Website Legalities & Your Photography Website

Having an online presence in this technology-driven age is crucial to the success of your photography business.  Sure, there are people who are making it without one. There are some who never blog but have a plethora of clients.  This isn’t always the norm.  

A website/blog is your virtual business card to be used to market your business.  It should be the home base that you drive all traffic to from all social media.  By carving out a little corner of the web, you can control (on your terms) the presentation and information given to clients, potential clients and potential business networks. One more thing to be worried about.

The thing is, there are legalities and best practices when it comes to your online presence, that you need to pay attention to.    These include website terms of use and your privacy policy.

Yes, one more thing to be worried about.  Okay, maybe two.

Unfortunately.

But the good news is, website terms and privacy policies are relatively something that can easily be checked off your list with only minor revisions in the future. (If you get them right the first time).

Website terms will help strengthen your argument if you ever have an issue!Click To Tweet

Before I dig into the legal stuff, just go check any reputable website, you’re going to find these babies linked somewhere on the site, probably in the footer.  This is because having both of them will protect you legally, set visitor expectations and, believe it or not, can educate your visitors on a variety of things (which we will discuss below).

 

Website Terms

Also known as Terms of Use, Terms & Conditions..the heading is as less important as the content.  This document (linked page) on your site is going to set the rules for use of the site.  As noted above, terms may not be legally required, however, if you ever have to go to court to defend yourself this document can help you greatly as it can limit liability, identify which law will govern the dispute, notice of intellectual property ownership, and where the issue will be disputed.  

Here is a great checklist of things that should be included (pulled from the product description of our own Terms document) for you to use:

  • Visitor acceptance of Terms
  • Visitor acceptance of Privacy Policy
  • Outlines what your business does
  • Ownership of site and content
  • Visitor obligations
  • Incorporates the Privacy Policy
  • Addresses Referral Links & Agreements
  • Intellectual Property Licenses
  • Disclaimers
  • Waiver
  • Severability
  • Entire Agreement
  • Disclaimer that Terms may change
  • Warranties
  • Limitation of Liability
  • Governing Law
  • Governing venue
  • Definitions Used
  • Contact Information

 

Privacy Policies

Typically, privacy policies are included within the terms of site – however, for this discussion it is important to break it out.  First, these may be legally required by law depending on where you business sits (more information below).  Second, you may need to directly, efficiently and succinctly direct someone to this page – such as when linking to these terms on an opt-in form.

This policy is a legal document on privacy law that discloses the way you gather data, use and manage data of your website visitors and customers.

It addresses privacy law topics such as:

  • What information is collected ( internet traffic data, cookies)
  • Customer/visitor personal information
  • Testimonials on site 
  • Information collection, use and sharing
  • Access to information
  • Security
  • Registration
  • Orders
  • Survey and Contests
  • Facebook Advertising Pixel Policy (and other tracking pixels as required)

 

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a set of guidelines that will mirror the listings I have included above:

  • What kind of information does the company collect and how?
  • How does a company use the data collected?
  • How does a company protect the information it collects?
  • Does the company share the collected information with others, and if so, what is shared and with whom?
  • Do customers of the company have control over their personal data, and if so, what kind of control they have?

 

Do I legally need these documents? 

So….the question always comes up – are these legally required?  Website terms, not necessarily required (although there are some legal disclosures required) but good to have.  Think of it like a contract…because it really is. You’re not required to use them, but if you’ve been around TheLawTog block for anytime, by now you know the importance of these in business.  

On the flip side, privacy policies may actually be legally required depending on which State (or even country) you are doing business in.  For extra reading, check out the SBA’s Privacy Law section.

 

What are some best practices for these documents? 

  • Get them lawyer-drafted (more information below)
  • Routinely update them – stick it on your calendar with your other contract revisions
  • Link them in your footer
  • Abide by your own terms

 

Common mistakes in website terms

Keep in mind, like any other legal document, these aren’t a golden ticket to liability protection, nor should they be used as a tool to beat your visitors over the head with. 

Often times website owners will get these, and then don’t abide by them. That does absolutely no good.  Make sure before you guarantee something to your visitors that you will also fulfill it.  

One of the biggest mistakes I see in legal practice is over-promising on the protection of privacy (such as not sharing the visitor data).  Business owners may want to share an opt-in list for a specific promotion with a partnered business – but fail to amend the privacy policy terms to reflect this sharing of information.

 

Need your own terms/privacy policy?

It is always best to reach out to an attorney – but here at TheLawTog® we believe that knowledge is power before entering the door of an attorney.  We welcome you to snag the listing of included points (seen above) to take to an attorney and/or you can snag an already lawyer-drafted document here and have them brush it up a little bit.