One of the basic elements of E-Commerce business is the design and function of the company web site. In designing and building your web site, the first thing to be aware of is whether you own the web site presentation and content and every aspect of IP in it. You may not, but thats OK, you just need to know what you own, what you have rights to use, and what you dont own or have rights to use. If you are using a consultant or company to design your web site, check out the provisions in the agreement concerning ownership and IP rights. Who owns the web site design and text? Check out what obligations the company has to make sure that it doesnt use any IP that belongs to a third party in the course of its work.
If you are using a database, E-Commerce system, or search engine or other technical Internet tools licensed to you by another company, check the terms in the license agreement to see who owns the system. Make sure that you do have a written agreement, and get it checked over by a lawyer before you sign it and before any design, custom work or installation of the site begins.
You will need written permission (also referred to as a license, a consent, or an agreement) to use any photos, videos, music, voices, art work, or software, etc. that belong to someone else. Just because you get material on the Internet does not mean that it is in the public domain. You may have to pay for permission to use these materials. In many countries you will need to communicate with a collecting society or association of artists in order to get permission.
You will need to make sure that, if your countrys law (or the law that applies to your business) requires it, that you have permission to show trademarks owned by other companies that you refer to on your web site and that you recognize them.
Do not distribute or download any content or music on your web site that does not belong to you unless you have obtained written permission from the owner to distribute it on the Internet.
Be careful in linking to other web sites. Links are a great E-Commerce tool, and a useful service to your customers, but in many countries there is no clear law on when and how you can use links. The most careful practice is to seek and obtain permission from the other site before putting in the link.
Framing is a practice that is more controversial that linking. This means including large parts of another web site in yours in a way that makes it look as though it is part of your web site. Always get written permission before doing this.
For More Information
On Collecting Societies:
- WIPO: Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights
- International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC):
http://www.cisac.org (with information about collecting societies worldwide)
- American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP):
http://www.ascap.com/lp_music_licensing.html (providing electronic licensing with automated rate calculation)
- Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI): http://www.bmi.com/licensing/business/whatis.asp (a well organized site providing information on music licensing needs of a variety of businesses)