See below for descriptions of each of these policies.
Website PoliciesEvery commercial web site needs to have certain legal language advising consumers of conditions and policies. For example, websites that sell to customers in California and accept credit cards as payment must provide specific information about the location of any storefront and the terms of the seller's refund policy. Websites with content aimed at children also need to have very specific procedures in place for conformity with the law.
The Copyright Notice
While not required under U.S. copyright law, posting a copyright notice on your website may reduce the likelihood of actual copying of your website content, increase the amount of damages that you could be entitled to if someone were to copy it, and protect your interests in jurisdictions that are not signatories to the Berne Convention. Feel free to use my copyright notice as a template. To the extent that my copyright notice is protected by copyright law, I hereby freely license the copying of it for use on any and all websites. The best practice is to have a mini-notice at the bottom of each page that links to the more formal notice on its own page.
To the extent that any copyright notice is required, this is the bare minimum:
Copyright [date] by [name]
You can substitute the "c" in a circle © (use "©" in your html markup), but a "c" in parentheses (c) is insufficient.
The Refund PolicyCalifornia requires that merchants establish a refund policy as well, as a way of letting consumers know what that policy entails. At the very least, if a consumer inquires as to what your refund policy consists of, you must respond via e-mail within seven days of such a query.
My refund policy is simple - I don't make refunds. You will see this policy posted on those areas of the site where I have products for sale.
Terms of ServiceThe more difficult policy to communicate to your website visitors is your "Terms of Service" or TOS. Some sites label this as "disclaimer" or "legal." Since every site is different, each needs to have its own, unique, TOS. You would do yourself a grave disservice by simply copying eBay's TOS, for example, rather than creating your own.
That is not to say that you cannot learn something from reading the TOS on another site similar to yours. You may find, as I have, that there are certain standard elements in a TOS. But because every TOS needs to be customized for the site it protects, I cannot post a "model" form. If your web site is in need of a new TOS, contact a competent attorney in your area, or email me about looking over your website to make sure it is in compliance.
The Clickwrap AgreementCommercial web sites should have an agreement that is separate from that of visitor to the web site (the Terms of Service) and have that agreement address.
***Further Copyright Information***
The DMCA Safe HarborIf your website has message boards, a guestbook, a chat area, or any other place that a visitor could, without your consent, post copyrighted material, you can get protection under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) by registering with the U.S. Copyright Office and designating a registered agent for DMCA notification. Be sure you understand what this involves before registering an agent.
If you become aware that someone has been posting your copyrighted material, send me an email to ask how I can help you send a notification requiring the website owner to remove your material.
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2011 Timothy J. Walton