Chatting Without Risk – What to Look For

In our ever-connected world, phone chatting has become a staple for a medium of communication that is globally used. The rapid growth of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has only strengthened the pervasiveness of chatting – and the result is most usually phone chatting (the most personal level of it). This phenomenon has truly transformed certain aspects of our relationships with others whether it is work, friends, family, and significant others. Nevertheless, every phenomenon has its flaws, but one should be reminded of certain tips to follow to avoid these:

• Set parameters to what is acceptable conversation chatter and what is not.

In a recent survey, 40 percent of divorces were blamed on inappropriate chatting. The blame was nearly equal for both genders, since 55 percent of men and 45 percent of women were found to flirt online that crossed certain limits. Therefore, one should always state when he or she is uncomfortable when chatting with someone if one feels that it would jeopardize a relationship.

• If you are a parent, monitor your child’s conversations personally

It is no surprise that the fastest-growing areas for cybercrimes are in chat rooms and directly related to further phone chatting. Most children may not be able to tell whether someone is genuine or fake, which is used by predators since 80 percent of cybercrimes start with chatting. Make sure one’s child knows the difference between a real and fake identity and what words or phrases during a chat or conversation may signify that they are chatting with a predator. The point is – it’s okay for your child to have friends that he talks on the phone with – regardless of where he met them (on the internet or in real life) the point is that once in a while you should go through their phones and figure out whether something is wrong or not.

Now, the one major rule for chatting without risks is to be careful when handing out your phone number. The point is, this is an online world we live, and it is important to locate the root of the problem and then work our way up. In this case, the selection process begins with finding the appropriate website and the appropriate people to hand out our phone number to. This will ensure that you will not cross the chat-border with the wrong kind of people. How can you avoid this? Here are some more tips:

• If one is chatting with someone for romantic reasons, go to a reliable dating website.

Try to find a free dating website. If it gives the impression of a fraud, then try a dating website that is free but has some paid services. One survey has stated that as many half of all free dating websites are scams, so be careful by consulting the Better Business Bureau (BBB)’s website at to see if any paying websites are scams and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s website at to see if any dating sites are being investigated by the federal government.

• Do not use your e-mail address as your profile ID or nickname if creating an online dating profile. Try to create a new email ID when creating an account on the website.

The Internet is an “information superhighway” full of scammers and frauds. Using one’s e-mail address as an ID opens up one to spam attacks and unsolicited e-mails. If one has to use an e-mail address for an ID, create an e-mail address that you will not use for any activities pertaining to school, work, and et cetera.

• Do not use a common password (such as a birthday, bank password, or an e-mail password used for multiple accounts) for your chatting account.

If a hacker notices a certain password used for multiple accounts, he or she will use it for one’s other accounts in order to steal valuable information. If one feels that he or she will lose his or her password, then record it and store it in a safe place.

FTC has now extended the Red Flag

FTC has now extended the Red Flag compliance law till May 1, 2008. Do not feel safe yet, this delay does not keep you from being civilly sued (litigated) and you can still lose a lot of money in these suits.

They are only giving more time to educate you but you need to start the process now. You should be gathering information on your plan. Take time to read the FACTA Red Flag Compliance information, which you can find on the FTC site, just put in the search area Red Flag Compliance and see all the information there.

It is extremely important that you start now there is a lot of information that you will have to read and assimilate. There are three ways your company can become compliant with the Red Flags Rules.

Option 1 Hire an Attorney or Consultant – Typical costs for a Red Flags Consultant ranges from $3,500 to $10,000 per small to midsize office. Attorneys can cost even more and are more likely to drag out the process of compliance to last several weeks. As you can imagine, Red Flags professionals are very busy right now helping larger companies get compliant. This drives up prices and it is not uncommon to be put on a 3 month waiting list and that is even climbing to a 6 month waiting list!

Option 2 Do it Yourself – Yes, you can do this yourself, assuming you have a working knowledge of legal procedures and policy writing skills. You can get all the details of the Red Flags Rules by printing off and reading the 256 page FTC Report:Go ahead and take a quick look at the FTC document. Most business owners and managers find themselves confused and frustrated by just the 3rd page, just like I did.

Option 3 Find a system that you can use and do it much faster and cheaper than the 2 other options – The fastest and easiest way to comply with all the new Red Flags Rules is to follow a complete proven system already in place.

Option 3 sounds the best, but, you need to see if you can

1. Receive a jumpstart guide that will help you through the process and show you where you need to educate and elect the right person to handle that part of Red Flag compliances.
2. A Sample of a compliance plan, so you will have another tool showing you how a company fills out the information.
3. A Fill in the Blank compliance Template, it should be customizable for your business.
4. A Ticketing system so clients can communicate with you right away if they have any issues that need your attention!
5. A Live Chat for the website so the client can get help right away and the person you designate can answer right back and help them.
6. An online quarantine seal so the customer knows that you are compliant and an official Red Flag Seal.
7. As a treat it would be nice if they have a directory of all the people that are compliant and your business is in the directory so clients can see that you are compliant when they go look for a business that they want to use.

Now make sure that the price is right! I have seen quite of few services out there and they can range from 499.00 to over 5,000.00. Do not be fooled by the prices the most expensive may not be the best, and the cheapest could be your best bet. This way you can do it yourself with the guide, templates, and fill in the blank template and not have to spend those enormous prices and still get the job done!

Recognizing Marketing Deception (Fraud?) Before Becoming a Victim

Lately, I’ve been hearing a certain radio ad bombarding the metro-NYC news station I enjoy listening to. The reason I like this station is simple: It’s intelligent, it’s interesting and it broadcasts the John Sterling/Susan Waldman Yankee commentary during the season’s games.

However, this particular radio ad strikes me as so full of misleading marketing language that I bristle every time it plays. Not only does it give my profession a bad reputation, but it may be tricking thousands of ingenuous consumers into signing up and becoming victims of what I almost consider fraud. But, too cleverly manipulative for that, it probably can’t even be found guilty of deception since every statement made is true. But it definitely is misleading unsuspecting listeners to interpret these “true” statements as good reason to respond to the ad and commit to the advertised service, only to discover later the naïveté of their gullible decision to do so.

Let me explain: The ad begins as an announcement in an authoritative tone that claims it can save American car owners thousands of dollars in car repair bills. As long as you have fewer than 200,000 miles on your car (as most people do), you will never have to pay for a car repair bill out of your own pocket again! The advertiser will pay it for you. If you’re sick and tired of spending your hard-earned money on car repairs, call to see if you qualify! (This puts the onus on you to prove you are one of the eligible fewer-than-200,000-mile car owners who can take advantage of this advertising deception to trick you into buying.)

You can even keep your own mechanic or your own car repair service and have the advertiser pay the bills for you. This includes all of the most advanced auto technology repairs you may ever need! (Again, they say this to throw you off course so you think about what kinds of repairs your car may need now or in the future and whether you will qualify.) So far, everything they have said with the possible exception of “saving you thousands of dollars” has been true. That is until you read between the lines.

No, you won’t be spending your hard-earned money on the car repair bill. Instead, you will be spending your hard-earned money to pay them a fee to represent you and pay your car repair bill for you. And while they claim you can save lots of money, you may actually be paying more by making them the middlemen. After all, they are in business to make money. They won’t be doing this for nothing. And how can they be paying for these expensive radio ads on such a powerful New York station? Only through responses from hundreds of unsuspecting customers who sign up in droves.

So what do you get out of it? Maybe lots of trouble if you sign a contract, and fail to pay their fee, and who knows what else! Probably they make it seem like they are providing you with a great service by guaranteeing they will pay for your car repair on your old clunker (with fewer than 200,000 miles) which allows you to keep driving and hopefully going to work (if you still have a job) while they wait for you to cover the bill (possibly late) with interest!

I am guessing about all of the finer details but you can see the risks I am pointing out. I can remember hearing about a similar fraudulent attempt being made by another auto payment company in the last couple of years that was being distributed through the mail. I later received a series of telemarketing calls about it. Now, I am hearing this ad for a different company on the radio. Could it be the same organization just operating under a different name? And ironically, as quickly as I recognized it, suddenly I no longer hear it, which may also be part of their formula: to run it for a short time to amass new customers and then disappear into thin air, so to speak. These are the kinds of questions I ask, since I am naturally suspicious of marketing claims that raise these kinds of red flags.

The concept is very much like the service a credit card offers: you pay with plastic and then you pay the credit card company with interest for their generosity in letting you pay over time. But we all know the enormous risk that involves, as a nation and a world, with unsolvable economic problems everywhere you look! If you are one of the unfortunate people who have lost the privilege of using any or all of your many credit cards, this car repair payment service ad may sound pretty appealing, particularly if old Bertha is making horrible noises and jeopardizing your commute. But I urge you to tread carefully and carry a big stick.

So what exactly are the laws concerning deceptive advertising, anyway? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, there are three attributes which determine whether an advertisement is false or unfair:

1. If it offends public policy;
2. If it is immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous; or,
3. if it substantially injures consumers.

This last point is considered the most important in weighing whether the advertisement is false or unfair, with customer injury normally based on loss of money as a result of a purchase which would never have been made had the advertisement not been misleading in the first place. False statements are determined by whether they are false on face value; or whether they are implicitly false. In my opinion, the above radio ad may be making a blatantly false claim by saying it can save you enormous sums of money if you use their service. However, with a clever twist of interpretation, that statement could be considered true if they attribute your savings to be from payments made directly to the car repair vendors.

If you are not paying your mechanic directly for your car repairs, you are essentially saving that money. However, you will need to use that “saved” money to pay the car repair payment company who will pay your mechanic for you, regardless of how deceptively they are advertising their service. Does this strike you as ethical? Furthermore, I believe the ad says “can save you” as opposed to “will save you” which implies there may be other conditions involved which you must fulfill in order to assure that their claim can deliver as stated.

Based on complaints the FTC receives, there are some consistent themes which emerge, most frequently about undisclosed costs and conditions. Responsible radio advertisers avoid legal problems by simply adding a statement like “Restrictions may apply,” while some over-zealous advertisers devote a good percentage of the radio ad time to spell out in detail a long rant of disclosures delivered at warp speed making it virtually impossible to understand what is being said. Depending on space available, the FTC advises advertisers using visual media to disclose details “clearly and conspicuously.” If space is limited, perhaps the 3-word disclaimer mentioned previously can suffice, but tiny type and deliberately ambiguous terminology is frowned upon.

What the FTC allows or regulates seems to be a somewhat gray area with decisions dependent on whether the ad is national or regional in scope; whether it represents an industry regulated by another branch of government (such as airlines, banks, insurance companies, common carriers, and companies that sell securities and commodities); or whether it can be resolved by some other more local agency like the Better Business Bureau. As stated previously, of most vital importance to the FTC seems to be issues involving consumer injury, whether to “health, safety or wallet.”

Penalties for non-compliance can be stiff ranging from a simple “cease and desist” order which if not obeyed properly escalates to a sum of $16,000 per day for further infractions; to fines reaching into the millions of dollars when appropriate, sometimes requiring refunds to consumers affected by the offending ad; to running new ads and contacting purchasers to correct the previously deceptive information.

If an ad has hurt you in some way as a result of deceptive practices, you have the right to complain to the FTC as well as contact a lawyer. If the offensive ad is far-reaching enough, your case may be considered suitable for a class action suit, involving many plaintiffs in addition to yourself. Be aware, however, that regardless of how noble your attorneys’ representation may seem in such cases, it is usually the lawyers who benefit most in class action suits.

What if you think an ad from a competitor of yours is deceptive? You have a few options, some or all of which you can pursue:

1. You can contact a lawyer to explore whether you should sue for unfair competition by making deceptive claims in ads.

2. You can file a complaint with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which investigates and resolves such disputes on both a national and regional basis.

3. If the ad is local, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.

4. You can contact the print or broadcast medium where the ad ran to report your suspicion about the deceptive nature of the ad.

5. You can contact your state Attorney General’s Office or your city, county, or state Office of Consumer Affairs to report the issue.

6. Finally, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or call: toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

As a word of advice from a marketing expert, if you are an advertiser utilizing techniques of vagueness, or worse, duplicity, to camouflage the full truth of your message, keep this in mind:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” – Benjamin Franklin

Translation: An unhappy customer will share his unpleasant experience not only with his friends and family, but also will spread the bad word about you on blogs, forums and chat rooms, giving your company a negative reputation you will never be able to live down in today’s Google-dominated universe. If your advertising misdeed was unintentional, it will be far less expensive to try to win back the loyalty of one dissatisfied customer with a valid complaint than to try to weather the devastating winter of his discontent.

Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing since 1975, has extensive experience guiding business leaders, directors, and professionals with successful strategies for business growth and sustenance. Long-term relationships have been established with law firms, medical practices, pharmaceutical companies, real estate executives, and a variety of other trade, corporate and industrial specialists. Her professional writing, editing, photographic, design and aesthetic specialties provide clients with proven methods of achieving successful branding and public image. Mid-Hudson Marketing is a top New York advertising, marketing, website and graphic design firm located in Dutchess County’s Poughkeepsie area specializing for more than 35 years in the creation and management of high quality branding for business success. With numerous prestigious awards to its credit, the firm’s services include full scale advertising programs; expert website development and search engine optimization; professional writing, editing and ghostwriting; blog setup and management; e-commerce and email marketing; outdoor and online billboards; trade show and point-of-purchase displays; sell sheets, posters, flyers, brochures, and catalogs; logos, tag lines and trademarks; photo enhancements; direct mail marketing; newsletters; public relations; social media management, and more

How to Reduce Spam

The internet has brought us so many great things but is also brought us a few bad things and one of those things is SPAM. Everyone gets spam and we all hate it. Some people are targeted ruthlessly, especially those with websites, receiving hundreds per day. Did you know that about 40% of emails that are sent are Spam? It is annoying, frustrating and sometimes a very serious problem for some people. It can be dangerous because some messages are sent with viruses and Trojans which can be used to steal your personal information.

Spammers buy lists of email addresses from a list broker. If your email address appears in a newsgroup posting, on a website, in a chat room, or in an online service’s membership directory, it is very possible it may find its way onto these lists. The spammer then uses special software that can send hundreds of thousands — even millions — of email messages to the addresses at the click of a mouse.

Filtering Spam wastes time and money, it is something we shouldn’t have to do. It is worth using software to combat it. There are so many different types of Anti-Spam on the market today who knows which is best. Buying the most expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.

Here are a few things you should remember to try and reduce the amount of Spam you receive:

o NEVER open Spam or Attachments in a Spam email- if you do, you run the risk of infecting your machine with viruses and Trojans.

o DO NOT click the unsubscribe link- this just confirms to them your email address is correct.

o Use different email accounts for different purposes for example, one for work one for your personal life and one for online shopping.

o DO NOT display your email address in public. That includes newsgroup postings, chat rooms, websites or in an online service’s membership directory.

o Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a website.

o Use an email filter. Check your email account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a bulk email folder. Or buy an email filter.

Unless we all try to fight spam it will only get worse. We need to all be aware of the dangers of leaving our personal information on websites, forums or chat rooms. Using spam filters is one way to fight the spammers and I would recommend we all use one.

If you are really fed up with Spam and none of the above reduces the amount you receive you could report it to the Federal Trade Commission. If the “remove me” request is not honoured you can send a copy of unwanted or deceptive messages to [email protected] You could complain by filling out the FTC’s online compliant form on their site: The FTC uses the unsolicited emails stored in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive spam email.

Tips for Mobile Dating Success – How To Be Successful In Your Dating Life

One should also try to give as much information as possible on a profile that one is comfortable to share. Keep in mind that one is selling him or herself to millions of people on the Internet, so another person knowing that a man like horror movies along with mint ice cream can be a combination for a woman that may be hard for her to find somewhere else. The more you tell, the more someone would be interested to know about oneself.

First, one should find a website that suits their needs. There are thousands of dating sites that are tailored to certain segments of the population, whether it is Christians, Asians, or even pet lovers while certain sites, such as, allows one to access millions of profiles that can be browsed through a customized search. Nonetheless, each site has different requirements or may require a member to have a monthly or annual subscription, so make to sure to check before registering. Also, make sure to check the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Better Business Bureau (BBB)’s website to see if a site is a scam.

Second, one should make his or her profile attractive enough to encourage others to view it. Think of a profile as one’s personal sales pitch to millions of potential suitors to offer something that other profiles cannot match, so try to make it as presentable as possible. If one’s profile is terrific, then the person represented in it must be too.

Third, add a photo to one’s profile. Like the cliché goes, a picture does tell a thousand words. There is also a reason for love at first sight, which can happen from just viewing a picture, so make sure the right one is used that will highlight one’s best qualities. In fact, the picture may not have to be done by a professional. Some may enjoy a natural picture that includes one’s friends and family.

Another great tip is for one to log in every two or three weeks to check on his or her profile. Any time period beyond it would imply that one as a lack of interest in his or her profile, which keeps others away. Remember, others will only show as much interest in a profile that one personally does, so why not show that one is worth caring about?

Finally, be open to the responses you may receive from your profile. Some people may not fit your idea of a potential mate, but this may force one to actually go on a date to see for oneself. One may never know what is bound to happen.

So, your profile is really very essential. Choose a nice picture, some info about yourself and the rest is being self-confident whilst chatting, having a good sense of humor.

The Internet is used in most every facet of one’s life today. This even pertains to relationships since one in eight romantic relationships are formed online. For some, online dating is convenient since it complements their busy lives. Therefore, one should keep in mind of certain tips that can be used to making one’s mobile dating a success.

Keeping Out Of Trouble With Websites

It is easier to get in trouble with a website than you might think. What follows, then, are a few tips to help keep your website clear of problems. A word of caution: the law is changing in this area, and the specific facts of each case make a huge difference.


a. Before you register a domain name, be sure to check for existing trademark registrations. If you don’t, and there is a pre-existing trademark, your domain name may be taken away from you.

i. Check the California business-name list.

ii. Conduct a search of the federal trademark register.

iii. Perform an Canadian search.

iv. Also do a Dialog or similar search for state and business-name registries.

b. Even if you obtain a domain name, you may lose that name if you do not use it for a real website. (A pure “under construction” page will not suffice, so get some sort of content and contact information on the site.)


a. Several website owners have been sued because their sites either a) linked to other Web pages without appropriately identifying the target page or b) framed other sites so that it seemed like someone else’s Web page was part of the framing website.

b. Basically, the problem is one of misidentification: the offending website links or frames in such a way that the viewer doesn’t realize who really owns the target site. Similar to plagiarism, it’s taking credit either expressly or by implication for Web pages other than your own.

i. For example, linking without attribution was the basis of the Ticketmaster Corp. v. Microsoft Corp. case. There, Ticketmaster sued Microsoft for using links that took users directly to the ticket-sales pages of Ticketmaster’s site, circumventing advertising and Ticketmaster’s home page.

ii. Framing was the issues in Washington Post v. TotalNEWS, Inc. There the complaint alleged that “Specifically, Defendants’ website is designed to feature the content of Plaintiffs’ and others’ websites, inserted within a “frame” on the computer screen that includes Defendants’ logo and URL as well as advertising that Defendants have sold.” Obviously, the defendants were trying to make Washington Post content look like their own.

c. So what should you do?

i. Well, the most conservative course is to either:

(1) get permission for every link or

(2) link only to other folks’ pages where those pages themselves clearly identify the owner and contain any advertising that the owner uses.

ii. This approach is not practical in most situations, of course. Where it’s not, at least do the following:

(1) When you insert links in your Web page, make sure they identify (correctly) the owner and name of the target page.

(2) If you use framing to pull up other folks’ Web pages within your own, make sure you don’t imply in any way that the site within the frame is yours.

(3) If a site has a linking policy posted, be sure to follow it.


a. Another set of problems arises from using someone else’s trademarks or trade names as part of your website, either in the main text or in “metatags”.

b. Metatags are key words and phrases used to help search engines categorize a website; they are normally hidden from the user’s view, although they are in fact part of the website. When a user performs a Web search using one or more key words or phrases, some search engines prepare a list of sites based on matches with the metatags embedded in those sites. Some search engines also analyze the readable text of websites in their matching functions.

c. Here the problems have arisen where a website uses others’ trademarks or trade names or a competitor’s trademarks or trade names to draw traffic to its site. (This is not limited to officially registered trademarks: Even if a name isn’t registered, the owner may have rights in the name simply from using it.)

d. Having said this, there are some exceptions:

i. For example, comparative advertising which names a competitor in a non-confusing and truthful comparison does not constitute infringement.

ii. In addition, you can use another’s trademark or trade name to identify the source of the goods or services of which you are complaining or discussing. In one famous case, a disgruntled former Bally Fitness customer was permitted to keep “” because he was using it to criticize Bally.

iii. There is also an exception if the words used are truthfully descriptive. For example, there was no liability for a former Playboy “Playmate of the Year” who built a website that used the plaintiff’s “Playmate of the Year”, “Playmate of the Month” and “Playboy” trademarks, both on the site itself and as metatags. (Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Terri Welles.)

e. Recommended approach:

i. Even if you are going to use another’s trademarks or trade names in a permitted way, to avoid trouble be sure to minimize their use, make it clear that those owners are not endorsing your site, and be sure to use disclaimers.

(1) (Disclaimer here means a statement along the following lines: “‘Coca Cola’ and the other trademarks and trade names mentioned in this site are the property of their respective owners. We have no affiliation with these companies and this website is not endorsed by them.”)

ii. Also, if the owner of the trademark uses the “R” within a circle or the superscript “TM” symbols with the name, be sure to include that whenever you use the trademark.


a. Just because someone else’s Web page does NOT contain a copyright notice does NOT mean that the material is in the public domain. The only way you can be certain you are safe is by either getting express permission from the owner to use the material or finding a statement on that site that allows you to use the material. (Many sites allow you to use their material for non-commercial purposes only.)

b. There is a “fair use” exception to the copyright law that allows you to use PART of another’s person’s work (not the entire work) without consent for purposes of review, comment, etc., particularly if the use is non-commercial. Basically, the more of the work that is taken and the more commercial the use to which it is put, the less likely that this exception applies. Because this can be complicated, talk to an attorney before trying to use the “fair use” exception.


a. Remember that just being on the Internet does not protect you against claims of libel. If you put something defamatory on your website or type it in a chat room or post it on a bulletin board you can be sued just the same as if you were handling out leaflets.

b. There are, of course, two classic defenses here: truth and opinion. If you state things that are clearly true or you clearly identify a statement as only your opinion or belief, generally you can speak freely.

c. However, even then, you may run into trouble if you disclose private facts about someone else or you cast them in a false light, even if not in a defamatory fashion (for example, deliberately stating that a life-long Democrat is a neo-conservative Republican).

d. Because the entire area relating to defamation is complex, it might be wise to run any statements you are unsure of past an attorney before posting them.

e. If you host a bulletin board or chat room on your website, you run the risk of potential liability if others post obscenity, libelous remarks, material taken without permission, links to sites that allow illegal free downloads of commercial software, etc.

i. You should make each user of a bulletin or chat room use a “click through” user agreement where they consent not to post pornographic, defamatory or infringing materials or links to sites conducting illegal activities. They should also consent to your company not being liable for other users taking such actions.

ii. If you are a service provider or are hosting a bulletin board or chat room, you can help protect yourself against liability for copyright violations by others using your site by registering under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (See


a. If your webmaster/mistress is your employee when your site is created or updated, you own the work. That is NOT true with independent contractors: the contractor owns the work unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. (Without a written agreement, you have only a non-exclusive license to use the work.)

a. Your agreements with independent contractors should not only state that you own the work, they should also include an assignment of ownership rights in the resulting product to your company. “Work for hire” clauses alone may not be sufficient.

i. In California many companies forego the “work made for hire” language because California Labor Code Section 3351.5(c) and California Unemployment Insurance Code Sections 621(d) and 686 treat anyone working under such a clause as an employee for unemployment and disability insurance purposes.

ii. You may want to give yourself a power of attorney to sign copyright documents on behalf of the contractor as well.

iii. It’s fine to let a web contractor retain the rights to any underlying software or scripts that operate your site, so long as you have an irrevocable, royalty-free license to use them.


The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) requires websites to obtain a parent’s permission before children under 13 disclose information. (Children under 18 should not be permitted to view information which is adult in nature.) Also note that children under 18 may not be bound by any agreements that you have. You ARE entitled to rely on a user’s statement that he/she is over 18 unless you have some reason to believe they are not telling the truth.


a. Although a copyright notice is not required on a website, it is good practice, since it puts others on notice that you are NOT putting that content in the public domain. (This helps overcome any alleged “innocent infringer” defense.) A copyright notice should be in the following form:

Copyright 2000-2003 Bruce E. Methven. All Rights Reserved.

You can also use the © symbol in place of “Copyright”, but do not use just (c). The first year that the work was created must be included. (Designating a first year later than the real one can invalidate copyright rights.) Subsequent years where substantial changes were made can be added either as a range (2000-2003) or singly (2000, 2002).

b. Jurisdiction is a big issue. If you are selling goods/services over the Internet, you should have your agreement state that lawsuits may only be brought in California. Otherwise, the customer can sue you wherever the customer is located.

c. If you are engaged in e-commerce, you should have a click-through agreement on your website that your customers must use. It is not enough to simply have your agreement on the site; if the customer is not required to “click through” it, it may not be binding.

d. Implied warranties can arise from statements, advertisements etc.

i. With goods–including software–the law creates warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

(1) Implied warranties must be expressly disclaimed: State that there are no other warranties except as expressly set out in the agreement, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

(2) DISCLAIMER LANGUAGE MUST BE CONSPICUOUS, E.G., IN CAPITAL LETTERS O R BOLD TYPE. Otherwise consumers (and others) may not be bound by it.

ii. It doesn’t hurt to use these disclaimers even if you are providing services rather than goods.

e. Whether you are providing goods or services over the Internet, you want your agreement to contain limitations of liability and remedies.

i. Expressly limit the remedy to replacement and/or repair (or correction of the services) at your option.

ii. State that in no circumstances will you be liable for special or consequential damages or lost profits (or lost data).

iii. State that in no case will the your liability exceed the amount paid by the customer. This should be a separate paragraph from the disclaimers of warranty.

iv. Distributors should state in their contracts with customers that the only warranty that applies is the manufacturer’s warranty. (Distributors should try to obtain an agreement from the manufacturer indemnifying and defending them against any litigation brought regarding the product.)

v. Note that some states have laws restricting limitations of liability and remedies, so a clause should be included stating that if any portion of the agreement is found to be invalid, then the narrowest segment possible is to be held to be excised from the agreement, and the remainder continues in full force and effect.

f. Unlike in Europe, outside of COPPA, health-care companies and financial-services companies, U.S. federal and state laws do not generally (so far) require that a website that collects user information have a privacy policy. On the other hand, consumers increasingly look for them.

i. Just be sure you can live with whatever you put into your privacy policy, since the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has come down hard on companies that violate their own policies.

ii. It’s also an excellent idea to state in your policy that it may be subject to change by your posting an upcoming amendment to it on your site and then proceeding with the change after 30 days except for users who affirmatively opt out.

iii. The FTC does have certain regulations that apply to all direct marketers, including e-commerce websites. For more information, see [].

g. Never put anything on your website that would matter if it were stolen. Even though you may have the right to pursue the offending party (assuming you can identify them), the cost may be prohibitive and the thief may be judgment-proof.

h. Several insurance companies offer “cyber-liability” policies. If you have an e-commerce site, talk to your insurance broker about obtaining this coverage.

i. Lastly, with rare exceptions, you cannot offer stock via your website: this constitutes “public advertising” and is forbidden.


a. Remember, the general rule is that if something is a legal issue in the real world, it’s also a legal issue on the Internet.

b. Most of the litigation has stemmed from “commercial” websites, meaning websites that offer or promote the owner’s goods or services. With these you need to be more cautious, particularly with regard to competitors. Personal websites, purely informational websites, websites devoted to a particular topic etc. tend not to face as great a risk.

The foregoing article constitutes general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

Methven & Associates

2232 Sixth Street Berkeley, CA 94710

phone: 510) 649-4019 fax: 510) 649-402