What Legal Stuff Do I Need On My Website? 3 Things to Meet USA Legal Requirements

Computer website legal requirements in the USA.

Legal stuff. It ranks right up there with people chewing with their mouths open and having a tooth pulled for me. In other words, it’s not very high on my list of fun things to experience and do. However, the legal stuff is a necessary evil. It’s one of those things that if you don’t do it, at some point you will truly regret it.

I’m going to try and make it as painless as possible for you…sort of like Novocain, but without the drooling and slurred words.

I want you to know exactly what you need to know about making your website meet United States legal requirements and show you the fastest, easiest way I’ve found to have your bases covered.

Disclaimer: First, while I do watch a lot of Bull, I’m not a lawyer. So you shouldn’t take this as legal advice from a professional. I suggest getting in touch with an actual lawyer for actual legal advice. However, I’m a website designer which means I have picked up a few things over the years about website best practices which I’m going to share here with you.

Disclaimer #2: Every single country differs in their legal requirements Since I’m based in the United States, what I’m going to share with you relates to what Americans need to do site-wise. If you live in a different country, make sure you look up the legalities for your particular country.

Some of you may be asking about GDPR requirements...I’ll get into that in another post as that’s a whole different animal.

Okay, now onto the fun stuff.

Here’s the important website legal stuff you need to know!

1.      PRIVACY POLICY

Every website should have a privacy policy. Period. It’s a very rare instance that a website wouldn’t qualify for one, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

This is an important one as the government places a high priority on the privacy of site visitors these days.

Google the latest Facebook scandal...I’ll wait. Got it? They’ve been involved in numerous privacy scandals, the latest of which Facebook allegedly gave technology companies like Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify special access to user's data without anyone else knowing. Now how does that make you feel?

Exactly. That’s what a privacy policy is for.

It’s not just a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo that you can ignore. It’s a clear disclosure of how you’ll be using ANY data that you collect from people who visit your website. It also defines how people can opt out of providing any of their data to your website.

You should have one not just because it’s part of the website legal requirements in most countries today, but because it also helps to build trust among your clients. Even if you’re just collecting people’s names or email addresses, rather than their credit card numbers, reassuring them that their data will be kept private will give them the confidence they need to keep coming back to your site. That’s something we all want, right?

2.      TERMS AND CONDITIONS

This one might confuse some people. I know it confused me at one point. I’m sure you’re asking…well isn’t that the same as the privacy policy? Nope. It’s different and here’s how.

You know how when a client hires you for a service, you should sign a contract between the two of you? (Don’t tell me if you don’t. I don’t wanna know!) Think of a website Terms and Conditions as a contract between you and your site visitor. This agreement sets the rules that users must agree to in order to use your website.

While a Terms and Conditions agreement is recommended to have for your website, it’s not required by law to have it. But imagine a free-for-all on your website and no one is accountable or responsible for their actions? That’s just asking for legal trouble. And nobody’s got time for that!

In this agreement, you can include the necessary sections to inform users of the guidelines of using your website, what happens if users are abusing your website, inform users that harmful language won’t be tolerated, as well as spamming other users, and so on. It can also specify that you own the content of your website and that it’s protected by international copyright laws. Lastly, the Terms and Conditions agreements commonly include a warranty disclaimer that tries to limit the website owner’s liability in cases where errors are found in the content present on the website and sets the Governing Law which refers to the jurisdiction that applies to the terms presented in the agreement.

Now I know you’re asking, because I did, too…

How can I get a legal privacy policy and terms and conditions for my website?

There are so many ways this can happen. (Copying and pasting someone else’s is not one of them. Please don’t do that.)

Option 1: Hire a lawyer to write custom documents for you.

If you can afford it, do it. In some cases, you may have to go this route if you have unique situations or specific requirements. It’s definitely not cheap and can be a long process.

Option 2: Buy a template of these documents from a lawyer’s template shop.

This is the option I followed and most of you can choose this option, too. There are a handful of online shops that sell legal document templates. Generally, the templates come with info on how to customize them to your own business. Some shops will also let you book an additional one-on-one call with the lawyer to have them help you customize the documents and make sure you’re doing it right.

I personally recommend the templates in The Creative Law Shop. This is where I got my document templates which I can then personalize for each website I design.

(Disclaimer: I do not receive any kickbacks if you purchase from her website. She did not pay me to promote her, either. I just like her quality work and she gets creative entrepreneurs!)

Wait! There’s one more thing you should have on your website.

3.      COPYRIGHT DESIGNATION

This is super easy to do. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to do it and it’ll protect all of your site content.

Put the copyright symbol ©, the name of your business, and the year your site started until the current year on your website.

This means that you lay claim to all the content on your website and people can’t copy and paste from your website and claim it as their own. This means that you own your content. So, take that, plagiarizers!

Super simple and effective!

Where should I put the privacy policy and terms and conditions on my website?

These 3 things should be accessible from every page of your website which means you should put them in your header or footer.

Website Design Tip: For the best conversions, keep your top main navigation as uncluttered as possible and only put in your most important site pages such as Home, About, Contact, and Blog.

This means you’ll want to put the links to your privacy policy page, terms and conditions page, and copyright designation in your footer so that they appear on every page of your website.

These are the three important things you need to have on your website to meet all the USA Legal Requirements. Not to mention you’ll be covered if something does happen in the future.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below! I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Kat Collins is a Squarespace Website Designer focused on helping you share your brand’s story via your website to take your business to the next level. On the blog, you’ll find a variety of topics that help you succeed in online business, such as website design, branding, social media strategies, blogging, email marketing, Squarespace design tips, and more.