Legal: The small print to protect you, rather than catch you out



How to avoid future problems - have a signed text both sides agree on before starting on a project...

It is in our mutual interest to complete a project as efficiently as possible, leaving both parties satisfied with the work and happy to recommend each other. For this I will suggest the compilation of two forms, one of non-disclosure, and one of project targets, timings and end point of a project. This will avoid any future misunderstandings and a dragging of a project whose end point is not defined.

I will not use a template for either of these documents, we will agree together, sign it together and both sides (and maybe a neutral party we agree) keeps a copy for peace of mind. This will protect both of our interests, and the document will specify exactly how many pages, when payments are to be made and if there is a long term web maintenance agreement and the undertaking that involves, and any end dates. Each project has unique elements, and unique challenges. I will endeavour to complete a project as efficiently and speedily as is possible and at all stages I will inform you of progress, issues, and suggestions to improve the look and messsage of a web site.

In addition I will provide you the client with the legal requirements and minimums a commercial web site needs. These include:

Minimum information to be provided on websites
From the Companies Act 2006 and Business Names Act 1985, every UK company should list on its website: its name; its company registration number; its place of registration; and its registered office address. For e-commerce web sites, the minimum requirements are more stringent, and include the contact and other details of the service / goods provider. The legal framework for e-commerce sites are grouped under .Data Protection Act 1998, .Distance Selling Act 2000 and .Ecommerce Directive 2002.

Copyright and duplicate information issues
Use of images in web sites, whether photos, graphics, banners, logos have to be original, the creator known and there should be a clear permission of their use, though this doesn't have to be stated on the web site. In a similar way, text also carries copyright, the legal frame-work that protects all written material now applies to the web as well. I will ensure any copy-writing I do for you is original and not cut and paste from elsewhere. In addition duplicate text is detected by search engines that can through their history logs figure who is the cheater and that web site will be down-ranked or de-listed. I will also show you the way in which any text stealing from your web site can be detected and what steps can be taken to have the 'pirate site' remove that. The legal framework for copyright on the web is covered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act:

Data protection
Data Protection requires that you notify the Information Commissioner how you are going to use the personal data you collect by your web site. The Business Link website is useful in explaining your Data Protection obligations.

Opt out or Opt in?
In the past website forms tended to be set up such that if you accepted the defaults you were assumed to agree to whatever was being asked (eg 'Accept new product and marketing information.' or 'Agree to information being passed to business partners') So the boxes were ticked for you already and you had to untick them to 'opt out'. This is no longer legal - now the default position must be that the visitor does something positive (eg tick the box) to 'opt in' otherwise you do not have their permission therefore you do not have the right.

Accessibility
WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) and XHTML are standards of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). These are technical guidelines set by an internationally recognised body which ensure that a website can be accessed by people in as many different situations as possible, for example people with disabilities using screen readers and people viewing websites through other devices such as mobile devices. It is not just good practice to follow these guidelines, it is a legal requirement of all UK companies following the Disabilities Discrimination Act. In addition, it allows search engines to index a website more fully and therefore improve its ranking.

Cookies, recent regulation (May 2011)
As a result of changes to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, it is now unlawful to use cookies to collect user data without first obtaining consent. There is an exception when a cookie is strictly necessary for a service which a user has requested, such as where a user places an item in an online shopping basket and there is the need to ensure that payment is for the goods actually purchased.

Email marketing
It is illegal to send unsolicited email messages except in limited circumstances. If customers have consented to receiving information from you in the past, that is opted in, you can send them information on other things you think they might be interested in. You must give these people the option to opt out of receiving any further messages from you with each mail > further information: