4 Legal Pages You Need on Your WordPress Website

By |2018-11-02T08:39:17+00:00February 21st, 2018|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

Starting a blog or creating a website for your business can be pretty exciting. So exciting that you may forget to make sure you’re in compliance with the law.

If you’re asking people to subscribe to your website, are selling products or services, or have Google Analytics set up then you’re required to take certain legal measures to protect the rights of your site’s visitors.

Here, we’ll go over four legal agreements that you should have on your WordPress website, what they are, why you need them, and which clauses they should include. We’ll also look at a few different ways you can create these pages for your WordPress website.

What we’ll cover:

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and this article does not offer legal advice.


Why It’s Important to Make Your Website Legally Compliant

Your online business could be at risk if you don’t have the basic legal requirements covered for your website. There are a number of things that could go wrong:

  • Someone copies your entire site – design, branding, layout, content – everything and claims it’s their work.
  • People face negative side effects after following the weight loss diet you recommend on your blog.
  • Your membership website is targeted at children but you don’t openly describe how you handle the data you collect or what you do with it.
  • You don’t inform visitors that you’re an affiliate for the products you recommend through your blog.

The bad news is that you could get into a lot of legal trouble for knowingly or unknowingly taking part in these practices. If you’re not managing the legal side of your online business properly of complying to the legal obligations of running an online business then it’s pretty easy to get caught up in legal turmoil down the road.

The good news is that all of these potential legal issues – and many more – can be avoided simply by posting a few legal pages on your website and making sure your website remains legally compliant. In the following section, we’ll take a look at which legal pages you’ll need on your website and which clauses to include in them. But before we get into that, let’s quickly go over why it’s important to be compliant with the law and with third party services.

Complying With the Law

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of consumers. According to their website,

The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. We conduct investigations, sue companies and people that violate the law, develop rules to ensure a vibrant marketplace, and educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. – FTC

If your online business is based in the United States, you’re required by law to make sure your website is compliant with the FTC’s rules and regulations. That said, if you’re running an online business – even if it’s not based in the United States – we strongly recommend that you take appropriate measures to protect it and yourself from the risks of facing a lawsuit due to non-compliance.

The FTC is known to have brought legal action against companies that were found to have been violating the privacy rights of consumers or failing to maintain proper security for the sensitive information they collect.

Complying With Third Parties

You probably have Google Analytics linked to your WordPress website or are signed up with an advertisement program like AdSense. But did you know that these third party services require you to post a Privacy Policy on your website?

According to the Terms and Conditions of these (and some other) third party services, you’re required to let your visitors and users know that you’re using their services on your website. In some cases, the requirements are very specific. For instance, Google Analytics’ Terms of Service page states that you must post a Privacy Policy on your website if you’re going to be using their services and that Privacy Policy should notify visitors that you’re using cookies and Google Analytics to collect and process data.

Here’s a list of some popular services that require you to display certain information on your site before you can be approved to use their products and services:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google AdSense
  • Google AdWords
  • ClickBank
  • Facebook Apps
  • Amazon Affiliates

If you’re running an online business then there are a number of steps you’ll have to take to make sure your website is legally compliant with the governing law and any third party services that you might be using.


4 Legal Pages to Post on Your Website

The legal pages you’re required to post on your website will depend on three main factors – the type of business you’re running, the region you’re based in, and the third party services you’re using on your website.

If you’re collecting any sort of information from your site’s visitors then you’re legally required to post a Privacy Policy on your website. This could be your customers’ names, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, etc.

What Is a Privacy Policy?

A Privacy Policy is a legal document that describes the ways a business collects, processes, and shares the data they collect from their customers. It’s a way of letting your site’s visitors know what information you gather from them and what you do with it.

Why Do You Need One?

There are two main reasons why you need to post a Privacy Policy on your website (1) it’s required by federal/state law and (2) it helps you build credibility with prospective customers.

The federal law governs how you interact with your website’s visitors and customers. The FTC is known to have brought legal action against online businesses that:

  • Failed to comply with their rules and regulations.
  • Violated the privacy rights of their consumers.
  • Did not maintain proper security for the information they collected from consumers.

And in some cases, you’ll be bound by state law to post a Privacy Policy on your website and adhere to it. For instance, California requires all businesses that collect any kind of information from residents of California to have a legally binding Privacy Policy up on their website. And since there isn’t a way to prevent the residents of California to ever visit your site or interact with it, you’re required by law to post a Privacy Policy on your website.

Another reason why it’s important to have a Privacy Policy on your site is that it helps you build trust with your site’s visitors – especially those that might become customers in the future. When they see that you have a Privacy Policy on your site and it explains exactly what information you will collect from them, what you’ll do with it, and if you’ll share it with third parties, they’ll naturally be inclined to perceive your website as a safe place to buy from and be associated with.

Which Clauses Should It Contain?

The clauses you’re required to include in your Privacy Policy depends a lot on the type of business you’re running and the governing law. So, if you’re running an online store, your Privacy Policy might be slightly different than someone who’s running a simple blog.

Generally speaking, it should cover the following areas:

  • A detailed account of the information you collect, why you collect it, and how you’ll use it.
  • Whether your site is restricted to visitors over a certain age.
  • An account of how you share your visitors’ information with third parties like Google Analytics or AdSense.
  • How you will notify your visitors of updates to your Privacy Policy.

Required by Law: Yes.

A Terms of Service document goes by many names. You might see it linked in a website’s footer as their Terms and ConditionsTerms of Use, or just simply Terms – they’re all the same thing. The thing about Terms of Service agreement is that it’s not required by law but it is in your better interests to have one.

What Is a Terms of Service?

A Terms of Service is a legally enforceable document that gives you a platform to define the rules your website’s visitors have to follow in order to use it. Basically, it’s a way of letting your visitors and customers know how they can and can’t use your website and what they can and can’t do on it. It also lets them know what they can expect from you.

Why Do You Need One?

A Terms of Service document is important for a number of reasons and can literally save you from getting into legal trouble. The main purpose of having one posted on your site is that you can add clauses and disclaimers to it that will:

  • Protect your intellectual property.
  • Limit your liability.
  • Help you handle disputes and collect payments on time.

Another neat thing about a Terms of Service agreement is that you can require your site’s visitors to agree to it before they can begin using your service. For instance, when you sign up with a website, you’re required to check the I agree to the Terms and Conditions box. What that means is that you’ve now agreed to the terms defined in the company’s Terms and Conditions agreement and are in a position to legally enforce them.

If the company fails to abide by their own Terms of Service i.e. they say they’ll respond to alleged infringement notices but fail to do so when you contact them, you’re in a position to file a lawsuit against them.

And if you’re found to be violating the company’s Terms of Service then they’re in a position to deny their services to you. What this means is that they can suspend your account – for a given period or indefinitely – or something similar.

Which Clauses Should It Contain?

The clauses you decide to include in your Terms of Service depend largely on the type of business you’re running. Here are a few sections you might consider adding to it:

  • An explanation of your rights and responsibilities and those of your website’s users.
  • Which state/country law will be applicable in the case of a dispute.
  • A clause on intellectual property rights which explains how visitors can and cannot use artifacts that fall under your intellectual property and how you can use artifacts that are their intellectual property (in the case of user-generated content).
  • What happens when an individual violates the Terms of Service.
  • A disclaimer limiting your liabilities.
  • A section on payment details that explains how you will charge for your service.
  • How a user can opt-out of your services.
  • How you will notify your visitors of updates to your Terms of Service.

Required by Law: No.

If you’re creating any sort of content on your website – blog posts, infographics, web apps – a copyright notice lets you inform your site’s visitors that the content is yours and they cannot use it without your permission.

What Is a Copyright Notice?

A Copyright Notice is usually a simple, short line that lets your website’s visitors know that the content published on your site is yours, that it’s protected under copyright law, and that they cannot copy it. If your copyright is simple, you can simply include a copyright notice on your website’s pages. Some websites have to publish a separate page for their Copyright Notice because some of the published content belongs to them and some of it belongs to the site’s contributors.

Why Do You Need One?

Copyright law automatically gives you ownership rights over the content you create and publish to your website. And if someone does copy a part of your content or all of it then you can legally enforce your rights and regain sole ownership over your content.

The main purpose of having a Copyright Notice on your website is that it prevents visitors from copying your material, using it, and/or claiming it’s theirs.

Which Clauses Should It Contain?

A simple Copyright Notice is typically a one-liner that contains:

  • The copyright symbol ©.
  • The year you created your website.
  • The name of the copyright holder.

However, if your copyrights are more complex, you might consider posting a separate document on your website and including the following clauses:

  • A list of materials/content that you explicitly grant permission for people to use.
  • How they can use that material/content.
  • A statement that lets them know that though you are granting them permission to use your content, it still belongs to you.
  • Which content belongs to you and which content belongs to the contributors who publish content on your website.

Required by Law: No.

If your business is based in the European Union (EU) or you’re doing business that’s targeted at EU citizens then you’re required by law to have a Cookies Policy posted on your website.

What Is a Cookies Policy?

A Cookies Policy is an agreement that’s used to inform visitors that your website places certain cookies on their devices and let them know about your cookie usage. Online businesses that aren’t based out of the EU or specifically target EU citizens typically don’t have a separate Cookies Policy on their site. Instead, they add a cookies clause to their Privacy Policy.

Why Do You Need One?

Information collected through cookies can, in some cases, be categorized as personally identifiable information. What this means is that the cookies that are placed on your device contain information that can be used to identify you.

For this reason, it’s important that you’re notifying your visitors that you will place cookies on their device if they want to browse through your website. What’s more is that you have to ask them for their consent i.e. they have to opt-in and actively agree that you can place cookies on their device. You can’t automatically place cookies on their device and give them an option to opt-out.

Which Clauses Should It Contain?

The clauses you are required to include in your Cookies Policy are pretty straightforward. In its simplest form, it should include:

  • A statement that you’re using cookies.
  • A brief explanation of what cookies are.
  • Which types of cookies you’re placing on the user’s device.
  • Why you’re placing cookies on the user’s device.
  • How you’re using the cookies you place on the user’s device.
  • How your users can manage the cookies on their devices.

Required by Law: Yes (if your business is based in the EU and/or is targeted at EU citizens).


How to Create Legal Pages for Your WordPress Website

There are three main ways you can go about creating legal pages for your website – having an attorney write one up, using a legal pages generator, or using a WordPress plugin. Let’s explore each option:

Method 1: Have an Attorney Write One for You

Your best option as a small business owner is to have an attorney draft a legal document for you. The key benefit here is that you can rest assured that your agreement(s) will cover all of the bases. In addition to this, your legal agreements will be specific to your area which means that they’ll be in compliance with the governing law of your state.

Method 2: Use a Legal Page Generator or Template

There are a number of online tools that you can use to generate legal agreements for your website. All you have to do is enter some basic information e.g. the name of your website, your business name, the country/state it’s based out of, etc., and it’ll output a legally binding agreement for you.

Tools:

Free Privacy Policy
Getterms
Free Copyright Notice
Cookie Policy Generator

Method 3: Use a WordPress Plugin

You can also use a WordPress plugin to generate and publish different legal documents for your website. The Legal Pages plugin lets you generate a Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, Cookies Policy, and many more legal agreements with the free plugin. Another great plugin to generate legal pages for your WordPress website is WP Legal Pages.

Tools:

Legal Pages
WP Legal Pages

Conclusion

If you’re running a website then it’s a good idea to make sure it is in compliance with the law and with any third party services that you might be using. It’ll protect you and your business from getting into legal trouble and help you build credibility with your site’s visitors and prospective customers.

What are some of the ways you protect your business website or blog? Let us know by commenting below!

2 Comments

  1. Rod Salm April 12, 2018 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Would you suggest having one page that covers all these? As they are likely to be read very infrequently wouldn’t one (really long page) do the trick?

    • Rafay Saeed Ansari April 16, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      From a UX perspective, it’s better to have separate pages for each agreement/policy.

      If you’re required to be compliant with the GDPR or are required by third-party services (like Google Analytics) to display a Privacy Policy on your website then it’s more important to focus on having constructive notice of the terms/privacy notices. The effectiveness of these notices depends on how your site’s visitors are informed of your legal pages (Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, etc…) and whether they are given the opportunity to review them. So, as long as you’re able to satisfy the notice requirements, it doesn’t matter whether you display them on individual pages or one really long page.

      Some websites (like GitHub) have a single Site Policy page that links to each of the individual agreement/policy pages. This makes it easier for you to be able to link to each individual page from your notices. If you had one really long page then you’d have trouble getting visitors to your Terms of Service if you had it published under your Privacy Policy – unless you were using anchors.

      -Rafay

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