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The Internet is a Cyberlaw Minefield

Watch Your Step
Doing business online can be as difficult as it is lucrative. Hiring the Web site developer, tracking orders, updating changes, ensuring supply, collecting money, etc. all require time and planning. One thing often overlooked is the legal ramifications of online business. While most business owners have a sense of what it takes to build a Web site and fulfill orders, few have a sense of whether what they are doing will run them afoul of the law. Rather than learning what they need to do, they stumble blindly forward into the crowded minefield that is internet legal regulation.

The 80/20 Rule

The Law of the Internet is both complex and constantly changing. Even if you knew everything there was to know about Internet Law (which no one does), your warehouse of knowledge would be outdated immediately. You can hardly blame business owners, faced with such a Sisyphean task, for tumbling blindly forward. I mean, “What good is a little knowledge?” Quite a bit as it turns out. For about 20 percent of the effort, you can learn about 80 percent of what you need to know, or at least where the most explosive online legal pitfalls lie. Understanding the remaining 20 percent requires 80 percent of the effort, but I would recommend this only to those looking to medal in Trivial Pursuit: The Pompous Patent Lawyer Edition.

If Only There Was a Some Kind of Map
Thankfully, there is. Cyberlaw CoverCyberLaw: A Legal Arsenal For Online Business is a great place to start. Its nineteen chapters cover everything from employee use of e-mail, to document retention policies, to the top ten legal oversights that can shut down your Website. It even includes forms and an index to use it as a handy desk reference. Often companies do not even realize they are moving into an online legal minefield until they get sued. By that time, the cost to extricate themselves from the lawsuit and get back on track may be more than the company is worth. Following the legal path is typically not much more expensive than following the lawsuit path. Without knowledge of which path you are on however, the difference between the paths may only become apparent when a judge shuts down your company. That is where Cyberlaw can help. What are patents, trademarks and copyrights? And how can they help or hinder my business? Written in layman’s terms, Cyberlaw helps you identify potential problem areas. Cyberlaw is not legal advice, you still need your lawyer for that, but it is legal information, which allows you to make sense of your lawyer’s advice.

Spot the Issues
“CyberLaw: A Legal Arsenal For Online Business” will not turn you into a cyberlawyer and, while it may eliminate your need for Ambien, it will not replace your lawyer. What it will do is offer you a map to navigate your company through the online legal minefield, steer away from catastrophe and identify potential problems before they spiral out of control. Cyberlaw helps you spot the relevant issues and ask the right questions. Understanding at least the basic principles of online legal regulation vaults you ahead of your less informed competition and may even afford you a little more restful sleep, safe in the the knowledge you have the map to guide your business out of the lawsuit minefield at your side.

Brett Trout

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