Legal Concerns in E-Commerce

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Since the turn of the century more and more businesses have created an online presence, with some companies operating exclusively online.  Naturally with a new frontier for business comes a slew of new legal issues.  It is impossible to adequately cover all the issues in e-commerce in one article, but this article will give a sampling of legal issues a business can encounter.

Business which feature message boards on their websites need to be aware of free speech issues which can crop up.  A company may or may not be liable for any defamatory remarks on its website depending on how it is moderated. This is some immunity for service providers from the actions of their users, but it is not absolute.  Online harassment and censorship are also frequent issues.

Simply hosting a website can generate its own legal headaches.  A majority of websites hold their users to a terms of services.  Various cases have been litigated over the enforceability of these terms.  How the user is exposed to the terms of service is extremely important.  Websites with their own online communities create even more room for legal controversy as users interact with each other in new ways.

Any website which allows user accounts will encounter privacy issues.  This is especially true in light of recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.  Government data requests can be a potential headache and third party data mining or security breaches are other sources of legal troubles from users.  It is still not clear how liable websites are for their users’ loss of privacy.

Intellectual property issues are come with a legal twist online.  Duplicating copyrighted materials online has become a growing problem for copyright owners and online companies have not been immune from lawsuits for hosting or reproducing them.  Website owners need to be aware of federal statutes like the DMCA which provide a safe harbor for them.  Parody websites need to be aware of potential trademark infringement as well.

In addition to these new concerns, companies engaging in e-commerce still must beware of the legal issues which brick and mortar stores encounter as well.  Managing a business is not easy and if you are having any legal e-commerce issues you can contact us at 732-444-6303 or leave us a message on our website.