Communications & Technology FAQ

While no specific federal statute requires that a website have a privacy policy, as a general practice it is recommended. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has authority to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive marketing practices. Although the FTC does not directly regulate privacy practices, the FTC has authority to prosecute deceptive act or practices. The FTC has taken the position that gathering and sharing information from visitors in a misleading or unlawful way is a deceptive or fraudulent business practice under the FTC Act.

Website content can be protected in several ways. All original content, text, images, audio, etc. is eligible for copyright protection. Registering the applicable copyrights will be necessary to enforce those rights. Trademarks, logos, and slogans, may be protectible under trademark law. Registering the applicable trademark is necessary, but it is immensely helpful to possess a registered trademark to enforce those rights. Lastly, website Terms of Use of Terms & Conditions can place contractual restrictions and obligations on users of the website and permitted uses of the content.

Other than regulated industries like law, healthcare, finance, etc., no specific federal statute requires that a website have a specific disclaimers, but as a general practice it is recommended. Under its authority to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive marketing practices, the FTC has issued guidance about the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of different types of disclaimers, including affiliate marketing, celebrity endorsements, customer testimonials, and customer reviews.

The Terms of Use, Terms of Service, or Terms & Conditions, are all agreements that specify the rights, obligations, and limitations, on what website visitors and users can do. They are important for protecting against unauthorized use and access of content and intellectual property. They provide operators with rights, remedies and control over certain risks in the customer-vendor relationship.

The FTC is concerned about endorsements or reviews that are made under certain circumstances that financially benefit the person making the endorsement. If you’ve written about a particular product or retailer and earn a commission from the retailer when someone clicks on a link to buy something from that retailer, you must “disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.”

As between an Internet domain name registrant and a trademark owner, priority of rights lies with the trademark owner. Between two federally registered trademark owners, the senior mark has priority in disputes involving domain names. A mark comprised of an Internet domain name is registrable as a trademark or service mark only if it functions as an identifier of the source of goods or services. Because domain names generally indicate the type of entity using a given domain name, and therefore serve no source-indicating function, their addition to an otherwise unregistrable mark typically cannot render it registrable.

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