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Digital Compliance: Basic Principles of Internet Law

Internet law refers to standards and regulations that govern the use of the internet, also known as cyberlaw. Unlike other areas of the law, internet law is not defined as a singular area of law; instead, it combines principles from several areas of law, such as privacy law, copyright and trademark law, and contract law.

Marketing Regulations

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has formal jurisdiction over the use of marketing on the internet. They manage the law regarding unfair competition, marketing practices and e-commerce procedures.

Some examples of online marketing that are considered problematic are:

  • “Spamming” customers with unauthorized emails or text messages
  • Not disclosing sponsored or paid advertisements
  • Purchasing website or products reviews
  • Making assertions relating to health or organics that are not supported by scientific or medical evidence

The FTC takes marketing tactics like this seriously and your business could find itself facing fines or additional consequences if you are not mindful of best practices and regulations when marketing online.

How to Protect Your Business

  • Avoid spamming or continuous unwelcomed contact with potential customers.
  • Be honest about the merits of your product or services.
  • Disclose paid sponsorships, partnerships, or other online marketing that is paid, rather than organic.

Laws and Guidelines to Review

FTC Bizopp RulesNative Advertising Guidelines
Dot Com DisclosuresCan-SPAM Act
TCPAFTC Act (Section 5)

Intellectual Property Regulations

Generally speaking, if you have taken the time to create and publish unique content or information online, others may be prohibited from reusing the content without first obtaining your permission or authorization. Depending upon the type of content and how it’s used, however, that may not always be the case. To know for certain whether your content is protected from unauthorized use, it’s best to consult with an attorney.

Copyright and Trademark laws are in place to ensure your ideas are protected. Likewise, business owners should be careful to adhere to the same laws and avoid infringing upon the intellectual property rights of other individuals or businesses.

How to Protect Your Business

  • Formally register appropriate content with the Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Copyright Office, or any applicable registration agency in your state and post patent, trademark or copyright symbols and notices on your website.
  • Consult with a lawyer on your social media or marketing material before publication.
  • Before using any creations from another individual or business, have your attorney review to see if the fair use or creative commons exemptions may apply.

Laws and Guidelines to Review

Title 17 of the United States CodeCopyright Act of 1976

Defamation Regulations

Both libel and slander are governed by federal and state defamation laws. Generally, slander applies to spoken defamation and libel applies to written defamation. This can include making false statements about your competitors’ products or services.

How to Protect Your Business

  • Avoid making false statements or manipulations of the truth in advertising when comparing your services or products to others in the market.

Laws and Guidelines to Review

Communications Decency Act

Defamation can be a complicated issue and regulations governing defamation can very depending upon your state.  If you think that you have been defamed or you are accused of defamation, you should contact a local attorney to discuss your options and a course of action.

Privacy and Data Use Regulations

Privacy and data laws, two of the most regulated areas in internet law, provide guidelines for the collection, storage, and use of personal information, including the health and financial information of users. Things like selling or disclosing private information without consent, unauthorized use of billing information, or failure to safely store and protect user information may constitute violations of these laws.  

How to Protect Your Business

  • If you collect personal data on your website, you should have a public data use notice and privacy policy posted that describes the reason for collection and how it will be used.  
  • If you collect data be sure to obtain user consent. Most businesses include an “opt-in” disclaimer on their websites.

Laws and Guidelines to Review

California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA)The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

There are a multitude of internet or cyber regulations for businesses and individuals that require your compliance. Conferring with an experienced attorney to go over your website and e-commerce business plan is essential to making sure you are working within the confines of these important laws.

What Should You Do Next?

If you are interested in learning more or speaking with an attorney at Capital Partners Law, there are plenty of ways to get in touch:

This article is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader nor should it be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our firm.