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Website hosting review website

Los Angeles, CA |

I am looking to create different review type websites. For example web hosting review or dating website review. I will have affiliate links and banners on these websites to web hosting companies and dating websites. Do all I need to do is put a disclaimer below my post saying that I will receive compensation? Another concern is if there is anything negative in the reviews that I could get a lawsuit from this?

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Attorney answers 3


There have been dozens of recent questions on this web-site from people who are looking to create "review" websites, most of whom ask a very broad and general question such as this. The answer remains the same every time---this is not a business for amateurs. No amount of disclaimers will be sufficient to protect you from financially disastrous law suits if you do not lay the proper legal foundation. This means that you must retain legal counsel to work through dozens of issues under copyright, patent, trademark, trade dress, defamation, privacy and internet law, among others. For example, Federal law creates various immunities for internet service providers, but you need to structure your web-site in a manner that qualifies you to take advantage of those immunities. You need counsel to create terms of use, privacy policies, copyright and intellectual property polices, DMCA registration and policies, and many others. None of this can be handled by you without legal counsel, and you cannot safely and responsibly operate a web-site like this without a substantial budget for legal counsel.


Wow, this seems to be a popular get rich quick scheme - to set up a review website and sell banner ads. No, a disclaimer is not going to do the job. Yes, you could sued for negative reviews, and studios and well-funded competitors know they can quickly shut you down by burying you in legal expenses.

There are so many issue to consider that I wrote a legal guideline with a checklist of issues you might need to consider in setting up a website. I link to it below.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.


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, 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 guidlines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidlines 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? Do you have a DMCA notice on your web site?
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 have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.
13. 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.