Is Your Website Breaking the Law?
Shortly before the British discovered what black tea was, the Chinese were looking to expand their trade into new territory. With that expansion came a blending of cultures and the British discovered tea. Today it seems fairly harmless, but the implications for history were broad sweeping. For years to come, Britain’s consumption and dominance of tea would help grow its industry and expand trade possibilities. In effect, intellectual property theft helped build the British empire.
Whether you build, or you hire someone else to do it, by owning a website you open yourself up to a number of liabilities. Every business venture has its risk, but how well you know intellectual property law can actually affect the startup costs of your business.
Take services like iTunes or Amazon as an example: consumers can purchase content, but behind-the-scenes licensing agreements determine what can be sold and how much profit changes hands. Without those agreements, services like Grooveshark are breaking the law when they distribute music.
But, time and again, it has been proven that the one with the most legal resources often wins the copyright battle. So for a company just starting up, how can you possibly avoid some of the pitfalls that lead to legal troubles down the way?
Keep Your Design Unique
If you’re using snippets of code to create your website, or to add functionality like a shopping cart, make sure that you’re allowed to use those snippets for commercial purposes. If you borrow too much from existing web properties, you could be opening yourself up to litigation.
Use snippets to help you understand how code works, then build your own version. If you’re not heavily code savvy, hire a developer to adapt the idea for you. It’s better to pay for your unique version of something than to pay to defend your right to use something in court.
Even your color scheme can be part of an intellectual property suit. The best thing you can do is to come up with your own ideas. Everyone is inspired by something, and it’s ok to borrow ideas when you are first starting off. Just be ready to tailor your messaging to fit your exact product. Run frequent testing so that you are building off of concepts that work instead of stealing from them.
Pay Attention to Copyrights
Pictures and code are two of the easiest ways to get caught using IP illegally. It might seem like a fast fix to grab an image from Google images, but when your landing page has to go down for a day because someone hit you with a DMCA takedown notice, you won’t be feeling very smart.
Getty Images and Flickr both make it easy to find royalty free footage online. Getty uses more stock footage that is fairly generic, but Flickr actually has lots of creative-commons licensed work that fits a variety of styles.
Account for Lawsuits
When approaching investors, include risks in your business plan that are realistic. When Aereo approached investors, the company knew the potential risks involved with bringing television to consumers. Investor’s aren’t just there to give money.
In the case of a private investment firm like Hamptons Group LLC, managing director Jeff Bartel and his experience with Florida Power may be valuable in negotiating contacts in the city. Draw on that kind of expertise as you grow.
In most cases, you can solve these problems with a simple email to save time in legal expenditures.
Amanda is an online writer who is always looking for new topics and places to write. She normally writes about business, personal finance, and marketing for sites across the web including paidtwice.com. When Amanda is not working on a business post she is usually writing about pets or eco-friendly, two of her favorite subjects!
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