We see companies and website owners often at LawTrades that mistakenly believe they can simply adopt another site’s terms or privacy statements. This is very risky since every company and site is different, and therefore will need language that fits and protects them.
I also get many questions about potential defamation or other harmful communications or posts. The good news for US operators is that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides exemptions from liability for some content or behavior which could be considered offensive - as long as it’s not a tort or criminally prohibited.
Intellectual property is another legal item to be aware of. Users on UGC sites can sometimes post work (chiefly videos) to which they have no rights. Here again, the US offers operators some fairly stout safe harbor provisions. The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) effectively offers operators immunity from liability for users’ copyright infringements. In contrast to the CDA, however, OCILLA requires site owners to immediately remove the protected IP. In addition, the operator is required to not have actual knowledge of the IP infringement.
- Eligibility for some OCILLA safe harbor provisions - specifically under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) - require a service provider to register with the copyright office. More information is available http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/here.
- Be responsive to complaints.
- Consider insurance. New insurance products are available for service providers of UGC sites that can significantly reduce liability costs.
- Adequate training. Ensure that your employees are trained about legal issues, policies and risk management strategies.