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Wanting to understand the international laws that govern a single user's accountability for advice given online.

Jacksonville, FL |

Wanting to understand the international laws that govern a single user's accountability for advice given online. Scenario: A website sells the ability to ask an expert resource a general question relative to business or technology. The experts on this site have been vetted and are acknowledged thought leaders in their profession. Resources will come from many countries worldwide.
It was brought to our attention that in Australia " if you provide paid advise then you are also liable for the consequences." These resources will not be directors, some may be on an advisory board for the venture. How do we go about avoiding any legal issues around 'the consequences' of this online advice.
Sample:
I'm putting in a new computer system, what expenses can be capitalized?
How to hire a BI Engineer?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. This sounds like a question for a new business you are starting. My recommendation is to hire an attorney to advise you in all aspects of the business. One way to get around the issue from Australia is to block Australia IP's from being able to subscribe. Or, it may be that if your website is outside Australia, the operators of the site may not be subject to Australia law.

    The above is not intended to be legal advice, but may be used for general information. Please contact an attorney for specific help tailored to your needs. www.figgardenlaw.com


  2. This is a very complicated and overly general question that you're not going to get answered on Avvo.

    Each US state has its own law, plus federal laws. Each country has its own law, plus some multinational treaties. So IT DEPENDS on what law applies. That's a jurisdiction analysis.

    It also depends on WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION you mean. Lawyers, for example, are only liable for malpractice if they perform below the standard of care in their jurisdiction and in their area of practice. Lawyers who answer Avvo questions aren't liable for anything because the questions are anonymous, the answers aren't "advice" and there's no attorney-client relationship. That's a very fact-dependent analysis re: the relationship ait ssue.

    Also, IT DEPENDS ON THE FORUM. A website can have its own rules that govern its use, and they may or may not provide for liability. That's a contract analysis.

    Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


  3. I agree with my colleagues. Your question is presents a complicated issue that requires a face to face consultation with an attorney. Good Luck.

    This is a general response to a general inquiry and is not intended to for any type of relationship, including but not limited to an attorney client relationship.


  4. 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 Model – Is your idea viable as a web based business?

    2. Business entity - Are you going to be a C corp, a sub-S, an LLC or a sole proprietorship?

    3. 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. Privacy Policy - Every e-commerce site needs a privacy policy!

    5. FTC guidelines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidelines apply to e-commerce sites.

    6. Domain Name issues? Is your name available. Can you create a Trademark?

    7. 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?

    8. Copyright - If it is on the web, it already belongs to somebody. Did you buy a license for the images you are using?

    9. Do you need a DMCA policy?

    10. Web Site security issues?

    11. Do you need and have an EIN? You can get that for free.

    12. Do you need an arbitration clause?

    13. Do you have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.

    14. Do you know the difference between a "browser wrap" and a "click wrap" and which do you need?

    15. Are you abiding by the Child's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)rules?

    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 offer a free phone consultation.

    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.

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