Many sites post "terms and conditions" somewhere on the site. Do you need them, too? If you have anything more than a small, information-only site, you probably do, covering topics like copyright, returns, and limiting your liability.
Refunds, Returns, and Losses
If your site sells products, you may need notices regarding credit card use, refunds, and returns (known as "transaction conditions"). For example, you might want to announce that your business will accept returns up to 30 days after purchase.
You may also want to include disclaimers -- statements that inform customers that you won't be liable for certain kinds of losses that might incur. For example, you may disclaim responsibility for losses that result if pottery breaks when a customer ships it back for return.
Limiting Your Liability
If your site provides space for chats or postings from the Web-surfing public, you'll want to limit your liability from offensive or libelous postings or similar chat room comments. There are three things you can do:
- Monitor postings. Regularly review all postings and promptly take down those you think are offensive or libelous.
- Remove suspect postings. If asked to remove a posting by a third party, remove it while you investigate. If you determine -- after speaking with an attorney -- that you are entitled to keep the post, then you can put it back up.
- Include a disclaimer. Your disclaimer should explain you don't endorse and aren't responsible for the accuracy or reliability of statements made by third parties. This won't shield you from claims, but it may minimize your financial damages if you're involved in a lawsuit over the posting.
Regardless of what your site does, you should include notices regarding copyright and trademark -- for example "Copyright © 2006 RichandAndrea.com" or "Cyzuki is a trademark of Cynthia Lloyd."
If you want to use someone else's work on your website, read the following article: Getting Permission to Publish: Ten Tips for Webmasters.
If you are catering to an audience under 13 years old, special rules apply. You should learn more about dealing with children at the Federal Trade Commission's website, www.ftc.gov/privacy/privacyinitiatives/childrens.html.
For detailed information about the laws covering website development, get A Legal Guide to Web & Software Development, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).