Website Liability, Anyone? Part 1

Please remember to read Part 2: [Return]

A Brave New Web World

Each day, thousands of persons around the world are discovering the Web. While many are content with passively exploring, there are plenty of people who decide to become active participants by creating their own Websites. The reasons for having a Website vary, ranging from frivolity to earnestness, or they may be strictly pleasure or serious business. Personal Websites commonly describe the host, his or her family and interests such as a particular hobby, sports, profession, humor, etc. Whatever the reason for creating your own Website, it can represent an additional source of loss that may require additional insurance. The loss potential is directly related to the purpose and content found on the Website. New Opportunity For Old Types Of Loss

Although the Web is still relatively new, Web-related loss exposure is not. Remember that legal liability to another person or party is the result of your actions that cause injury or damage to property. Your Website liability is an extension of your accountability for what you say or write and it extends to members of your household; so it's important to be aware of your family's little computer wizard. The types of losses that may be created by a Website include:

  • Libel - knowingly publishing false information that harms a person's reputation).
  • Invasion of Privacy - disclosing information that interferes with another party's peace of mind.
  • Infringement - violating or interfering with another's property rights or the right to pursue business
Oops, You May Not Be Covered

This is quite important. Most homeowner policies protect against liability for physical injury to another person or to actual damage to another party's property. Liability created by Website content typically involves personal (or non-physical) injury which is not covered by a typical homeowner policy. While individuals may be able to add protection (such as add-ons to a homeowner policy or umbrella coverage), certain losses may still be uncovered because they involve intended acts or business activity. Can You Protect Yourself?

The good news is you can take steps to eliminate or, at least, minimize the possibility of facing a Website-related loss. The first step is to identify areas of concern. The key to understanding and addressing any possible Website liability is to focus upon:

  • the nature of the Website
  • the Website's contents
  • who may be harmed by the site
  • how a party may be harmed

It's important that you think hard about these issues and approach the job objectively. Your building a site just for "fun" could end with you explaining the punchline in court. Two people can interpret a site in radically different ways. Use a method of examining your Website that helps you view it through "fresh" eyes that won't gloss over important facts. Asking the help of others could be a big plus.

See Part 2 for important considerations about your Website.

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