January 05, 2012

What is an E-Commerce Contract?

Welcome to Internet Law Radio where we discuss the hottest topics in Internet law.  If you are facing an Internet law issue, cyber law complaint, web site or e-commerce issue, we have an Internet lawyer ready to help.

Welcome to Internet Law Radio.  My name is E-Commerce Attorney Enrico Schaefer.  I specialize in Internet law and e-commerce contract issues.  Today, we’re going to be talking about the simple issue of what is an e-commerce contract.  It’s a term that we hear a lot in the Internet law trade.  And, of course, every company, whether or not you’re a traditional company, a technology company, an Internet start-up, or some other online business or e-commerce company, you have the same necessities as anyone else.  You need a web site host, a web developer, and developers to develop applications for your iPhone app or Android app.  So, what is an e-commerce lawyer?  What is an e-commerce contract?  These are very important issues.

Any contracts that you or your company sign with any technology service provider having anything to do with the internet is an e-commerce contract. You need to hire an attorney who specializes in e-commerce issues and online issues in order to get the best effective representation for you on these very niche, very specialized issues.  Internet commerce is bigger than all other forms of commerce in today’s world for many business models.  You need Internet solutions for e-commerce in the legal area with your lawyer or attorney just as you do anywhere else.  Therefore, an e-commerce solution provider can be a law firm who can help you negotiate your contract with your web hosting company.  An e-commerce attorney can help you negotiate your agreement with your application developer. 

There are a number of different ways these contracts typically come into play and a  number of internet law issues that  typically come up.  Let me give you a couple examples.  If you are going to be entering into a contract with a web developer to develop your web site or some aspect of your web site or SEO services, the first thing you need to worry about is intellectual property.  Who’s going to own the content and  the intellectual property of that effort?   I will tell you, and it might be a surprise, that many web-developing companies will actually register your trademark protected domain name, and do so in their own name. And at the end of the relationship, they will oftentimes try to use the fact that they own your domain name as leverage against you if there is an outstanding bill or some other issue.  You do not want to be negotiating with your web developer over ownership of your trademark protected domain name.  So, in any e-commerce contract that is a developer contract, you need to worry about these types of things.  If someone is going to be doing a design for your logo or your trademark or your web site design, you need to make sure that you own all the intellectual property to that design.  If at the end of the arrangement you don’t, don’t be surprised when you get a letter indicating that they’re going to take down your web site. 

The other e-commerce contract issue that we always come up against is on web hosting companies.  There are a lot of web hosting companies out there to choose from and you need one who is going to be able to give you what you need in terms of customer support, protection from spam, redundancy, back-ups, these types of things.  If you’re a sizable company and you’re going to be betting the farm on the fact that your web site is live, you need to negotiate your web-hosting contract, or at least understand it at a level where you know what you’re getting and what you’re not.  If your web site goes down, your business goes down. 

Some other issues that we regularly see in e-commerce contracts in the e-commerce contract area can deal with privacy, customer privacy issues.  You need to make sure that you are putting a privacy policy in place for your e-commerce web site that is going to either protect your customers’ privacy, because that’s your model, or carefully tell the customer what you are protecting and what you are not protecting.  So, for instance, if they’re going to register for your site and provide an email address, how are you going to use that email address?  Are you going to provide it to third party marketing companies or not?  Consumer privacy is an increasingly critical assessment issue for any internet law attorney working with a company that is trying to develop a privacy policy. 

So, there are a number of e-commerce issues that require specialization that only an e-commerce attorney who sees these issues day in and day out can provide you.  You should interview at least two or three e-commerce attorneys before hiring one in order to make sure that you’re getting the area of specialization that you require, and you can always tell by speaking to an attorney whether  or not they have that specialization in e-commerce contracts.  How can you tell?  Well, number one, ask them what it is you would propose doing for them by way of a project.  Can they give you the deliverables that you require?  Can they quote you a price? Can they answer the question of how much it will cost you to develop an e-commerce contract or negotiate an e-commerce contract?  If they can’t tell you, it’s probably an indication that they’ve not done it before, and therefore, that lawyer, that law firm, that attorney isn’t really experienced on that particular issue.

My name is E-Commerce Attorney Enrico Schaefer and we will see you next time.

You’ve been listening to Internet Law Radio.  Whether you are facing a domain name, intellectual property or a complex litigation issue, we have an Internet law attorney ready to answer your questions. 


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