Artists! How to Lock Down Your Website Legally to Avoid Trouble
Congratulations! You have taken your art online. Perhaps you have set it up to sell your work online, too. Good for you who have. It’s my humble opinion you should have e-commerce enabled on your site. You put too much into making your art and building your website not to let it work entirely for you.
Let me start by telling you I am not a lawyer. As such, while I believe the advice I’m giving you is accurate; it is not a legal opinion. It’s coming from an informed layperson. If you have serious legal questions or concerns, it is always in your best interest to consult with an attorney.
As a visual artist, use these four items to Lock Down Your Website Legally.
- Terms of Service
- Contact Information
- Copyright Notification
Let’s Review Each Item
Make sure you include these things:
- Details on what information you collect and how you will use it.
- How site visitors and users can change information or opt-out of your lists.
- Notice of any age restrictions. Be clear to state if you have policies and reasons for restricting your site, anyone who is either 13 and older or 18 and older.
- Use precise language stating how you share the information you collect. Unless you send all emails from your computer, you are sharing your visitor’s data with a third-party. Although your email service provider is a trusted third party, you still must state you share emails with others who are trusted third parties.
Terms of Service
You will also find this section of a website called Terms and Conditions. Either way, it is a document that tells visitors how you conduct your business on your site. It also sets forth your expectations for how you expect them to behave and act on your website. It is a contract of sorts and a potential “bacon saver” for sure.
Your Terms of Service (TOS) can help you protect your intellectual property. It also will potentially limit your legal liabilities in most cases, and help you resolve issues with payments owed to you. It provides a roadmap that can help you settle disputes regarding the use of your site and purchases made from it.
You will want to consider covering these items, and possibly more:
- Location of where and how they will be handled.
- A strongly worded Intellectual Property (IP) policy stating how your site and images can and cannot be used. You should also explain how you will use the IP of others on your website, and how visitors can use the IP of others on your site
- Specifying any limitations on guarantees and damages.
- Any appropriate disclaimers regarding advice or performance that relate to your site.
- Reserve your right along with details on how you might refuse service.
- Explain how purchases are processed along with your shipping policies.
- Refund policy (You may want to post here and then give this info a unique page and link.)
Whenever you sell things, you have to expect to get refund requests. Being ready for them and posting your policies makes things easier all around. The more clear and distinct your policy, the better for all. An easily understood refund policy will help protect you from potential legal issues.
You do not have to accept refunds, although I can’t imagine why you would not. Current EU laws don’t give you that discretion. If you are shipping or selling in Europe, it’s the law.
Providing this information in your refund policy is a good start. You may need to add more:
- The timeframe for refunds. When do you stop offering a refund?
- Your expectations for the condition of the item being returned. Your policy for returned items that are damaged upon receipt.
- Provide clear instructions on how returns are to be shipped and who is responsible for paying the shipping costs.
- Money-back. How does your refund policy work? How long is your refund process, including how many days it takes before your customer can expect to get their refund?
Wikihow.com offers this useful article: How to Write Terms and Conditions – there are other valuable free resources and online generators to be found searching the Internet.
Duh! Make sure you have an easy-to-find link on your site that leads to a page with your contact information. If you have a physical or retail location, include a map. You will want to include your name, postal mailing address, phone number, and email address. Also, posting your hours of operation and any policies regarding timeframes on replies are useful in building trust with site visitors.
Although IP protections are mentioned in the TOS section, for artists, in particular, it’s a good idea to have a separate Copyright Notification link and page. You don’t want or need any ambiguities regarding your copyrights.
With a Copyright Notice, you tell your visitors that they do not have rights or consent to use your content without your permission in writing. This notice includes using your images or material in any way.
If you do allow the use of your materials, this is an excellent place to spell out the details. Many artists, photographers, writers, and bloggers use the rules and licenses set forth by the Creative Commons organization.
Your Copyright Notification page should contain your name or your business name, the Copyright symbol ©, and the year your site was established.
While this information is helpful, you will need to modify it to fit your situation. It gives you an excellent place to start. You cannot afford to ignore providing legal information to your site visitors.
If you advertise on Facebook and elsewhere without giving this information, you run the risk of your advertising being blocked, or your site being banned. So besides having common courtesy, being professional and thorough, you will want to implement these suggestions to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings with your customers, site visitors, and advertising partners.