How to Protect Your Business from Your WEBSITE©
By E. Audrey Glover-Dichter
As professionals, we have strict rules regarding advertising. For attorneys, such rules depend on the state(s) in which you are licensed. The bottom line, all states require specific language to be used on marketing assets, particularly on websites.
Just because you may be compliant with your bar rules, it does not necessarily mean that you are automatically compliant with federal and state ad laws.
If you have a website, you are marketing nationally and internationally. Hence, you have to be legally compliant with federal, state and local advertising laws as well.
Federal Law – Federal Agencies:
Did you know that your website must be legally compliant before launching publicly per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)? Yes, FTC Truth in Advertising laws and regulations apply to all businesses regardless of location, product/service, size or revenue.
Most federal agencies, if not all, actually have their own advertising rules, which may apply depending on products or services offered. Technically, you may be required to meet the advertising rules of multiple federal agencies simultaneously.
All states have their own advertising laws and regulations as well. Needless to say, you are required to be legally compliant with those as well.
Because ad laws could vary from state to state, how could you be compliant with all states? There are different ways to tackle such differences such as using disclaimers and/or disclosures as necessary.
Since it is difficult limiting the extent of your website’s reach, Privacy laws are applicable. The main question is which privacy law(s) apply to your website.
The answer is dependent on your target market as well. The level of compliance ranges on how much Personal Identifiable Information (PII) your website collects and for what purpose. The USA does not have one general federal law like GDPR, but there are several federal statutes that address privacy issues for different industries. Because we do not have a federal general privacy law, states are enacting their own.
Intellectual Property (IP) Law
Websites also raise a slew of IP issues. Legal questions arise when using images, videos, etc on your website. One of the usual questions is licensing, and the right type of licensing to use protected materials. Lack of having the correct licensing leads to infringement lawsuits.
Another important question is do you have IP that needs to be protected. If yes, then it is imperative to file for protection before launching your marketing publicly.
ADA Online Compliance
There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding ADA online compliance. It seems that depending in what federal circuit you may be in, depends how the ADA applies to your website. Having said that, because the ADA is federal law, apparently it does not prevent lawsuits being filed in ADA friendly jurisdictions regardless of where the business defendant is located.
To be legally ADA online compliant requires technology talent on the backend of your website. Your website compliance is reliant on proper coding and it takes time.
Having a website raises plenty of legal compliance issues. As the business owner, you are responsible for everything on your website, right or wrong. The biggest question as business owners is how much risk can your business tolerate? Websites require time, technology, and legal compliance.
The days of plug it and forget it for websites are long gone! If you consistently update your website content, it needs to be legally compliant as stated above.
As an attorney practicing ad law, I can honestly say that it is less expensive to be legally compliant. Having to answer Warning Letters from federal agencies, state agencies, challenges from self regulatory bodies, or worse, defending lawsuits is very costly.
Any questions? Lets talk, https://calendly.com/audrey-advertisinglaw/15min