So for starters you can look over the FTC guides and get a really good sense of what if anything you may need to be aware of:
If you are being compensated in any way from those entities that you would be providing reviews for this should be disclosed.
Not to be short, but frankly you should be discussing your endeavor with a lawyer in private so this and all the other legal matters can be explored in more detail (i.e., trademark, terms of service, entity structure among others).
Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult so you may want to take advantage of that.
The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 Support@LanternLegal.com DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.
Are You Planning on Opening a New E-Commerce Website?
There is much you need to know as you begin your new business. I suggest you do not attempt to write your own legal policies. This is not where your training and background lie, and though you are probably as smart as an attorney, you do not have their experience.
Below is a checklist for legal issues I use for new e-commerce clients.
1. Business entity - Are you going to be a C corp, an LLC or a sole proprietorship?
2. Terms of Service - This is your contract with your visitors and is the most important item for any e-commerce site. A little work here brings big dividends in the future.
4. FTC guidlines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidlines apply to e-commerce sites.
5. Domain Name issues? Is your name available. Can you create a Trademark?
6. Trademark - Do you have a brand name free from conflict? Should you start with just common law rights? Should you register the mark, and when?
7. Copyright - If it is on the web, it already belongs to somebody. Did you buy a license for the images you are using? Do you have a DMCA notice on your web site?
8. Do you need a DMCA policy?
9. Web Site security issues?
10. Do you need and have an EIN? You can get that for free.
11. Do you have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.
12. Do you know the difference between a "browser wrap" and a "click wrap" and which do you need?
When I discuss this list with clients other issues arise. Finally, I always discuss with my clients their need for good accounting services. An accountant's advice as you start up can save you many dollars in tax that you might not save if you wait to speak to an accountant until your first tax return is due.
I hope this list will give you pause to think about those issues for which you might need to seek professional advice.
You may want to discuss your situation with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo, including myself, offer a free phone consultation.
Andrew M. Jaffe
Attorney at Law
Practice Limited to E-Commerce and Internet Law
This post is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice specific to you. This general information is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney client relationship is not established by this post.
You are are walking in dangerous territory here. You will need to review FTC regulation which may restrict your ability to get paid for posting positive or negative reviews. You also face a wide array of complex intellectual property and privacy law issues, among others. If you think a simple disclaimer can make this fly, you are badly misinformed. You need to retain FTC and intellectual property regulatory counsel (most firms offer both services) to lay the proper legal foundation. Even so, some of the "lead generation" that you are proposing may not be legal. In addition to federal law, you will need to consider whether your concept violates various state laws regarding unfair competition, misleading advertising and/or misleading product endorsements. This is the proverbial hornets nest. You will need a very substantial budget for legal counsel here---and you probably will also need to explore purchasing insurance to cover the very significant risks of liability you would face.
Its unclear to me whether you will be providing the reviews or you will be soliciting reviews, paid or unpaid, from others. As attorney Ross cautions, providing reviews yourself and getting paid for referrals opens something of a hornets nest, although it's one that I think could be contained with adequate disclosures. Providing unpaid reviews from users of the software is less of a concern, provided you properly designate a DMCA agent and otherwise comply with applicable laws (as listed by attorney Jaffe). I have extensive experience advising website operators, and would be happy to discuss your needs. In any case, I agree with other commenters that you need counsel to advise you with these issues.
This is a preliminary remark based on incomplete information in an informal inquiry. It is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns matters that are important to you, you should always have an in-person consultation with a lawyer who practices in the area in which you live.
You do need a lawyer. it is a must. New privacy laws ,disclaimers,copyrights and the national and international exposure of an active web site requires a lawyer to assist you when you start your business. Visit our avvo profile
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