A Legal Blueprint for Online Business Owners
This blog post contains a transcript from a video presentation. This content is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. No attorney-client privilege is created.
In order to properly follow this post you are going to need a copy of the DML Blueprint. You can download a copy for free by clicking this link: DML free Blueprint
1) Set Up Corporate Entity: In previous posts we’ve discussed how to decide what your corporate entity is, and why it’s so important. So I’m not going to go through the laundry list of reasons why, but just know that if you don’t you are setting yourself up for a lot of personal liability, and you’re putting your personal assets at risk. So if you need to figure out how to set up that specific entity check our our post on setting up corporations. You need to get started setting up that entity right away if you haven’t done so yet.
3) Understanding Disclosures and Disclaimers: The next thing that you need to do is you need to start to understand disclosures and disclaimers, what they are, and what your particular business needs, and then how to implement those into your business. Whether it be in your advertising, or as part of the legal notices at the bottom of your page to clarify certain things about your products or services to your customers. We have multiple posts dedicated to explaining and educating people on disclaimers and disclosures. The videos are only about 15 minutes each so you can really digest the information. It’s not too complicated that you can’t understand it on your own, especially after watching my videos, but you need to make sure that you understand these topics when you start to promote and advertise your business.
4) Legal Notices for Intellectual Property:. You want to put visitors on notice as to the intellectual property that you own. You want to copyright your website. You want to get a trademark for your brand name. And you also want to federally register the copyrights and the trademarks.
5) Federally Register Copyrights and Trademarks: Just because you put the copyright symbol on your website doesn’t mean that you’re afforded all the federal protections that a copyright can have. Same thing for putting a “TM” next to your logo or next to your brand name. Even more so for a trademark because unless you federally register your trademark another person can come along and register that trademark and prevent you from using your brand name, your business name, or your logo, even though you might have been using it first. So it’s super important that you get started on that. And if you have any questions on how to get started on the registration process or if you need assistance email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help put you on the right path.
6) DMCA Registration: DMCA stands for the digital millennium copyright act and there’s a lot of things that go into the DMCA Registration. The main reason why you want to do it as a website owner is that it protects you that just in case somebody else posts in the comments section or any other place on your website, material that violates the copyrights or trademarks of another business. As the website owner, you don’t want to be held liable for any kind of copyright infringement that was posted to your site by somebody else. So if you have the DMCA registration you will be able to protect yourself in such a situation and not be held liable for things that other people post on your website.
7) Proper Opt-in Procedures for Emails and Newsletter: You want to have proper opt-in procedures for email and newsletters. This ties in to a little bit with GDPR. GDPR has not made it’s way to the United States. They haven’t passed anything like it yet, but they will be soon. So what you want to do is make it very clear when somebody’s opting into your newsletter that they are in fact opting into your newsletter. At some point down the road you might want to have a double opt-in. It’s not required yet, but you need to make people aware of the fact that they are opting in to receive messages from you.
8) Proper Customer Agreements: Identify the products and services that you sell and implement the proper customer agreements. If you’re selling coaching services you want to make sure that you have a coach-client agreement in place that before you start providing these services to someone. It is also important that you get some sort of confirmation that the customer has reviewed the agreement. That could mean sending it to them via email or regular mail and having them sign it or provide an e-signature and send it back to you. It could also be one of those pop up boxes where you force the customer to scroll through the entire agreement. They click that they accept this agreement and that acts as their signature.
9) Freelance and Independent Contractor Agreements: You want to have well written contracts with freelancers or independent contractors. This is a must. When you have a freelancer or an independent contractor performing work for you there is a default rule in place that that freelance will own the copyrights to all of the work that they created for you. What you need to do to protect yourself in that situation is to have what is called a “work-for-hire” clause. All of our Digi Marketing Law contracts through ClickLaw have this clause in them. What a “work-for-hire” clause does is that it states that whatever work is performed by a freelancer for you is owned by you. If you hire someone to make a website, logo, write a blogpost, write advertising copy or anything else like that the work-for-hire clause will state that you own all of the copyrights to the product that they created for you.
If you do not have a work-for-hire clause in your contract then that person is going to maintain ownership rights over the intellectual property of the work that they created for you. So it’s very important that you have that clause and if you don’t then you need to start implementing it. You should also go back and review any contracts you’ve previously entered into.
10) Employee and Partnership Contracts: It is important to have well written contracts with your employees and your business partners. You want to have employee contracts that very specifically state the job duties f the employee, their payment, what you expect out of them, etc. A lot of contracts state that an employee can get fired for cause but they don’t really state what the cause is. If you have an employment agreement in place and it states what you expect from them, then violating that employment agreement is cause, and it’s much easier to terminate an employee without legal repercussions.
Same thing for business partner contracts. One of the biggest problems for any business going forward is disputes between the partners. Maybe somebody wants out and then you have to figure out what each person is entitled to and what they’re contributions were. it’s a much better idea to draft these agreements in place in the beginning when everybody’s excited to be starting a business together, You can sit down with clear level heads, talk about, “All right, this is what person X is providing. This is what person Z is providing. And this is what we’re going to do as we move forward. This will be the procedure in case somebody wants to get out of the business.”
11) Miscellaneous Legal Documents: For example: You’re going want a non-disclosure agreement just in case you discuss something about your business with somebody and you don’t want them to reveal sensitive information. When you decide to have affiliates start promoting your products for you you’re going want to have very clearly defined affiliate agreements. Similar with the business partner agreement. Things always seem to go wrong with one or two affiliates. People think that they deserve more. Maybe an affiliate violates terms of the affiliate agreement. You want to make sure that they know what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do when advertising or promoting your products. You’re going to want to have cease and desist letters in place, just in case somebody is using your trademarks or copyrights without your permission. I know that most people would rather have that cease and desist come from a lawyer, but just in case you don’t know a lawyer or you can’t afford a lawyer at least you’ll have the cease and desist language on hand.
All of these documents are included in the ClickLaw platform which is available through Digimarketinglaw.com. ClickLaw is a platform created by me and my business partners to provide legal documents that business owners can create, customize, and know that they have something good in place that they didn’t just copy and paste from some other website. And then once you have advanced to a certain level where you can start affording to pay $300-400 an hour for an attorney to write up your documents then you can graduate to that. But in the meantime I know a lot of businesses can’t afford those rates so that’s why we have ClickLaw in place for them.