Although not the most fun or glamorous part of web design, before the launch of a new website, every business or organisation should look at whether the terms and conditions (T&C) that they have on the site fully define the relationship between their business and the end user. There are a number of important practical and legal reasons why.
Protecting Intellectual Property
Website T&C are essential for establishing ownership rights to the content of the website and setting out whether and how that content can be reused. In a world where site owners want valuable content to be shared on social media to bring new visitors, clear lines must be drawn that remind the sharer that the copyright to the material remains the property of the business.
You can include an intellectual property clause that informs users that you own the content on your website unless otherwise indicated. In asserting your rights to it, you allow it to be protected by international copyright law. Your IP is likely to include not just the words on the pages and pictures, but also your logo, your page design and unique aspects of how your site functions.
Here is an example of what this kind of clause would look like:
“The Site and its original content, features, and functionality are owned by [Owner of Website] and are protected by international copyright, trademark, [patent], trade secret, and other intellectual property or proprietary rights laws.”
Cover Your Back
Often the terms and conditions on a website represent the only agreement between the website operator and the end user. Therefore, they need to address all the significant risks that could arise from use.
These would include limitations of liability of the site owner in in connection with the operation of the site and consumption of the content, and any applicable age restrictions. If the site is an e-commerce store, contractual matters for transactions such as payment and delivery terms, and the refund policy should be included.
Be Specific As To How Your Website Operates
There is no one size fits all template when creating a Terms and Conditions page. The specific terms that you need will based on your particular industry, business model, and how visitors interact with your business. Since many aspects of your business are likely to be different to those of your competitors, so are your T&C. So you shouldn’t blindly copy your terms from another website. Even if you’re using the conditions of a similar business as the basis for your own, mistakenly including a minor point that doesn’t reflect how you work could cause problems down the line.
It is highly recommended that you consult legal counsel when drafting your final terms. A professional lawyer can help ensure that your finalised terms protect your business fully from any possible future contingencies. Keep in mind: no one knows your business like you do, so work closely with your counsel for the best possible results.
Set The Governing Law
The Governing Law clause of the terms refers to the jurisdiction that applies to the terms of the agreements – the one in which you will pursue for damages. It is important because your visitors are likely to be from all over the world.
For example, if your website or company was operated out of California, your Governing Law clause might look like:
“These terms and conditions are governed by the laws of the United States of America and the laws of the State of New York.”
Placement Of Terms
The most common and appropriate place to display your website’s terms is a separate page solely dedicated for this purpose. This creates an easy to find the area of your website that clearly explains usage, liability, and commercial responsibility to your readers. Make the terms and conditions easy to read by using proper page format, and formatting text in bold or italics to identify especially sensitive segments.