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Building a Social Network: Legal Concerns – There are Plenty!

Legal Concerns – A Summary

I’m going to take a couple of steps backwards to explain a certain necessary evil. With websites and social networks in particular there are a lot of legal issues that should be addressed. When I say necessary evil what I really mean is attorneys. They have what you need and without them you’ll be lost. Sure, you could sign up for a website and steal their legal documents, alter them a bit, but then pose the risk for being sued for copyright infringement. This isn’t the only legal risk websites create for their owners; there are countless others.

Before you even think about starting work on the project you need to have access to two very important documents. The first is known as an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which needs to be signed by anyone you decide to discuss the details of your idea with.

This document makes it illegal for the parties involved to disclose any of the information discussed with any third parties and also protects you against them using your idea or information you provided them on their own. After you’ve found the developer you want to work with the second document is known as a WDA (Web Developing Agreement). In a roundabout way this document lays down the law for what is acceptable use of information, timelines, what’s required for completion, etc… As an example in the WDA I used, it restricts the use of any of the code in future projects and it also requires the developer to hand over all materials involved with the project. I’ll be honest with you, when I read the document over I put myself in the shoes of the developer and it damn near made me tear up.

So you found the developer you’re going to work with, so what other legal issues do you need to be aware of? Don’t worry, there is plenty more to stress about. If you are building a social network you have to worry about several areas. First, age requirements, thirteen and under require explicit parental approval and require a ton of additional measures to make sure the children aren’t presented with inappropriate content. The best policy is to restrict users by requiring them to be at least fourteen years old. This will be one less thing to worry about and don’t worry; they will be fourteen at some point. Another concern is copyright issues pertaining to the content of your website which includes the content added by the users. There is a document called “the prohibited content guidelines” which explains in detail what users are legally allowed to add to the website. By presenting this document, you will release liability from yourself and pass it on to the individual users. However, this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You are required by law or more specifically DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to promptly remove any content that is infringing on another entities intellectual property when a verified entity requests you to do so. The other required documents are the website “terms of use” and “privacy policy.” The purpose of the terms of use document is to explain to the users the purpose of the website as well as what they are allowed to use the website for, and it definitely highlights the restrictions as well. The privacy policy is in place to inform the users how your website will treat their personal information. As an example, a responsible website will not share user’s information with third parties unless it is something that directly correlates with the operation of the website. An example of this would be online advertising; user’s information is shared with companies like Google so more targeted ads can be placed in front of them. An example of an unethical website would be one that sells users’ email addresses to spam companies. The scary thing is you will always have to keep your guard up; lawsuits can surface even on the most legally responsible websites.

Be very careful when deciding who will design the website for you, because my first effort did not go so well. I was up front with my budget and the requirements for the job and the initial quote was something I was happy to work with. However, when it came down to putting things on paper the story had a different ending. They were willing to provide me with a stripped down website with very few features. This is a perfect example of why an NDA is so important and making sure anyone you speak to about your idea has signed one.

3 Responses to “Building a Social Network: Legal Concerns – There are Plenty!”

  1. Hey Ryan, Just checking out your site.

    Posted on by: I E REVIEWS
  2. Thanks for taking the time.

    Posted on by: bigkazzyry
  3. […] This isn’t the only legal risk websites create for their owners; there are countless others. Read the rest… (link to No Comments, Comment or […]

    Posted on by: Building a Social Network: Legal Concerns - There are Plenty!

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