Whether you use the Internet to conduct business, to market your business, to express your opinion, or as an entertainment outlet, you are undoubtedly using the Internet today in some form or fashion, and you are likely to encounter legal issues along the way. The legal limits of Internet use, still a relatively new frontier of communication, are being defined and tested constantly. Understanding your rights and obligations on the Internet is paramount. Everhart Law Firm offers the following legal services to guide and protect you in your use of new technology:

  • Technology Contracts and Licenses: Negotiation and drafting of legal documents in technology-related matters, including license agreements, domain-name purchase agreements, website terms of use, privacy policies, and intellectual property policies, hosting agreements, and website development agreements
  • Domain-Name Selection, Registration and Transfer: Advice regarding selection of domain names; registration and transfer of domain names
  • Domain-Name Disputes and Cybersquatting: Advice regarding domain-name disputes and cybersquatting issues, including claims and defenses under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy
  • Internet Use and Liability: Advice regarding potential liability from use of the Internet, including copyright, trademark, defamation, and privacy issues raised by activities such as blogging, message boards, social-networking, posting of third-party content, downloading of third-party content, and website hosting

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if a domain name is available for registration

You can search the availability of a domain name on the website of any domain-name registrar, such as Network Solutions or Go Daddy.

How do I register a domain name

You can register available domain names on the website of a domain-name registrar, such as those listed above. The cost and term of registration is set by each registrar.

How do I determine the identity of the registrant of a particular domain name

To determine the identity of a domain-name registrant, you can conduct a “whois” search on the Internet at locations such as Network Solutions. Many registrants pay an extra fee to their domain-name registrars to make their personal contact information private, so you may not be able to determine the identity of the registrant through a “whois” search. If you have a legal action against that individual or wish to make an offer to purchase a domain name from that individual, the “whois” search should at least reveal an agent you can contact.

Can I register a domain name containing the name of a real individual or someone else’s product or business name

You should exercise caution in doing so. The use of the name of another living person in your domain name may constitute unlawful “cybersquatting” if you registered the name without that individual’s consent and did so with the intent to profit by selling the name to that individual or another. Also, the use of another individual’s product or business name, or a similar name, in your domain name may constitute cybersquatting if the name is a protectable trademark and you registered, sold, licensed, or used the name with the bad-faith intent to profit from it.

What recourse do I have if someone else has registered a domain name containing my name or the name of my business or product

If someone has registered a domain name containing your personal, business, or product name with the bad-faith intent to profit by selling it to you or another, you may have a legal claim under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. You may also file a complaint under the ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, an expedited manner of seeking relief. If someone uses a domain name containing your trademark in a manner that violates your trademark, you may have a claim for trademark infringement. Keep in mind that simply because someone has registered a domain name that includes your personal, business, or product name does not necessarily mean you have a claim to the domain name. If your name is generic or the individual is using the domain name fairly and not in bad faith or in violation of your trademark rights, you may not have a claim. For example, a lawyer would have no claim against the registrant of the domain name because the term “lawyer” is generic.

Do I own my website content

It depends. If you created the content and did not transfer ownership to someone else through a signed writing, you own it. If your employee created the content for you within the scope of his employment, you own it. If you hired a non-employee to create the content for you and do not have a written contract with the designer, the designer owns the content. You would need a written “work for hire” contract or assignment from the designer to assign ownership of the content to you. You should also make sure you have permission to use any elements included on your website that are owned by a third party.

What are some of the legal concerns of which I should be aware in hosting my own website or blog

For a comprehensive review of legal concerns regarding use of your website or blog, you should consult an attorney. Following are some of the concerns of which you should be aware:

  1. Permissions: You should make sure you have permission to use all third-party content on your website, such as photos, music, artwork, text, and trademarks, or consult with an attorney to determine if use of the third-party content is “fair use” and does not require a license.
  2. Privacy: To the extent users can input personal information into your site, you should be aware of privacy concerns and consider posting a privacy policy. If you do post a privacy policy, you should be careful to honor it, as you are creating a contract between you and the user.
  3. Right of Publicity: Your use of another individual’s name or photograph for advertising purposes without the individual’s permission could lead to a claim of violation of the individual’s right of publicity.
  4. Third-Party Content: You should carefully monitor content posted by others on your website or blog for defamatory, obscene, or infringing content. Several laws, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 may protect you from such postings if you comply with the notice and procedural requirements of those laws. You should consider posting a “Terms of Use” section making clear the terms users of your website must follow, including the types of content that are not acceptable on your site.