Online Business and Legal Landmines

Online Business and Legal Landmines – What to Watch Out For

Doing business online is full of opportunities. Access to a national (or international) audience, the ability to augment your ‘offline’ offering and an efficient way to spend your advertising and marketing dollars are all form ticks in the ‘pros’ column.

But while the cons are limited, there are some essential tips and legal considerations to be aware of when thinking about online business. Knowing them can help you plan properly and hopefully be mindful of any avoidable (but potentially expensive) mistakes that could be made.

Intellectual Property (IP) – Domain Names

In online business, IP is most likely your domain name or web address.’ A few things to note – just because you have registered a business name with a regulator, or even if you have a company, that doesn’t mean you have any ‘right’ to the same web address.

So, if your business is Sunrise Furniture, and your registered company name is the same, nothing stops another company from buying the domain name ‘’. A competitor could even buy the domain name and then redirect anyone who clicked on it to their own website, potentially costing you a customer.

In Australia, domain names are ‘rented’ rather than ‘owned’. That also means you’ll want to keep on top of when any renewals are due to avoid dramas with re-registering a name if it lapses.

IP – Copyright

If you have content on your page, such as logos or case studies, then that content is protected by copyright law. But to make sure you can protect it from unauthorized use, displaying the ‘copyright’ logo on your materials and somewhere on the website can ensure that no one else can legally take credit for your work.

Privacy Laws

Selling online and collecting customer data comes with the responsibility to collect and store it by privacy laws. A publicly available privacy policy helps to inform customers what data you are collecting from them, how it will be stored (if you intend to store it), and what you will use it for (for example, you may use email addresses to send them receipts or promotions).

Privacy laws vary significantly between countries, so if you have customers overseas its probably worthwhile getting professional advice on how to comply with any offshore requirements you might have.

Hacking and Information

Unfortunately, cybercrime is real and growing. Being a victim of theft is stressful personally, but doubly so if your business is affected. If you store sensitive customer data (such as credit card details or addresses), it’s a good idea to have a plan for what you will do if it is stolen or compromised.

Data like that can be used for credit card and identity fraud, so your customers and the police must be made aware of any breaches quickly. Having a plan in advance is like purchasing insurance: you hope it won’t be needed, but it’s good to have it just in case. In addition, many business insurance providers now have insurance covering this kind of risk.

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