may suffer arising out of the website. Examples of the kinds of liability that we publishers must contend with include libel/defamation, copyright infringement and breach of privacy. Most legal systems strictly control the effects of limitations and exclusions of liability. For this reason you should take local legal advice if you believe you may have to rely upon the limits of liability in our free website disclaimer document.

The free website disclaimer covers the following:

  • No warranties
  • Limitations of liability
  • Exceptions
  • Reasonableness
  • Other parties
  • Unenforceable provisions
  • This website disclaimer

There are several other free disclaimers for your site over at Freenetlaw such as medical and legal disclaimers but for the general audience, the ones here are a good place to start. It takes only about an hour to update the free templates, place a link in your website header or footer and post so why not get this done today?

Don’t have time? I’d be glad to help you out. Contact me today!

I welcome your comments! No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner without permission and attribution.

  • Linda Jean Limes Ellis

    Hi. I have a cemetery preservation blog. On my blog I have posts and links to professional gravestone restorer’s and also to gravestone restoration products. I have put together a disclaimer to protect myself so if anyone hires one of the professionals or uses one of the products and experiences a negative result, I am not to blame. I state that I am not necessarily endorsing the professional companies and people or the products but are listing them for the readers to be aware of them. I suggest that everyone checks into their background, etc. first before hiring anyone or using their products.

    My question, is there specific wording that is more proper and legal for stating this type of disclaimer? Thank you.

    • Hi, Linda! I have a feeling you found me from Steve’s link and I appreciate your stopping by. Of course, I need to reiterate that I have no legal background so I can’t dispense such advice. However, I did a quick search and found something that might be the answer to your question.

      My dad is buried at the Veteran’s Cemetary in Long Island, New York, so I went over to their site. They have one section in their website policy that may be just enough for a site like yours. It says:

      “Links to Other Sites
      This Web site provides access to other Web sites outside our control and jurisdiction. When you link to these Web sites, you leave our Web site and your communications no longer are protected by our privacy policies. VA is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of non-VA Web sites. We encourage you to review the privacy policy or terms and conditions of those sites to fully understand what information is collected and how it is used.”

      There is absolutely nothing else said about referencing external links to other sites and if it’s good enough for the federal government, I’d think it’s good enough for your site with a little tweaking to the words. For instance, you might say instead, “This website provides links to other websites which provide products and services outside our control and jurisdiction. We provide these links for informational purposes only and are not necessarily endorsing or recommending…”

      Here are the links: http://www.va.gov/webpolicylinks.asp and http://www.va.gov/privacy/

      I hope that helps you out a bit, Linda. And if you don’t mind, would you share a link to your blog? You never know who might be reading and would like to check it out!

      • Linda Jean Limes Ellis

        Thank you so much for all of your help. I appreciate it very much.

        My blog is: http://www.limesstones.blogspot.com about exploring Ohio’s almost forgotten websites and Ohio cemetery preservation.

  • SLBinPA

    Good basic information. I’ve made a point of creating a Discussion of this with a Link to your Blog in the Genealogy Linked group on Linked IN.
    Many folks in Genealogy have a personal website and could make use of this information.

    Thank You.

    • Thank you so much for the share and the comment (and for the message on LinkedIn). Sometimes it’s the smallest tweaks that make big differences and this is one I hope to see more personal and professional websites implement as a standard.