This episode is the second episode of Not So Risky Business podcast. In this episode, we explore the major legal issues that online businesses and entrepreneurs deal with and need to be aware of.
Some of these legal issues mentioned in the episode are:
- website policies
- privacy laws and data collection
- intellectual property laws (trademark, copyright, patents, trade secrets)
- e-Commerce regulations and more.
It’s important to legally protect your business so that you don’t risk losing it because of a legal technicality.
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[00:00:00] Mariam Tsaturyan:
You are listening to Not So Risky Business podcast where we make legal easy for you by unlocking access to essential legal information, training and strategy for online businesses, coaches and entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Mariam Tsaturyan. Welcome.
[00:00:18] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Welcome back to the second episode of Not So Risky Business Podcast.
[00:00:24] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This episode is going to concentrate on some legal issues that online businesses need to be aware of and need to deal with in order to protect their businesses legally be compliant with several rules and regulations. Just a fair warning there are a lot of rules and regulations in place that online businesses as well as traditional businesses.
[00:00:47] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Need to comply with. So what I'm going to do today during this episode is list some of the more prominent one that we all need to be aware of and definitely comply with. [00:01:00] And then once I list them, I'll try to go into them and give a little bit more detail and feedback on each one. Now some of this rules and regulations, some of the points that I'm going to list are pretty broad.
[00:01:13] Mariam Tsaturyan:
There's a lot that go into them. Like there's so much that we need to know and we can discuss on that I could make separate podcast episodes on each one of these rules and regulations that I'm going to list or issues that you need to be aware of. That's something that I might actually do.
[00:01:30] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So if that interests you, You do let me know. Maybe contact me and let me know, and I'll take that into consideration as well. With that said let's jump into this right away, right? So when we say online businesses a lot of people for some reason get the notion that online business. Might not be very serious or because it's online, it's not a brick and mortar, tar kind of a traditional business.
[00:01:55] Mariam Tsaturyan:
They don't necessarily have to comply with the rules. They don't have to [00:02:00] comply with the regulations. They don't need to worry about basically about legal precautions. Another train of thought that I've seen exists in this world is that, hey, so and so doesn't do this, and they've been having no problems.
[00:02:17] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Like they had no legal troubles for however many years they've been at this. That's all great and dandy, right? However, just because one person gets away with something doesn't mean you will get away with that same something. And then there's also the question, how long are they going to get away with that?
[00:02:34] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Maybe they get away with that for two years, three years, five years. What happens later? What happens if 10 years down the line, I mean, it's a little dramatic, but the chance always exists, right? What happens is several years down the line, they do get in trouble. Now they have invested all that time, effort, energy, resources, money into growing their business.
[00:02:58] Mariam Tsaturyan:
And then because of this [00:03:00] legal technicality, because they didn't actually take the time to make sure that they're compliant or protected, they get in trouble. Now, best case scenario, they get fined. Worst case scenario, they get fined and their business gets shut down. Now, due to the nature of my profession I'm an attorney.
[00:03:19] Mariam Tsaturyan:
I'm extremely risk averse person. I don't think it's worth taking a risk. I don't think it's worth saying, well, what if this doesn't happen? I think more along the lines of what if this happens? Can I afford for this to happen? , isn't it better for me to actually do this thing, take the time to make sure that I'm doing this thing correctly, that I am protecting my business myself legally, that I'm complying with this one or two regulations so that I can avoid being held liable in the future and potentially losing my business over. What if I don't get caught? What if [00:04:00] I can get away with this? So different trains of thoughts, different mentalities, right? You do you whatever works for you. However, I will advise that if you are somebody who's doing what you're doing at the moment, meaning your business as an actual business, you mean for this to become source of income, you mean for this to continue, maybe even become something of a generational wealth that you can pass on to later on. Right? Then you might wanna consider being compliant, being protected legally. If, however whatever you're doing at the moment is just a mere hobby. And you know that, tomorrow you're going to wake up and say, I'm tired of this. I'm going to stop doing this. Or, you know what that YouTube showed that I was doing for my business, I'm not going to do anymore. In fact, I'm done with this whole thing. If that's where you are at, then okay, maybe legal protection and compliance is not on top of the things for you to do, right?
[00:04:58] Mariam Tsaturyan:
It's not. Top top of your [00:05:00] to-do list. However, if you are serious about your business, then I highly recommend you're protected legally. So let's move forward. I do have, by the way, so many per stories of people that I know personally. Not even hearsay. I'm not talking about stories that I've heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that something happened to them.
[00:05:20] Mariam Tsaturyan:
I'm talking about ano actual business owners who have Being held liable for several things along the line. And as soon as I get to those points when we're listing, I'll tell you a little bit about those cases. Obviously I'll leave out names and all that, but I'll tell you what happened, what the end result was, and how much they had to spend in order to get out of that legal jam that they found themselves in.
[00:05:46] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So let's start with the easiest and most obvious thing that you need to be aware of and make sure that you're complying with when it comes to online businesses. If you are an online business, you have. [00:06:00] a website or I hope you have a website. You should have a website, let's put it that way. Funnels and all of that, these are great, but the website is where you brand yourself.
[00:06:10] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So you need to have a website in order to, you know, present to the world this serious image of you as a business So if you have a website, you need to have what we call website policies. Now, the website policies are some of them are legally necessary, as in you have to absolutely have to have it on your website, while others, even though legally not required, are highly recommended because they will help you limit the liability.
[00:06:42] Mariam Tsaturyan:
[00:07:05] Mariam Tsaturyan:
[00:07:28] Mariam Tsaturyan:
[00:07:54] Mariam Tsaturyan:
[00:08:21] Mariam Tsaturyan:
[00:08:45] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This terms and conditions is one of the most important policies that will help you limit your liability, that will get you out of a lot of legal jams if this is written [00:09:00] correctly. Okay, so it's something to keep in mind. And now aside from website policies, obviously online businesses similar to traditional businesses out there need to worry about business formations.
[00:09:14] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Business formation refers to the structure of your business. Are you going to operate as a sole proprietor? Are you going to maybe open an LLC for you, limited liability company? Maybe you are partners with someone. Is it a partnership? Is it a general partnership, limited liability partnership? Or maybe you have a corporation is it a C corporation?
[00:09:37] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Is it an S corporation? And so on and so forth. So when it comes to business formation, we're talking about the business structures that you're going to have for your business. And depending on your business, depending on your goals and purpose for your business one type of business form or formation might work.
[00:09:53] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Better for you than others. We'll get to this. In fact, I'm going to do a whole entire episode on this [00:10:00] topic, down the line for you to get an idea as to which form of business is the best one for you. So let's move forward the next. Point that I wanna make when it comes to legal issues that you need to consider as an online business are your intellectually intellectual property rights, intellectual property rights are.
[00:10:22] Mariam Tsaturyan:
The most valuable rights your business has and owns as a business. Your intellectual property is what makes your business valuable. It's what brings that price tag higher for your business. Intellectual property refers to things such as your copyrights, your trademarks, your patents, if you have any, and your trade secrets if you have any.
[00:10:45] Mariam Tsaturyan:
A copyright is a right that is actually protected in a constitution. The rest are not in a constitution, but it does not make them any less important. Your trademarks are, I would argue that one of the most important, [00:11:00] the absolute most important intellectual property that you can own, because it is it.
[00:11:05] Mariam Tsaturyan:
It brings value to your entire brand. In fact, trademark is what protects your brand and gives you ownership of your brand. But as an online business, you are going to have a lot of intellectual property to deal with. So first and foremost, you're going to have a lot of content, a lot of works of authorship, which original authorship refers to the copyrights.
[00:11:24] Mariam Tsaturyan: So you will have potentially block posts, you will have articles, you will have. Images. You might, if you're a, for example, SaaS company, you'll have software. If you're a musician, you'll have music. The choreography are, you know, all kinds of things that go under copyrights that you need to protect.
[00:11:42] Mariam Tsaturyan: Trademarks similarly, , every single online business will have a trademark. Now, whether they can protect that trademark or not depends on various factors. And I, again, I'll do a very detailed episode on this topic. Trademarks is kind of my bread and butter. I love it. So we'll [00:12:00] definitely are going to go into trademarks in a lot more detail later on, but just something to keep in mind.
[00:12:06] Mariam Tsaturyan: So make sure as an online business, your intellectual property rights are protected. Next point that I wanna go into are domain names and website issues that you need to deal with. Domain name refers to when I say domain name, I'm talking about your url, like www.im great.com, for example. If you're an online business, you definitely have a domain name.
[00:12:29] Mariam Tsaturyan: Now some businesses have their domain name to be the exact same thing. In fact, most businesses, I would say be the exact same thing as their brand name. Or business name while others have them be different things. Sometimes it's a necessity because the domain name they wanted was not available.
[00:12:47] Mariam Tsaturyan: Sometimes it, it can be a strategic choice because maybe that domain name carries higher as a co Jews than, you know, what they might come up with. Maybe they have purchased an old domain name from somebody who has [00:13:00] like that years and years of SEO juice in it. And they wanna carry that to their website.
[00:13:04] Mariam Tsaturyan: So whatever the case domain name refers to your u URL that you're going to have for your business. Now, there are several things that you need to consider when it comes to domain names. One one of the top ones of course, is you want to make sure that your domain name is not infringing, another person's registered or unused trademark.
[00:13:24] Mariam Tsaturyan: If somebody has a registered trademark for the domain name that you're using, then you're in trouble. You cannot use that. For example, let, let's bring a simple, simple example. Amazon or Starbucks, like, I'm giving very like famous brands right now, just so everybody knows. You cannot have a website that said www Amazon that.
[00:13:46] Mariam Tsaturyan: Net or amazon.co. Or a website that said Starbucks, you know? Yeah. So because these are registered trademarks, you need to be aware of that so you're not actually infringing them. . Another issue to consider is whether or [00:14:00] not you are cyber squatting somebody else's domain name. Cyber squatting refers to the act of buying a domain name for the sole purpose of keeping it for however long necessary.
[00:14:11] Mariam Tsaturyan: So when one day somebody needs that domain name, you sell it to them for a lot higher price than they would have been able to. Pay then they would've paid originally if you didn't take over that domain name for no reason. Now cyber spawning refers to the act of just holding that domain name a hostage.
[00:14:31] Mariam Tsaturyan: Basically you do not have a website. It is, even if you do like it is not a legitimate website. It is just there to essentially Hold, hold that domain name in place until you can get rid of it. Sell it to somebody else. Or sometimes you, you might not even wanna sell it, but you're not using it. You're holding it for whatever reason.
[00:14:52] Mariam Tsaturyan: Maybe you don't like the person who wants to use it. You get it first to make sure that they don't get their hands on it. So, This cyber squatting is [00:15:00] not legal. This is a practice that was very widespread, I would say, up until maybe even five years ago. For example, we've heard the stories, how for Facebook paid several th hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain the domain name facebook.com, you know and so on and so forth.
[00:15:18] Mariam Tsaturyan: So this was a practice that was widely done. It was actually seen as a way to make money. Some people still advocate this as a way to make money, however, know that this is actually illegal and there are bodies in place now, legal entities and bodies in place who handle this kind of processes. So if you are cyber squatting, there's something that can be done right now.
[00:15:41] Mariam Tsaturyan: There's an actual legal process that somebody can go through. To get and obtain that domain name from you without paying ascent. So just know about this. I'm not saying it will, it's a hundred percent effective. The process, it, it is still fairly new and there's still lots of kings to work out, but it is there.
[00:15:59] Mariam Tsaturyan: [00:16:00] And one thing we know if. A law and regulation or an enforcement agency comes into play. It only gets worse from there. You know, they get stricter and stricter as the time goes. Definitely doesn't go into the other way around for them to get easier on you. So just something to keep in mind. Now the other side
[00:16:19] Mariam Tsaturyan: The other issue that I wanna bring up are privacy and data protection issues. Now, this kind of goes into the whole website policies section that we've talked about, but because this is such a broad and expansive like category, I want you to understand privacy and data protection and take it seriously as an online business, especially as an online business, you have a lot more responsibilities.
[00:16:44] Mariam Tsaturyan: To your consumers, to your subscribers to adhere with these rules and regulations and act you need to be aware of the latest privacy rules and regulations because as we know, negligence of the law is not a defense. You cannot say, I didn't know about this law, and try to [00:17:00] justify not actually complying with that.
[00:17:24] Mariam Tsaturyan: This is a regulation that came out of the European Union. It is highly enforced. They're still working out some things, but we have had several cases at this point. We have been held liable for GDPR violations. Now, even though GDPR comes out of the European Union. If you are in the United States, and let's say you have a website or you do business and you have some buyers in Europe, you are liable.
[00:17:50] Mariam Tsaturyan: You have to comply. There's no way around it. GDPR is a very tricky and detailed piece of regulation. So I will do an episode on this because it's too [00:18:00] big for me to talk about it in a few sentences, but just know that. Basically lays out ways that a person can legally obtain personal data, and then it limits that right to specific purposes.
[00:18:13] Mariam Tsaturyan: It also limits how you can collect that data and what kind of disclosures you need to make in order to get that data. Another regulation that you need to be aware of and comply with is the C C P A or the California Consumer Protection Act. Now, this is a California specific one. It is, I would say that a GDPR equivalent in California.
[00:18:35] Mariam Tsaturyan: But even though it is a California regulation, if as an online business owner you have buyers, readers, subscribers from California, or you do business with another business in California, then again you should comply with ccpa. Now there are c. Some guidelines as to who absolutely must comply with C C P A.
[00:18:58] Mariam Tsaturyan: You said there's like a [00:19:00] monetary amount, 25 million and all of that. There's like an actual three-prong analysis that goes into it. However, my view when it comes to regulations, as I said in the beginning, I am a person of better safe than, sorry. I'd rather comply with this thing. Have to deal with it later on.
[00:19:18] Mariam Tsaturyan: So even though today you might not have to comply with C cpa it is better to comply with it now because you have nothing to lose by complying so that you can be safe for later on. Another data privacy kind of act that we just recently got is from the state of Virginia. It's the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act, or the V C D P A for sh in short again, similar to C C P A, it has certain privacy regulations, limitations, or ways you can obtain data.
[00:19:49] Mariam Tsaturyan: And again similar to CCC p a, if you do business with somebody in Virginia, Or if you have consumers in Virginia, then you need to comply. . And you know, [00:20:00] another thing when it comes to the privacy and data protection is, are you, aside from being aware of this regulations on rules, aside from knowing all this privacy laws are you actually honoring your subscribers requests and wishes?
[00:20:14] Mariam Tsaturyan: So your subscribers or the consumers have certain rights under this regulations and they can exercise those rights. So are you honoring their requests? This is a big one, right? So let's move on from privacy and data protection to our next point. That next piece of law or regulation that you need to be aware of as an online business are the e-commerce regulations.
[00:20:43] Mariam Tsaturyan: E-commerce refers to, you know the act of doing e-commerce online, like shopping. If you have a store where you sell either physical products or you sell digital products and people can add it to their card and check it out. that is basically e-commerce. You can do it through [00:21:00] things like WooCommerce or Shopify or Magenta or any one of those options.
[00:21:05] Mariam Tsaturyan: Some people do it through funnels too, that can also be referred to as e-commerce today. So the act of buying and selling essentially. and e-commerce has in includes a very broad category for legal issues because there's a lot that goes into it in terms of regulations and laws and nuances that you need to be aware of.
[00:21:27] Mariam Tsaturyan: So We cannot possibly cover everything in e-commerce today. In fact, I'm not going to cover everything today, but I will list quickly the things that you need to be aware of when it comes to e-commerce, at least the top things you need to be aware of and pay attention to if you are a business who does any kind of like.
[00:21:48] Mariam Tsaturyan: E-commerce or has an e-commerce component to it that obviously you need to be aware of sales tax issues, right? You need to be, you need to have clear [00:22:00] sales terms. This means you need to have a clear policy on your website. Another one is refunds. Are you issuing refunds? What's your refund process like?
[00:22:10] Mariam Tsaturyan: So you want to make sure that you have a very clear, simple, easy to understand and easy to find, refund policy in place. Regardless whether you offer one or not, you want to put this in writing as clearly as possible. So your buyers or potential buyers know what they're getting themselves into.
[00:22:30] Mariam Tsaturyan: Another thing is marketing and marketing and advertising. This kind of falls into FTC guidelines as well, and we'll talk about that later on. But, you know false advertising, you cannot do that. There are certain rules and regulations when it comes to marketing and advertising. You cannot. Promise something that you cannot deliver.
[00:22:52] Mariam Tsaturyan: You need to have all kinds of disclosures in place when it comes to marketing and advertising. Such, just things to take into [00:23:00] consideration. The other thing is, as product safety standards, if you are selling physical products like goods, certain things, you need to make sure that they're, they satisfy the safety standards.
[00:23:12] Mariam Tsaturyan: Meaning if someone buys that thing from them, it is not. Unreasonably unsafe. They are not going to be damaged from that product by that product's proper use. When now we're talking about proper use. This is an important term to keep in mind if somebody uses a product. in a way that was not predictable, that they would use it in that way.
[00:23:37] Mariam Tsaturyan: And the product's use wasn't meant for that purposes, it wasn't meant to be used that way. And again, you couldn't predict that somebody would use it that way. Then obviously you're not liable, but if it is, foreseeable that you could predict that somebody would use it in a way and be harmed. Then at the very least, you need to have disclaimers and [00:24:00] disclosures in place.
[00:24:00] Mariam Tsaturyan: For example l let's take the simplest example of this. When you go to the store and you buy toys, , like if they are tiny toys, like they have tiny pieces, you usually see attention or pay attention, like choking hazard, not for kids throwing under, and so on and so forth. So obviously it's a toy.
[00:24:20] Mariam Tsaturyan: It's not meant to be choked on. It's not meant to be. Put in a mouth right to choke on. But the toy manufacturer takes into consideration the fact that kids are kids. They might put it in their mouth because kids put everything in their mouth and they might choke on it because it's so small. They might swallow it and so on and so forth.
[00:24:40] Mariam Tsaturyan: So it is a predictable Way of use, even though it is not meant to be used that way, but it's predictable that somebody would do that. And if you could predict that type of use and that type of use ends up hurting somebody, then you need to take care of that as well. You need to make sure that your product has safety standards in place.
[00:24:59] Mariam Tsaturyan: [00:25:00] And the last thing that I want to touch on when it comes to e-commerce regulations, we've kind of already mentioned this in several places for this, are appropriate disclaimers and disclosures. Disclosure. You know, disclosure is something that you disclose. To your consumers. It can be about lots of things disclaimers again, for example.
[00:25:21] Mariam Tsaturyan: The choking hazard is a disclaimer. So stuff like to keep in mind if there is something your consumers need to know in order for them to have a better understanding of your product or service, or to be able to. A more informed decision, then you need to make sure that they have that piece of information.
[00:25:41] Mariam Tsaturyan: Okay, now we covered e-commerce regulations as quickly as possible, and again, we will go into this in a lot more detail in separate episodes because each one of this. Points is very expansive. A lot goes into them, and I really want you to know about this because [00:26:00] they are directly connected to online businesses and you need to know this in order to protect your business.
[00:26:05] Mariam Tsaturyan: So we'll go into this in separate episodes but the next. Point or the next kind of legal issue that I want to get into has to do with employment. And a contractor writes an agreement. As an online business, you are going to have a team. You are going to have staff. Maybe your team is not a team in a traditional sense where you have a brick and morar business and people come to your office, come to your business and do their work there.
[00:26:32] Mariam Tsaturyan: With online businesses, it might be more of a remote team. It might be um, Contractors or freelancers that you hire. It might be independent contractors, or it might be employees, right? You might hire somebody as an employee, even though they're a remote team, though they might be a hybrid team type of a situation where you have some people working in a particular location and then others are working from home.
[00:26:56] Mariam Tsaturyan: Whatever the case. This is an employment and [00:27:00] contractor situation, and you need to make sure that you have all the proper terms and agreements for these people. Now you need to have very clear employment agreements in place. Talk about the hiring process, talk about their duties, their responsibilities.
[00:27:17] Mariam Tsaturyan: Is there a probationary period that you're hiring them at? Is there a, a starting wage? Are, are they likely to get bonuses? How often? What's the kind of promotional process like? Like meaning climbing up the ladder. and so on and so forth. Talk about hiring, but do not neglect to talk about firing because it's almost more important than hiring, process, firing, termination, whatever you wanna call it.
[00:27:47] Mariam Tsaturyan: You want to clearly cover those spaces. What are some circumstances that would allow you to terminate somebody's employment, to fire them as an employee? Do you require [00:28:00] notice? You need to make sure that you are complying with your local rules and regulations as well, like each state, each country, even.
[00:28:08] Mariam Tsaturyan: Well, sometimes within the state, different counties might have different regulations, so you want to make sure you are aware of your state regulations, country regulations in order to have a clearly written a binding employment agreement in place. . Right. Another issue kind of parallel to employment agreement are independent contractor agreements.
[00:28:31] Mariam Tsaturyan: You might not hire an employee, but you might hire an independent contractor or a freelancer, or a virtual assistant. These are all basically forms of independent contractors. So again, similar to the employment agreement, your independent contractor agreement needs to be detailed. Do not get lazy when it comes to this.
[00:28:53] Mariam Tsaturyan: Make sure you list all the relevant information that your independent contractor needs [00:29:00] to know about. Again, hiring, firing payments, work products, hours, worked. If you wanna put it in there or not. How is the work going to be submitted to you and how much time how are they going to be paid? How.
[00:29:14] Mariam Tsaturyan: In what manner and so on and so forth. So clearly outline every important clause that they need to know about to protect them and to protect you. Now just as a sort of like a caveat to all of this, that we're talking about, contracts and agreements, a contract will not be binding. It will not protect you if it's one side.
[00:29:40] Mariam Tsaturyan: If that contract is heavily in your favor, meaning it's not even taken into account your independent contractor's rights, all it does is talk about you and how to protect you as a business owner. That contract will not hold in court. Contracts need to be fair. Contracts need to be [00:30:00] conditionable. So make sure your contract is two-sided at least, like it protects both sides a little bit.
[00:30:06] Mariam Tsaturyan: Okay? . So let's get to the next point. So we've talked about employment agreements, independent contractor agreements. We've talked about what your contract needs to have in place. We've talked about what your employment agreement and independent contractor agreements need to cover, such as hiring processes, terms termination terms and processes and all of that.
[00:30:29] Mariam Tsaturyan: Another thing to take into account are non-disclosure agreements. When you work with people, when you hire an employee or you hire an independent contractor, you might have to let them know of certain things about your business. Maybe it's your customer list. Maybe it's your trademarks, your intellectual property.
[00:30:52] Mariam Tsaturyan: Maybe it's a process that they need to be aware about that you're guarding carefully. Whatever it is that they need to be aware of in [00:31:00] order to do the job that they were hired to do. You don't want them going after they're done working for you to somebody else and kind of letting them know all of this information.
[00:31:12] Mariam Tsaturyan: So what you want to have in place are non-disclosure agreements or NDAs. NDA basically means that neither one of you will. Go to another business out there and let them know of your processes or consumers or customer list and whatnot. It basically makes sure that you can do business together without worrying that the other person will do something to harm your business.
[00:31:38] Mariam Tsaturyan: The other thing, and this last thing I'm saying with little hesitancy, because some people tend to take it overboard while. Also, it is important to note that some jurisdictions do not like this. They do not accept this. In some places they're just plain not allowed. But some places they are allowed if used correctly and [00:32:00] with limitations.
[00:32:01] Mariam Tsaturyan: I'm talking about non-compete agreements. So make sure if your jurisdiction allows. For a non-compete, you can have one, but your non-compete agreement cannot be broad. You cannot, unreasonably forbid the other person from working in a similar field for the rest of their lives or for an extended period of time.
[00:32:24] Mariam Tsaturyan: Your non-compete needs to have a geographic. Limitation, a reasonable geographic limitation, and it needs to have a reasonable, timely limitation as well. So just two things to keep in mind when it comes to non-competes. Aside from checking whether your jurisdiction actually favors them or not. So we're done talking about the employment and contractor agreement section.
[00:32:51] Mariam Tsaturyan: Our next section will focus on your online content and user-generated content. So online [00:33:00] content and user-generated content for online businesses is a big issue because number. as an online business, you most likely have some form of content online, whether these are blog posts, whether these are articles, whether these are podcasts, YouTube videos, or even your social media.
[00:33:21] Mariam Tsaturyan: Posts and videos that you do, these are all considered online content, and as long as they come from you as a business, they belong to you. Meaning regardless where this content is found, whether it's on social media, on your website, or on something like YouTube or Pinterest you are liable for them.
[00:33:40] Mariam Tsaturyan: You need to make sure that these are complying with the rules, regulations, laws, and all kinds of legal issues. Now, one of the biggest things that you need to take into consideration for online content is IP infringement issues. IP refers to intellectual property. Here we're talking about copyrights [00:34:00] and yes, even trademarks.
[00:34:01] Mariam Tsaturyan: So keep that in mind, whether. It's you who writes the content. Number one, you don't want to infringe somebody else's copyright or trademark. Number two, you want to make sure that somebody else is not infringing your copyright or trademark. . Another thing to take into account is that as a business owner, sometimes, or a lot of the times actually, you are not the one who writes your content, you're not the one who comes up with the content.
[00:34:35] Mariam Tsaturyan: I know a lot of business owners who hire writers. Or there are some agencies who give you articles and they, they just sit back and enjoy the fact that their online presence or their website has a lot of content and it helps them get found and it gives them credibility, establishes authority.
[00:34:54] Mariam Tsaturyan: However, you are liable for that person's act if [00:35:00] whoever you hired plagiarized. Let's say somebody else and wrote a content for you, or they infringed somebody else's copyright when they were writing your content. You as the business owner are liable for those things, so make sure you closely monitor so as not to be infringing somebody else's intellectual property.
[00:35:22] Mariam Tsaturyan: You don't wanna be accused of intellectual property. Theft. You don't wanna be accused of plagiarism, right? And another thing to consider is if you are the type of website that accepts guest posts, again, keep an eye on this because you don't know who your guest is, you don't know where they got that.
[00:35:43] Mariam Tsaturyan: Post unless they wrote an original post for you and you are sure that it's an original post, they did not copy that from somewhere else. I would kind of err on a side of caution and not accept guest posts. But if you are accepting once, make sure you [00:36:00] have clear guidelines in place. Make sure you have all kinds of disclosures in place to protect you again from any future liability.
[00:36:08] Mariam Tsaturyan: Funny story. As you know I am an intellectual property attorney. I do copyrights and trademarks and contracts and business, done, all of that. And I do have a contract shop where I sell legal templates. I've had that shop since, and I think the end of 2018 or 2019, I don't remember. It's, it's a long time, but the point is, There are a lot of people out there who have my legal templates, and believe it or not, I know my writing style.
[00:36:37] Mariam Tsaturyan: I can identify if that contract was written by me or not very easily without seeing my name on it. Someone from my, I guess, ideal clientele list. This person was not a client, but she stole. One of my client's agreements and the client paid me to write that agreement for them. So [00:37:00] she just went on that client's website and copied the agreement onto her website, and she even forgot to change.
[00:37:07] Mariam Tsaturyan: The information in few places to customize it for her own businesses. So I guess it's a sort of an oxymoron or something. I'm an intellectual property attorney and somebody infringed my copyright in my contract, so it happens regardless who you are, what your profession is. If somebody wants a.
[00:37:27] Mariam Tsaturyan: Copy from you. If somebody wants to infringe on your copyrights, they most likely will. But the thing you can do, the thing you can control is to have certain. Things in place, certain actions that you can take in order to prevent that from happening. And if that happens to actually find a solution to that in your favor.
[00:37:51] Mariam Tsaturyan: We'll talk about this again in a separate episode when we discuss intellectual property and copyrights and all of that, but you. Just a little side story [00:38:00] that it happens to everybody. So just be aware and no matter how careful you think you are, it's very likely that somebody from your team copied from somebody else.
[00:38:10] Mariam Tsaturyan: So just be vigilant. Okay. we're. Talked about online content and user generated content as well. Let's quickly touch on advertising and marketing compliance issues. We've already covered this little bit when we've talked about e-commerce rules and regulations, but let's get back to this.
[00:38:29] Mariam Tsaturyan: Pretty quickly. So when we say FTC regulations, we're talking about the Federal Trade Commission regulations and they are strict. In fact, they are actually pretty litigious. They tend to file cases and claims against businesses out there against Influencers people who do any kind of sponsored work, there's a lot of data out there.
[00:38:54] Mariam Tsaturyan: You can search somebody God sued for not disclosing that they were given a product for free, or [00:39:00] they were given this product for free to review. You know, they get in trouble for that. So, FTC regulations are. Broad and they refer to advertising and marketing rules. What is it that you're allowed to do?
[00:39:13] Mariam Tsaturyan: What is it that you're not allowed to do? You know, false advertisement obviously not allowed. You cannot promise something that you cannot deliver on. The FTC regulations also control things like affiliate marketing rules and regulations email marketing rules and regulations. So make sure to review on those and keep an eye on future episode when we talk about this in detail.
[00:39:35] Mariam Tsaturyan: Now I will tell you very briefly about email marketing regulations so that you're aware of it until the day that we talk about this in detail. So when I say email marketing regulations, I am mostly talking about can span rules. Can Spam is a United States legislature. However, if you are an outsider who does business with anyone in us, you'll still need to [00:40:00] comply with this.
[00:40:01] Mariam Tsaturyan: Yes, it will be more difficult to actually enforce anything against you if you're outside of United States, but it's not impossible. So something to keep in mind. And if you are in the. States you absolutely have to comply with can spam because it carries some hefty fines that you don't wanna be liable for.
[00:40:21] Mariam Tsaturyan: When you do email marketing the biggest thing is that you cannot spam somebody against their wishes. If that person did not give you explicit consent to email them about a certain thing then you cannot spam them. and you need to have a very visible, I'll hear this again, a very visible unsubscribe link or button inside your emails somewhere.
[00:40:54] Mariam Tsaturyan: I have seen very big names, influencers, online business owners [00:41:00] who make like upwards of a hundred or 200 K a month. Send emails and they are hiding that unsubscribed link. They will grade out to the point where it's almost not visible on a white background or it's not there at all. Okay, this is not okay.
[00:41:20] Mariam Tsaturyan: You cannot do this. Make sure your unsubscribed link is clearly visible, so if somebody wants to unsubscribe from your emails, they can do so, and you need to have systems in place in your email marketing. When somebody unsubscribes you stop sending them email. You want to make sure to do that unless somebody unsubscribes from one particular list or topic, but they say they still wanna get emails on other things, you are absolutely not allowed to email them after that.
[00:41:57] Mariam Tsaturyan: So just something to remember. [00:42:00] This is a sore point. That's the reason I mentioned it because there is two . Two emails from two different companies that I get, that I've been trying to unsubscribe from for at least six months, and I email them every time I say them, remove me because they hid the unsubscribe link from their emails.
[00:42:20] Mariam Tsaturyan: It's not there. You cannot unsubscribe it. And they're not honoring my request to not send me emails. So make sure you're not that person. Make sure you're not that business. Honor your subscribers and consumers right. If they wanna hear from you, they'll hear from you or they'll resubscribe. Okay, and let's get to the last state for today, and that is the topic is accessibility.
[00:42:48] Mariam Tsaturyan: Now this is again seems to be a common theme for today. Every time I get to an issue, I say this is a big issue. , but accessibility truly, truly is a big issue. It [00:43:00] didn't used to be as big of an issue as it has become in the past three years, and it continues to escalate from there. And personally, I'm happy about this because accessibility is about giving everybody equal access to your website, to your business, to your content.
[00:43:21] Mariam Tsaturyan: And in fact there are a couple of law firms out there now, a little predatory to be fair. But these law firms basically search for people with disabilities and they show them specific websites. And if that person says, oh yeah, this is for example, not such a great website, or My access to this is a little bit limited, they filed cases and claims I personally know of.
[00:43:47] Mariam Tsaturyan: Two businesses. Two. My personally no to, but I have heard of at least 20 who got sued in the last year alone on accessibility [00:44:00] issues. One of them had to pay upwards of $55,000 with attorney fees and settlements to get rid of it. The other one, thankfully, was able to resolve it fairly cheap. For I think three K or something, but it's an extra stress and time that you need to take away from your business that you do not want to do, right?
[00:44:22] Mariam Tsaturyan: If it's possible to make your website and content accessible from the very beginning, do that. If you haven't done it, then you can go back and make it accessible. So make sure to pay attention to this. So some things to keep in mind when it comes to accessibility. Your content needs to be easily readable.
[00:44:44] Mariam Tsaturyan: Now, this means your fonts need to be large enough. Your font sizes need to be large enough. Your actual font needs to be a legible font. So I would kind of stay away from like those nice, like script [00:45:00] fonts handwritten type of fonts and aim for Seif or Seif if you have to, but San is easier to read.
[00:45:08] Mariam Tsaturyan: So those kinds of fonts in order for people to have easier view of that other thing is your content needs to be readable by screen readers. Scannable by screen readers. Screen readers are things that visually impaired people use to read your content, your website, it is a thing that scans your page, your website, and it tells them, okay, there's a text here.
[00:45:33] Mariam Tsaturyan: Like, they, they read all of that through the tags. That's why it's important to have proper tags as well. So that screen reader tells them if there is a link, if there is a button. If there is an image. So, Have your proper tags in place. Your titles and subtitles need to be in H tags, so H one, H two, H three, H four.
[00:45:54] Mariam Tsaturyan: You make sure your images and graphics have alternate texts or alt tags in [00:46:00] place. This is a, a little text that explains what that image or graphic is. So there's a very. I guess big uniform practice out there today for people to use the alt tag as an SEO option. So instead of actually describing what the image or the graphic is, they use that as an additional place for keyword staffing for SEO purposes.
[00:46:25] Mariam Tsaturyan: I understand why they do this, but it is not the proper use for ALT tags. The ALT tags are there to explain to the visually impaired. , if there's an image, what does that image show? What's in that image? So people, you need to describe your image or graphic. So that's what the proper use for the alt tag is.
[00:46:48] Mariam Tsaturyan: And for example, as I said, use proper tag. If you wanna start a new paragraph, make sure you use a paragraph break so that the code for screen reader purposes [00:47:00] registers it as a paragraph break as opposed to when you do, just enter, enter for a new paragraph. The screen reader is not going to pick up on that.
[00:47:09] Mariam Tsaturyan: So when a person, a visually impaired person tries to read your page, it's just going to be very jumbled and not make a whole lot of sense. So think of those people, right? Think of people who do have certain disabilities or impairments. And make sure that they get equal access to your content, to your website, because number one, they have the right to just like everybody else.
[00:47:33] Mariam Tsaturyan: And number two, These are potential buyers that you'll be missing on if you're not letting them know what it is that they're looking at. Your forms need to have labels in place. So sometimes this makes the aesthetic not so pleasant, but it is what it is, right? We need to make it accessible.
[00:47:50] Mariam Tsaturyan: So you want to make sure your forms have labels and your colors. For your website or your page need to be high contrast colors. Now there's [00:48:00] a lot more that goes into accessibility. In fact, I have an entire online course on this topic that I have created and I roughly have. 300, I believe 356 students who have taken this course and loved it.
[00:48:15] Mariam Tsaturyan: So I'll make sure to put the link in the show notes for you if you wanna check it out. But basically make sure your websites are accessible. Okay. Highly, highly important. And what's more there are law firms out there specifically designed for this purposes that come after you. They scan the website.
[00:48:34] Mariam Tsaturyan: to find sites like yours that are not accessible to come after you and it costs them nothing to file the case. They lose nothing, but they're standing to gain a lot. If you are liable. In any case this is all that I wanted to talk about today. We have covered a lot of ground today. We have touched upon a lot of legal issues that you need to be aware of as an online business in order to comply with.
[00:48:59] Mariam Tsaturyan:
I hope you [00:49:00] took some notes. In any case, each episode will have transcripts in place so you can follow along with the transcript as well, if that's easier for you. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you and I look forward to our next chat together.