December 11, 2019
While crafting your new website, it’s easy to expend all your creative energy on sleek design, key messaging and engaging copy, and forget the legal fine print – your website terms and conditions
Legally speaking, while most businesses have them, you’re not obligated to define your websites’ terms and conditions. However, laying out the ground rules on how to use your website limits your liability, establishes ownership of your content and allows you to set governing laws – among other clauses that protect you from preventable lawsuits.
When faced with lawsuits pertaining to your website, you’ll rely on these clauses to protect your business. So, you have to ensure they’re thorough, accurate and can hold up against scrutiny in court.
3 Reasons why you need a website terms and conditions
It’s important to make the distinction between terms and conditions and privacy policies. While the former isn’t legally required but highly recommended, the latter must be clearly stated on your website if you’re gathering user’s data.
1. To limit your liability
The limitation of liability clause in your terms of service sets out the conditions under which your business could be held responsible for damages, and to what extent.
At the very least, you need to clarify that you can’t be liable for errors in your website’s content with a basic disclaimer. Essentially this means that you cannot be held responsible for mistakes in your content and that the information provided does not take in the personal circumstances of any user, and the information is not a substitute for professional advice – unless the intention of your content is to do so.
It’s crucial that your websites’ terms and conditions include an air-tight limitation of liability clause. This lowers the chances of being hit by unexpected legal issues in the future and curbs the possibility of costly outcomes should they arise.
2. To establish ownership of your content
In the pre-digital era, the only people who needed to worry about protecting their original creative works were artists, musicians, writers and others in that line of work. Now, most businesses own websites and with that comes a raft of creative work ripe for infringement. This leaves material published online such as logos, blogs and even mission statements vulnerable to theft.
Websites and their contents are inherently protected as long as the work is original, but it’s almost impossible to prevent copyright infringement. Despite the blanket illegality of copyright violations, it’s tough to prosecute culprits. This doesn’t mean that including this copyright clause in your terms and conditions is a pointless exercise. Including this clause increases your chances of winning a court case, which means you could recuperate statutory damages and legal fees should you succeed.
3. To set your governing law
The governing law clause in your websites’ terms and conditions lets you declare which rules and laws will govern the agreement if legal issues arise.
With the Microsoft Partner Network’s (MPN) global reach, companies from all over the world work together, which gives the governing law clause more importance. If you’re a UK based ISP only dealing with UK businesses, then the same laws are naturally applied to both parties. But this scenario is highly unlikely, especially in the MPN, where many businesses are located in the United States, and many more all over the globe.
If a person or business from New Zealand wants to sue you over an issue pertaining to your website, then the question of which nations law applies need to be answered. The governing law clause declares which takes precedence – likely the country your business resides in. If you’re a US-based business, where laws differ state to state, you may need to consider this too. However, you cannot choose any location. The clause needs to declare a location where one of the parties – your business or lawsuit bringer – is located.
Protect your business with Law 365
Website terms and conditions may not be a legal requirement, but they are a business requirement if you want to protect yourself from unexpected – and preventable – lawsuits. Often called out in the media for the lack of attention readers pay to them before hitting ‘I agree’, the legal fine print could be the difference between peace of mind and a costly legal battle.
As a modern law firm specialising in the MPN, the team here at Law 365 will apply their insider-level knowledge and ensure that your website terms and conditions are airtight. We can help you understand how to protect yourself and your clients with ease. Whether you’d prefer to pay a one-off fee, a subscription or our template service – we have you covered.
To learn more about how Law 365 can protect your business and help you thrive in this modern digital age, then book a free, no-obligation call with us today