Is Your Website a Legal Liability?

Is Your Website a Legal Liability?

November 8, 2022

Today, more than ever, Americans are relying on websites to conduct business, including areas once thought of as essential to be done only in person. Consumers can accomplish the sale or purchase of almost anything without leaving their homes. Employers can run entire businesses and staff them with workers remotely.

With that “new normal,” it is valuable to discuss a topic important to all business owners—how to ensure that your business website is not leaving you or your company vulnerable to legal challenges. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider about your current (or potential) website:

Accessibility

There are many sales companies making aggressive pitches to “make your website ADA compliant,” the implication being, if you are not compliant, you will face legal repercussions. The truth is, although there are accessibility guidelines out there for website design, there is no federal law mandating compliance. That is because the ADA does not specifically include websites when outlining public accommodation requirements. To what degree you make your business website accessible is up to you, but legally speaking, failing to do so is not an outright violation of the ADA.

Disclaimers

The print may be small, and they can be hard to find, but virtually every business website has one or more disclaimers. Depending on your business, this “fine print” can be crucial to protecting your interests. What areas are covered and how in depth disclaimers need to be, varies based on a range of factors. Examples could include privacy policies, specific terms of use, product disclaimers, and the type of products to be provided or services to be rendered. Carefully tailored language, addressing key issues in advance, can potentially prevent costly litigation in the future.

Copyright Violations

Copying a photo from Google to share on social media has become so commonplace, the practice has bled into website design. With the advancement of do-it-yourself website design platforms, more business owners are choosing to design their own sites. If you choose to go that route, it is important to make sure you have the right to use all images on your site. Sites such as Shutterstock offer millions of photos you can license for a nominal fee.

There are companies that do nothing but search and patrol websites looking for images which have been used without proper authorization. They then threaten to file claims of copyright infringement. Avoid the headaches and potential costs by confirming you have the proper documented rights to use everything found on your website.

A website is critical to the success of most businesses. A properly designed website should enhance your business presence and increase sales. Do not let your website cost you time and money because it has gaps that leave you vulnerable to legal challenges. If you have questions or concerns about your business site, give me a call and I would be happy to discuss how we might be of assistance.

Nicholas J. Ingrassia is an attorney and shareholder of Gross Shuman P.C. He concentrates his law practice in the areas of Real Estate & Development, Banking & Finance, and Business & Corporate Law. Mr. Ingrassia also has extensive experience assisting clients with Estate Planning & Administration, and Canada-U. S. Cross Border legal issues. He is admitted to practice in New York State and as a Foreign Legal Consultant in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at 716.854.4300 ext. 285 or [email protected]