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When creating a website, we all strive for extraordinary content combined with a responsive, attractive design to offer a user-friendly experience. While this sounds simple in theory, it may not turn out that way in practice. In addition to considering the content you provide and the aesthetics surrounding your website design, a myriad of legal considerations and best practices apply. Taking care not to violate basic “rules” of website creation should be at the top of your list.

After more than a decade in the industry, I can personally attest to how what might seem like minor violations come back to harm not just your business, but potentially your personal reputation and online presence. It's hard to get noticed on the web, and building a website and a brand online is a career-long effort. But don't let these common website violations set you back – or tempt you.

Using copyrighted images without permission. All images found online are not free for the taking. Technology makes it easy to lift photos quite easily: Right-clicking and selecting “save as” or saving the entire HTML page, taking a screenshot, or physically taking a picture of the image are just a few ways online thievery occurs. Not everyone intentionally steals photos; many people accidentally use an image because they are not sure whether it is royalty-free or a public domain image, or the user may have simply forgotten to give credit for the image. Make sure you are not violating copyright laws and that you obtain images by legally paying for them, obtaining permission or using photos that are in the public domain. Giving credit is not the same as getting permission.

 

Failing to obtain licensure for video usage. As a core part of today’s online landscape, website video usage, like image usage, must be handled with care. As more people and businesses share videos to tell their stories on various digital platforms, adding a video to your website is easier than ever. However, copyright laws do apply to online videos. Website gatekeepers should be aware of best practices to avoid unauthorized use as well as fair use. Publishing unauthorized videos online exposes you and/or your organization to legal liability, as the videos can potentially reach millions of people all over the world. Minimize your risk by obtaining permission before using any video online.

Relying on duplicate content. It might seem like a good practice or easy solution to repeat content throughout your website to beef up the amount of copy, but Google recognizes (and penalizes) duplicate content. If information is repeated word for word, search engines cannot always pinpoint which version is the original and which version is copied. Duplicate content causes site owners to suffer lower ranking and traffic loss, and the search engines provide less relevant results. If you need to include similar content on more than one page, be sure to completely rewrite, reword and reorganize the content in a new way. If you want to use content from another site, be sure to obtain permission or, better yet, write something completely unique to your site.

Touting services with superlatives. Everyone wants to claim that their business is the “best” or that they are the “leading” or “top” person or organization in their field. However, attorneys are required by bar associations to follow specific rules to describe their services in legal content writing. Most states require statements made in attorney advertising (which includes law firm websites) to be objectively verifiable. Since claims that you are “the best” can generally not be objectively verified, they may be deemed misleading and can expose violators to fines and other penalties.

Claims to be an “expert.” An attorney making claims of being an “expert” or “specialist” in the absence of board certification in the specialty is prohibited in many states. Similar to statements claiming that you are “the best,” claims that an attorney is an expert or specialist may be deemed false or misleading. It is a best practice to avoid using the words “expert” and “specialist” altogether.

Neglecting customers with disabilities. Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was established before the explosion of e-commerce. Now that consumers have moved online, the Department of Justice is redefining how the ADA applies. The release of web accessibility regulations is expected sometime in the near future. Website owners can be proactive by taking measures, such as adding audio descriptions for the blind and text captions for the deaf, as well as enhancing multimedia. Review a full list of proposed requirements.

Taking care to avoid these website legal pitfalls will help to protect you from potential litigation and solidify your reputation as an upstanding member of the online community.

The information provided here is not legal advice and does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on any specific matter. For legal advice, you should consult with an attorney concerning your specific situation.

Author: Peter Boyd
Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2016/12/27/six-content-discrepancies-to-avoid-committing-on-your-companys-website/#2dd946d84b0b

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