Website legality 101
Heads up! This page contains affiliate links (including Squarespace affiliate links). If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll earn a small commission. I’ll never promote something that I don’t 100% believe in and use myself. Thank you for your support!
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*I am not an attorney and the contents of this blog post should not be taken as legal advice. The recommendations made here are based on U.S. law.
So I ran a poll a few weeks ago over on Instagram about what topic y’all would like to see next and website legality won out by a long shot, so here we are!
I honestly think this is one of the most important posts I’ll ever write on this blog. I know there’s a lot of people out there who think they can brush this stuff under the rug because they feel like their tiny little business won’t ever get into legal trouble.
That, my friends, is a big mistake.
Example: Before I officially launched WSS, I hired an Instagram strategist that I met through Instagram. I was so excited to finally make my first big business purchase and things started off so well. I was PUMPED.
But as she started delivering her work, I noticed it wasn’t up to the standards she promised me. I blew it off at first thinking it was a fluke, but as it kept happening I started getting really nervous.
Long story short, after a very tumultuous afternoon, I made the decision to fire her. And the only way I had legal grounds to fire her was because we signed a contract at the beginning of that contract. In my email to her, I was able to go line-by-line through the contract and outline explicitly how she violated her end of the deal.
Thankfully, she was very apologetic and understanding about the whole thing, and I firmly believe that had I not had the prudence to demand a contract, that relationship probably would have ended very badly.
See?! I hadn’t even launched my business yet and there I was having to rely on a legal contract to protect myself.
Moral of the story...don’t make the mistake of thinking something like that could never happen to you, no matter how small or insignificant you think your business is.
Okay so back to it…
Obviously I’m not an attorney and this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice, but rather some general tips that I’ve acquired throughout my time as a website designer.
Paige is a licensed attorney and has made it her mission to help creative business owners navigate the tricky legal world of owning a business. She does this by writing super helpful and informative blog posts, and by selling legal templates and e-books in her online shop.
I’ve personally purchased 5 of her legal templates and I couldn’t be more pleased with the whole experience. It’s such a relief knowing my business is legally protected (and I didn’t have to empty my bank account to do it!)
Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Paige’s and if you use the code WELLNESSSITESHOP10 at checkout, you will receive 10% off your entire purchase and I will receive a small commission for referring you. But I would never recommend something I don’t love and use myself.
Now I know Paige markets specifically for creative entrepreneurs, but lots of her legal templates will work for any kind of small business (I even asked her specifically about health and wellness businesses!) So you can rest assured that any templates I recommend in this post will work for your business.
And finally, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of all the legal considerations you need to make, but it should give you a great jumping off point to get things started until you can work with an attorney.
Okay, so here are the most important things to think about when it comes to ensuring your site is checking all the legal boxes…
Terms & Conditions statement
Your website Terms & Conditions statement is basically the contract that governs the use of your website between you and your site visitors.
If you’re providing any kind of useful info or selling something on your site, it’s a great idea to have one of these.
It technically isn’t U.S law to have one, but in my opinion, it would be pretty stupid not to have one. Without one, you’re basically shouting to the whole world, “Hey I worked really hard on the content of this site and feel free to take it any time you want and use it as your own.”
Now I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say most of you don’t want that, which means you need a T&C statement on your site.
So how do you get one?
There are multiple legit ways to get a T&C statement, and copying one of someone else’s site isn’t one of them. You would most likely be violating their T&C by committing copyright infringement, and their statement probably won’t even protect your business legally because it wasn’t written for your business. So just don’t do it...it’s not worth it.
The other option is to work with your own attorney to draft one for you, but that will require some cash. But it will be the most legally solid way to protect yourself if you have the budget for it. Once I grow WSS big enough, I will definitely work with my own attorney.
But what if you want to legally protect yourself but don’t have the cash to work with someone? That’s where Paige’s online shop of legal templates comes in!
You can shop her Website Terms and Conditions statement here. (And don’t forget to use code WELLNESSSITESHOP10 for 10% off your entire purchase!)
This is the exact template I used to draft the Terms and Conditions for my own site and I can tell you it was a super easy process!
Side note: She also has another template for sale called “Terms and Conditions for Online Sale.” This is different than the “Terms and Conditions Website Template” which I just linked above. The T&C of Online Sale is if you’re selling physical or digital products through your site. You know when you buy something online and you have to click “I accept the terms and conditions” before they let you purchase? Yeah, that’s what this is! It outlines how they can use the product, return policy, risk of loss provisions etc...Again, this is the exact one I use for the sale of all my templates outlining my policies.
So once you have your T&C statement ready to go, where do you put it on your site? Well it needs to be in a place that can be easily accessed from every page so your website footer is really the only place it should go.
This one is super easy and won’t cost you a dime…
Just make sure you have the copyright symbol in your footer along with your business name and year. For example, I have “© Wellness Site Shop LLC, 2019” in my footer.
This basically protects your content and gives you better legal grounds to go after anyone who steals your stuff without your permission.
If you are offering professional services that require a license (legal, financial, medical etc…), you need to have a disclaimer in your footer. With your disclaimer, you’re outlining that while you are a professional attorney, doctor, financial advisor etc…, you’re not THEIR professional advisor and your content is for general informational purposes only.
You want to avoid the unfortunate situation of writing a super helpful blog post, someone trying out your recommendations, it goes horribly wrong for them, and they decide to sue you. Because without a disclaimer on your site, there’s a good chance you could lose.
So good idea to have one of these if you require it!
Design of your site
If you DIY’ed your site, then you don’t have anything to worry about here! But if you purchased a website template (like the ones in my shop!), then you need to double check the T&C of your purchase to see if you have to put a credit in your website footer.
And if you worked with a custom designer, more often than not, as per their contract, they require a credit in your footer as well with a link to their personal website.
So just make sure you’re giving credit where credit is due when it comes to the design of your site.
Again, this one requires giving credit where credit is due. If you hired a personal brand photographer for the photos on your site, you need to check the contract and see if they require credit. Usually putting a link to their website in your footer is good enough; you shouldn’t have to add a credit to every single image. But make sure to ask for clarification on this!
And if you use stock photography, it is your responsibility to make sure you have the proper commercial license to use the photos on your site without having to provide credit.
Wellness Stock Shop is my fav resource for wellness stock imagery, and all her purchases come with the necessary commercial license to use without credit!
If you wrote all your website copy (text) yourself, then you don’t have anything to worry about here. But if you worked with a professional copywriter, you need to make sure in your contract that you have the proper intellectual property license to use it on your site.
Also, I hope this goes without saying, but if you plagiarized any part of your website copy or defame any other business, you need to take it off ASAP. Not just from a legal standpoint, but from an ethical one as well. It’s not nice to steal other people’s work or say mean things about them so let’s all be nice to each other 😁
So if you have any kind of relationship with a brand, corporate sponsor, or affiliate, you are required by law to disclose it, and disclose it well!
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is big on this one and really doesn’t tolerate any shady practices when it comes to this.
The most common way this comes into play is if you’re an affiliate of another product or service and will get a kick-back if someone purchases that product using your link.
You need to disclose this information in a way that’s impossible to miss. So it can’t be buried in mountains of text or in a font that is so small and hard to read. And it needs to come BEFORE any affiliate links are presented i.e. at the top of your page or blog post. A disclosure in your website footer or home page isn’t enough; it needs to be on every single page that affiliate links are presented.
So to be safe, I put my entire affiliate disclosure at the top of every single one of my blog posts so it can’t be missed.
This is what mine says...feel free to take it and modify it to fit your business!
“Heads up! This page contains affiliate links (including Squarespace affiliate links). If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll earn a small commission. I’ll never promote something that I don’t 100% believe in and use myself. Thank you for your support!”
Okay so that’s the basics of website legality! I hope this was helpful and gives you a starting point on what your next steps are.
I’m also going to link a few of Paige’s other legal templates and e-books that might be helpful for you…
Single-person LLC Operating Agreement (if you’re applying for an LLC)
Independent Contractor Agreement (if you’re hiring a VA, SMM, designer etc...as an independent contractor)
Terms & Conditions for Online Courses (if you sell online courses)
Health Coach Agreement (if you’re a health coach who sells your services)
Podcast Interview Agreement (if you have a podcasts with guests other than you)