What Are the Legal Issues That Entrepreneurs Should Avoid When Making Their Business Web Site Originating your own brand has never been a battle meant to be fought with only one tool. The influence of the internet is prominent and it provides an essential standard platform to promote, endorse, and carry out business. Make sure you are responsive of the legal considerations drawn in with the formation of a web site.

By Danesh Mehta

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As an entrepreneur you may create a business web site for several reasons. You may wish to sell products, provide information or just endorse your services. However, you must keep the following points in mind when making a website to avoid legal issues in the future.

Using Deceptively Similar Website Names and/or Taglines of Other Businesses

To market yourself, you cannot use an already established business' name or tagline to direct customer traffic to your web site. Not only is this unfair, but it is also illegal. At times entrepreneurs consider it a shortcut to use a famous competitor's web site name with a trivial spelling difference to trick customers into visiting their web site and buying their products. Every brand has their own intellectual property and it would be better to avoid such clash.

Drafting the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

You will notice that most web sites have a "Terms of Service' and "Privacy Policy' webpage. The Terms of Service (also called "Terms of Use' or "Terms and Conditions') deals with the legalities of the web site. They contain the intellectual properties held by the business, disclaimers, warranties and liability of the business. Essentially the Terms of Service is a contract to which the user/site visitor has agreed to in order to use the web site.

A Privacy Policy, on the other hand, deals with what happens to the information provided by the customer to the web site. Many web sites collect customer data either when the customer manually or automatically penetrates on it when the customer browses the web site. Information of the user may be collected by click stream data, cookies, web server logs and other similar methods. This information, in turn, can be used by entrepreneurs to understand the demographics of the users who visit their company's web page. It is the entrepreneur's duty to inform their users that they are collecting such data and it is also their duty to secure the data that they collect. If at all the web site is hacked and the user's data is altered, it can pilot to serious legal implications on the company. All web sites must have a "Terms of Service' and "Privacy Policy' to safeguard them against legal issues which may arise from using the website.

Fake Reviews

Having good customer reviews online is extremely helpful for any entrepreneur. However, at times, companies create fake profiles to post good reviews. If these practices become known to the public, it could lead to more than just an embarrassment for the company. A company can not only lose brand image but can also be sued for fraud and falsification.

Badmouthing Your Competitors

You will not see a web site that would directly name a competitor's product and call it inferior to their own. This is known as comparative advertising and is not strictly legal in India. Names of competing products cannot be used to show how your product is better. Essentially you can say your products or services are better than your competitors but cannot say that your competitor's products or services are bad. There are many courts that have laid down guidelines on comparative advertising.

Using Words like "First Product Ever' and "Only One in the World'

Since entrepreneurs are so passionate about their business they may sometimes get carried away when marketing their product or services. Using words like "first product ever' or "No. 1 product used in India' without being backing any facts or statistics sums to misrepresentation. If a customer genuinely believes that the product is first of its kind on what is written on the web site and then realizes that it is not true then the customer may feel cheated that they were fooled into buying it. Therefore, businesses must be very careful when they provide descriptions of their products and the way they promote their venture.

Using Third Party Pictures on Your Web Site

Many web sites have pictures to make it more attractive. If an entrepreneur decides to put up a picture of some building, car or people on their web site, they would probably just go on the internet and download an image or two and use them. The problem here is that those pictures are probably owned by someone else. In other words, if you use those pictures, you may be sued for copyright infringement. It is always better to put up only original pictures and photographs.

Using Customer's Pictures to Market Your Product

You must be careful when you upload pictures of your customers that show them using your product. The same should be done only after taking their permission. The picture should not violate their right to privacy. The same goes for celebrities. If you happen to get a picture of a celebrity using your product, you must first seek their permission before uploading the photo. Celebrities charge money when they act in advertisements, tweet about products or display them in their Instagram stories. With legal fees and settlement costs, you may as well have paid them to advertise your product in the first place.

A business web site is a necessity in today's day and age. Following the points listed above would help you avoid legal hassles in the times to come.

Danesh Mehta

M Mulla Associates, Advocates & Solicitors

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