Companies must consider several legal issues when conducting their businesses. As digital channels have exploded in popularity, organizations are discovering that the internet brings a host of legal considerations to deal with. Website content is now increasingly liable to get your company in hot water. From accessibility to trademark service violations, here are four legal issues that surround your website’s content and how you can mitigate these risks.
Lack Of Accessibility
Accessibility is increasingly central to website design, and web accessibility lawsuits are on the rise, with a 14% increase in cases filed from 2020 to 2021. This number is expected to grow in 2022.
Many companies are unaware of the laws governing accessibility, but the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the standard for complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. These guidelines give companies a great framework to make their websites accessible to all users.
Over the past few years, several tools that automate website accessibility have emerged. These tools leverage AI engines to transform a website automatically, annotating videos and modifying the design characteristics to make them more accessible.
Document accessibility is another part of web accessibility that is important. For instance, a user with disabilities might download a file from your website, only to find that their assistive technology, such as a screen-reader, cannot read the content to them.
Whether it’s an important PPT file or an informative PDF, the onus is on companies to transform their content. Images and icons must be textually described, interactive elements must be navigable by keyboards, forms fields must be tagged and labeled properly, and textual and table content should be properly structured.
Website disclaimers cannot prevent legal action, however, not having a disclaimer exposes companies to significant liability. Website disclaimers can prevent consumers from suing organizations if they encounter issues using a company’s product or following your advice.
They do not fully protect a business, but go a long way toward allowing users to protect themselves. For instance, a business recommending a weight-loss product might find itself in hot water if consumers do not realize the stated benefits. A disclaimer protects the company from a range of lawsuits.
Furthermore, disclaimers discourage people from suing companies. Well-written disclaimers cover several aspects of a website’s content. For instance, they can state that your website’s content might not always be up-to-date with current information.
You can also disclose that you’re not responsible for information on third party sites or any malware that those websites might inject into user systems. Disclaimers are not always legally binding, however, they can protect a business from several issues and determine the validity of a lawsuit brought against it. That’s why you should know how to protect your small business from getting sued. It’s best to use disclaimers wherever applicable, as a result.
The web is highly regulated these days, and for good reason. Invasive data collection practices and the black box-like nature of the early web led to a loss of user trust or risk its reputation. These days, companies must disclose everything from the information they collect to the kinds of cookies they use on their websites.
Financial institutions need disclaimers and privacy policies that adhere to regulatory guidelines. While most of the language in these notices is standard, they’re critical to protecting companies from liability. The penalties for violations are huge.
The United States has a network of data privacy laws that cover data collection. In addition to Federal laws, companies in the US must comply with Gramm-Leach-Bliley, COPPA, and HIPAA. Of course, there are various factors to become HIPAA certified. Those conducting business with EU jurisdictions must comply with GDPR laws.
Expenses associated with defending against these lawsuits are high. It’s best to thoroughly review current protection and update privacy policies as needed. For starters, companies must ensure these policies are clearly displayed and fully accessible. Installing internal regulatory compliance processes is also a good move in this regard.
Intellectual Property (IP) infringement is a serious violation and can lead to hefty fines. Violating another entity’s trademark or copyright can be catastrophic for a company’s brand image and business. Not only will the small business website be taken offline, but several other aspects of its business will experience disruption.
There are other consequences too. If a judge rules that a company’s executives were aware of an IP issue and failed to act, the financial penalties could bankrupt the company. There’s the other side of the equation to consider too.
Companies must go to great lengths to protect their IP, since it can make or break their business. Educating employees about trademark usage and implementing vetting processes that ensure IP infringement is not occurring is a great idea.
Vetting all content with legal departments or consultants before publishing them is also a great practice. Any company that uses open-source or freeware technology must document proof that the software is free. Creating policies around the use of internal IP is also a great idea.
Preparation Is Key
As the web evolves, companies will face increasing legal issues as people read their websites. Preparing for the future and conducting regular audits is the best way of dealing with potential problems down the road.