How Your Website Can Get You Into Trouble
This Article is a more detialed version of the article produced for the July 2015 issue of Fine Magazine
How your Website can get you into trouble……
A web presence is now essential to the marketing of any business, whether professional of trade, retail or wholesale. Whether you have an expensively designed highly interactive site or a single page placeholder site it’s important to understand the legal implications of your businesses web presence. A Highlight of some of the more dangerous pitfalls is set out below.
The very first consideration:
The regulation of cookies has been with us for some time (The first EU regulation was in 1995) but the requirements have changed following a further EU Regulation in 2011. There is some very good comprehensive guidance on the Information Commissioners Office website at
There are some exceptions but generally:
• You must clearly explain what the cookies do and why.
• You must also get their permission (either directly or because they continue to use the site).
The good news is that for most sites a banner requiring a click to close that informs the visitor about cookies and gives a link to sites policy is normally sufficient. Writing a clear policy requires a good understanding of both your website’s operation and the law on cookies.
Comments, Blogs and Forums
If your site has a section for comments or reviews, if you run a blog or a forum, then you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities. Even if your site isn’t intended to be a blog or to have comment if it was built in wordpress- as many sites are now- the facility will be there and will need to be managed.
The main concerns with allowing others to post on a site you run relate to the content of their posts: users of a forum or blog and people who comment may either;
• Make defamatory remarks about people or companies
• Make racist or other offensive comments
• Incite or encourage people to commit offences
• Incite or encourage hatred or discrimination against protected group.
• Threaten or conspire in terrorist activities
• Harass other users
• Entice children into inappropriate acts
The extent to which this is a concern and what you should do about it depends on the type of site you run. If you have a simple brochure website that has a comments section simply because it was made in workdpress then you may just want to disable all comments, giving you complete control over the site content. If you run a form or allow reviews then you will want some protection against committing any offence. The exceptions introduced for website owners and other providers under the Defamation Act 2013 are a good starting point.
A website should have:
• A requirements for comment makers/ reviewers/ Forum users and Blogger to log in, ideally using a third party user account like facebook or google+. This should allow you to identify any offender and hand their details to the police of the complainant’s lawyers if required.
• A “report and remove” system: allowing and encouraging users to report offensive or inappropriate content with the promise that it will be removed.
• A policy and the power to exclude offenders and provide their details to the police if they are believed to have committed an offence or to another parties lawyers if they are threatened with a defamation action.
As well as providing businesses with problems the law also provides solutions. There are now a huge array of GTLD’s and many businesses find that their established registered or unregistered trademark has been taken by a “cybersquatter” someone simply buying the domain speculatively in the hope of selling it on. The UK has nothing comparable to the US federal laws protecting businesses but ICANN the domain name body has the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. Filing a complaint under this policy can result in successful transfer of a domain where you can show:
• A trademark (either registered or unregistered) that is the same or confusingly similar to the domain
• that the party that registered the domain name has no legitimate right or interest in the domain name; and
• that the domain name was registered and used in bad faith.