Internet marketing is a great tool for law firms and other businesses that are trying to educate consumers online and connect with potential clients. Of course, online marketing raises some legal issues with Internet law.
As more people expand their presence on the web, there will almost certainly be more gray areas concerning legal Internet issues. Keep these legal Internet issues in mind if you’re planning on expanding your firm’s website or online marketing strategy.
Copyright is often included on lists of tips for social networking and online marketing. Once content is published online, other people can swipe it and pass it off as their own without any attribution.
Technically, copyright exists from the moment you create your work. But if you don’t register your copyright, you can’t bring a lawsuit against anyone who may be infringing on your content.
If you haven’t registered your material yet, do so. Make sure you put a copyright notice in the footer of your website, even if you haven’t officially registered your copyright yet. A simple “© 2010 [Your Firm Name]. All rights reserved.” could ward off potential content thieves.
Copyright and trademarks are not the same thing, and when you’re dealing with legal Internet issues, it pays to know the difference.
In this digital age, “branding” is a huge concept — it’s not just for large businesses and firms anymore. Simply purchasing a domain name for future use could actually be considered infringing on a company’s trademark!
Trademarks are essential to distinguish your brand from others. Making sure no one is infringing on your trademark is important, especially if you expect potential clients to search for you using your particular trademarks.
A “common-law trademark” is established by using your trademark in commerce, which affords some rights if someone registers your trademark in a domain name. An existing common-law trademark will allow you to file a trademark infringement suit. More protections are offered, of course, when you file your trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Domain Name Issues
Speaking of domain names, there are more legal Internet issues involved with domain names than simply infringing on someone’s trademark when registering.
More and more domain name disputes are coming up today, including domain name theft, domain squatting (also known as cybersquatting — registering a domain name known to be a registered trademark or company name and waiting to receive an inflated payment for said domain) and typosquatting (a type of domain squatting that relies on typographical mistakes by Internet users who are trying to get to a well-known site and instead are directed to competitors).
Domain disputes are becoming common legal Internet issues. But there is some protection: ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ensures through arbitration procedures that domains are transferred to rightful trademark owners. Additionally, trademark owners can receive monetary damages from squatters through the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
Finally, remember that there are stricter guidelines for the use of endorsements and testimonials on your website. People who endorse products that they received for free must disclose that they did receive a free sample. Also, beware of the phrase “results not typical” — it’s best to just explain what the typical results are.
Being aware of these legal Internet issues can help you protect your website content, your unique brand and your company overall.
For additional legal and litigation support, contact Legal Language and speak with one of our staff attorneys today.