Legal Issues when Making a New Website

Creation of a website

Due to the huge impact that the internet currently has on the way in which we do business it is imperative that any existing or new business have a functioning website which can be accessed by their customers.

The creation of a website is not used simply for a business with many people in the United Kingdom creating sites for other forms of self promotion. For example individuals aspiring to be musicians, DJ’s, writers or poets may set up their own websites.

Setting up your own website may be quite a simple process but there are certain legal issues which should be taken into consideration.

What legal issues will arise when a website is created?

One of the main legal rights and protection that is created when a website is first set up is that of copyright protection.

What copyright protection will exist upon the creation of my website?

Copyright under the laws of England and Wales is provided for in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

In order to be provided with copyright protection under the Act there is no requirement for formal registration of the copyrighted work. This means that provided that the work is a literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, film or broadcast and that the work falls within the definition of originality when the work was created the work will be protected by copyright.

This means that when a website is created copyright protection is likely to exist in relation to the following elements:

  •       The text of the site – can be protected as a literary work
  •       The pictures on the site – can be protected as either photographic or artistic work
  •       Any clips or videos on the site – can be protected as a film and or dramatic work

Who will own these rights following creation of the website?

Generally ownership of the copyright in the different elements of the site will belong to different people. This means that upon creation of the site it may be imperative to instruct a solicitor to complete the assignment process to detail exactly who owns what under the site. This will also fully detail the various rights that people will have in relation to the site and what can be done with each of the elements making up the site.

Are there other laws which I should be careful not to infringe when I create a website?

Upon the creation of a website there is the potential to open yourself up to both civil and criminal actions. As a consequence an individual should be very careful as to what material goes on the site and how the site is run.

What potential laws could I be breaking?

When putting text or images onto the site individuals will need to be very careful regarding copying text and images or any other material from third parties. If care is not taken in relation to this an individual could find themselves embroiled in an action for copyright infringement.

This could take the form of either a civil or a criminal claim.

When setting up a website, individuals should also be extremely careful that they are not using a domain name which is already owned by a third party and that any of their branding doesn’t infringe another party’s trade mark rights.

This could bring about the potential of a civil claim being made against that individual.

Are there any other laws other than Intellectual Property that I need to be aware of?

Intellectual Property law is simply one issue which affects websites. Another potential stumbling block is libel. An individual writing on or for a website should be very conscious that any derogatory comments they or another person posts on their website could give rise to a defamation claim.

This will be a civil action and could be extremely costly in relation to the damages that may have to be paid.

Furthermore when text is being provided for a website the individual should be aware of the criminal law in relation to the following:

  •       Contempt of court
  •       Obscenity
  •       Racial hatred

Are there any laws specific to potential consumers of my website which I should be aware of?

There is a substantial body of legislation which is designed to protect consumers and any other individuals involved in online activity. When setting up and running a website it is imperative that these laws are followed. These laws place specific obligation upon website in relation to the following areas of law:

  •       Accessibility law – Disability Discrimination
  •       Data Protection Law
  •       E marketing Law
  •       E commerce Law