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Issues in Web Contracts

Web contracts come in many shapes and sizes.

Types of Contract

First, be careful to identify closely precisely what contract you require. It is too easy to say I want a contract for a web site, without recognising that there are a wide range of people involved, each with different interests, and connections with others. Web contracts vary with the people and situation involved.

Running a business on the web raises a number of Internet specific legal issues. This note outlines the key elements that should be considered when seeking legal protection for your web-based business.

Infrastructure protection

Consider web site development contract - Your web site can be regarded as your virtual premises and needs to be built on solid foundations. The web design/development contract should be carefully looked at to ensure that it makes you the owner of the site.

Consider web site hosting services contract - One of the beauties of the Internet is that it is open 24 hours a day and all days of the year. The hosting contract must include the right levels of availability and performance.

Consider e-commerce software contracts - To complement a basic web site, you will need to license software that will run key features, such as banner ads and online payment facilities. These licences must be reviewed to ensure that you can demand the functionality that your business requires.

Register relevant domain names and trade marks - With the number of web sites growing every day, it is difficult to be found if you do not have the right name. An early domain name and trade mark registration will allow you to rely on your brand.

Content protection

Ensure ownership of intellectual property rights in commissioned materials - If you are commissioning someone to create content for your site, either text or audio-visual materials, the law will automatically grant that person ownership in that content. However, you can reverse this process contractually.

Obtain clearance of rights in existing materials - If you are using or linking to content previously created, you may need to request permission to do so.

Disclaim liability for content - Disclaimers are no substitute for sensible business practice, but may assist you avoid unlimited liability.

Make sure that you are clear as to the area in which you wish to trade. If you have no intention of doing business outside the UK, then say so.

Regulatory protection

Ensure compliance with data protection law - The UK has one of the strictest data protection laws in the world. Complying with the law and having a Privacy Policy is the only way to exploit your highly valued customer database.

Ensure compliance with industry specific regulations - Certain activities, such as the provision of financial services and telecomm or the running of competitions and lotteries, are bound by specific regulations that apply online in the same way that apply offline.

Customer relations protection

Draft suitable Terms & Conditions - Selling your products or services is what doing business is all about. Therefore, getting the right contractual arrangements in place with your customers is a vital concern.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/intWebContractIssues.shtml 252 18 October 2013