If you have built a new website or have done a refresh to your old website (to get rid of the website shame you were feeling), congratulations!
A lot of business owners that I talk to have either not focused on the legal requirements for their website or are relying on their web developers or web designers to have included what they need.
Don't Assume Your Web Person Has Got This Handled
In my experience, most web developers and web designers are focused on the user experience and design of your website, but not the legal stuff. They may pull a template from somewhere, but very few of them customize the website templates for Canadians and for your specific business needs.
So what to do? I’ve got you covered.
Registering a trademark can be an important part of protecting your business brand online.
If you want to read more about how copyright protects your content online, you can refer to this article.
So if you are in the early days of creating your brand, there are a couple of things to be thinking about before you spend a ton of money and energy on marketing.
The most obvious first step is to do a Canadian trademark search so that you know that there are no similar words or logos that are already registered for your category of goods or services.
But an often overlooked NEXT STEP is to think about whether the brand - being a product name, for instance, is too DESCRIPTIVE, to be registered (and therefore protected as a Trademark.
From the Trademark Guide of Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), these are some trademarks that can not be registered:
Trademarks that are generally unregistrable include the following:
Congratulations on starting your online business. Whether you have been running this business offline for a while or whether this is a brand new business to you, there are a lot of things to think about legally, especially for Canadian online businesses.
This article will help you understand what you need to do legally to protect yourself and your business and to set yourself up for success on a strong legal foundation.
The Four Legal Protections To Put On Your Website
When you have an online business, your website is where you welcome new people. It’s like your storefront on the internet. You may have spent some time making your website look sharp and tweaking your message and content, but you also need these four legal things:
My online business mentor, Amy Porterfield, just released a podcast episode this week with US Attorney, Ashley Kirkwood, talking about protecting your online content. I highly recommend that you listen to that episode here.
As a reminder, copyright laws protect your content. Trademark laws protect your brand.
One of the recommendations, which I completely agree with, is to do a trademark search BEFORE you launch a new online course or digital product to make sure you are not infringing on anyone's trademarks.
I have already gotten questions from two business owners who listened to this episode about how to do a Trademark Search for Canada.
To do a trademark search, you will find the Canadian Trademarks Database on the Government of Canada website. The link is here.
If you click on "Additional Search Options" you can narrow your search in "Category" to Trademarks and under "Type" to Work Marks. This will help to give you more relevant search results.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "template" as:
- a gauge, pattern, or mold used as a guide to the form of a piece being made
- something that establishes or serves as a pattern
One of the ways that I strive to help Canadians doing business online is through the creation of made-in-Canada legal templates.
A good template serves as a guide - not just an example of a type of document. The difference is you will know what parts may need to be customized and what parts are a key part of the structure.
And all legal templates should be specific to your home country - using UK or US legal documents for Canadian businesses means the template will not be the best fit.
You also need to understand when to use which template. A good template will give you some context for its use and let you know when it may not be appropriate to use.
Many businesses in Canada are becoming more aware that they have privacy obligations, but are still confused about which laws apply to them.
This post will break down the various pieces of privacy legislation and when they may apply to your business.
PIPEDA (The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) - this is Canadian federal legislation. It applies to businesses who collect "personal information" in the course of their commercial activities. "Personal information" includes any information that is linked to an identifiable individual. This applies to all businesses in most of Canada (see below).
Province Specific Privacy Laws - Some provinces in Canada have made their own privacy laws that apply either in place of PIPEDA (Quebec, Alberta, BC) or in addition to PIPEDA (i.e. for health-related information - Ontario, NB, NL and NS). To read further on these provincial laws - click here. For some organizations, the...
Here are five things that you need to know about the legal stuff when you are using social media for your business:
1. You are a Tenant (not an Owner) when you use social media platforms. If you don't follow the rules, the Landlord might kick you out.
2. Make sure you have the right to share the content you are sharing. Don't take other's content without their permission or a license and get a release if you are creating content using other people's likeness.
3. Have a social media policy for your business. This will get everyone on the same page and protect against risks of privacy breaches, defamation or damage to your brand.
4. Copyright laws protect the original content that you create and publish. You can enforce your rights to it.
5. Know the CASL (anti-spam) rules for Canada. These rules cover all commercial electronic messages (i.e. DMs, texts) not just email. Know how you can add people to your email list within the rules.
I have been talking a lot recently about the importance of protecting your business online. An important piece of this is to understand how to use copyright and trademark laws to your benefit.
It is easy to get confused about the differences between copyright protection and trademarks.
The best way that I can boil it down is that Copyright protects your content. Trademarks protect your brand.
Copyright laws (in Canada and internationally through treaties) protect the original content that you create and publish. Online courses, blog posts, photos, podcasts, ebooks, songs can all be copyrighted works.
Copyright protection is automatic upon publication of an original work. Registration is possible (and easy!) but not required.
Using the © symbol along with a copyright notice is a good preventative measure. i.e. © Legal Essentials Inc. 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Trademarks protect elements of your brand which can include business names, product names, slogans,...
When you are asking people to contribute to the creation of content of your business, you should get them to sign a release form .
This will give your business the right to use the content, including in its original form and repurposing the content.
You may be taking pictures or videos at events, recording a podcast or using client testimonials in your promotions.
Using content created by other people for commercial purposes without their written permission could involve risks for your business including damage to your reputation.