Legal Advice for Your Business Life

by Sandra L. Cohen

(Excerpted with permission from  Jersey Women Mean Business! Big Bold Business Advice from New Jersey Women Business Owners: Practical Pointers, Solutions, and Strategies for Business Success)

Even though you might not think of yourself as a risk taker, the fact that you own a business proves otherwise. In fact, running your own business may be your dream come true. Although there are many things you can do to keep your dream alive and reduce your risks, consider the following four, and take the necessary steps to protect your business.

Who Owns Your Website?

One of the first things many businesses do is create a website. While this is usually an easy decision—call a Web master and have the website developed, designed, and loaded—there are issues to address with your Web developer and/or designer.

1.  First, be sure that you own all code or software, or have a license to use it.   Just because you pay for the design and development does not mean you own the product. Make sure you have a written agreement transferring the ownership of the website and every facet (code, graphics, text, designs, etc.) of it to you. If the developer cannot transfer ownership of the software, be sure you have a license to use it. If you need passwords to access the code, then get them from the developer and/or designer, and test them to make sure they work. Otherwise, if you want to change something on your website, you will have to call the developer or the designer. What will you do if you can’t find him or her?

2.  Second, have your Web developer and/or designer transfer and assign all copyright ownership to you, and state that he or she is not using someone else’s materials (photographs, copy, music, etc.). It is very easy for developers/ designers to obtain information, design, graphics, or text, then copy it and post it to your site. Without assurance that the material is original work, you run the risk of copyright infringement on another’s work. To keep your business up and running, make sure you own your website and all of its parts.

3.  Third, post the specific terms and conditions that apply to your website. For example, specify the permitted uses of the site and your ownership of the website; state that the user is responsible for all activities under his or her password, whether authorized or not. Since each business is a little different, terms of use may need to be customized and may need to comply with certain laws or guidelines in order to protect you and your business. Have 22 users agree to your terms and conditions by requiring them to click an “I accept” button or a box that contains the terms and conditions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Sandra L. Cohen, Esq., is an attorney and partner at Epstein Cohen & Gilberti, LLC, in Red Bank, New Jersey.  You can contact Sandra by phone at 732-212-0400 or at  cohen@ecg-law.com.  Sandra is also a contributing author to the book, Jersey Women Mean Business! Big Bold Business Advice from New Jersey Women Business Owners: Practical Pointers, Solutions, and Strategies for Business Success.