White SW Computer Law
Intellectual Property, Information Technology & Telecommunications Lawyers
Melbourne Office - PO Box 452, COLLINS STREET WEST Victoria 8007 Australia
Sydney Office - GPO Box 2506, SYDNEY New South Wales 2001 Australia
Telephone: Melbourne Office - +61 3 9629 3709 Sydney Office - +61 2 9233 2600
Facsimile: Melbourne Office - +61 3 9629 3217 Sydney Office - +61 2 9233 3044
Email: wcl@computerlaw.com.au Internet: http://www.computerlaw.com.au

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Does your business use e-mail?

If so, you should consider developing guidelines to be used by employees when using e-mail facilities. Messages sent by e-mail may be much less formal than traditional forms of communication, but can be equally as binding on your firm, for example in contractual negotiations.

If employees are allowed to use e-mail facilities for personal use, you may want to consider using a disclaimer on such e-mails that states the message is a personal one rather than corporate correspondence.

If employees are not allowed to use e-mail facilities for personal use, ensure that these policies are clearly explained to them, together with the ramifications should they disregard this policy.

If you will be sending materials to your clients by e-mail, you may want to inform them of the risk of interception and offer to send all messages by encrypted means.

Despite the fact that many people choose to ignore the fact, copyright laws do cover materials found on the Internet in the same way as other copyright works are protected.

You must be conscious of the fact that copying materials available on the Internet is very easy to do anywhere in the world. If any copyright work is copied without the owner's permission, the owner may consider legal actions to recover damages resulting from the infringement. One of the problems that arise is where do you sue the infringer? One Court may consider that the owner is entitled to sue in a Court in their location, whereas another Court may insist that the infringer is sued in the infringer's location.

The laws in this area are still being debated and drafted around the world so in the mean time you should bear in mind that although copyright laws do provide you with protection, it may prove difficult and expensive to litigate, particularly if the infringer is located in another country.

Other intellectual property such as trade marks also present similar problems.

Web site Development

If you are using another company or a contractor to develop your web site, it is important to use a formal written agreement that covers issues such as copyright assignment, an indemnity for copyright infringement.

Unless your web site is developed by you or one of your employees, if the copyright ownership of the web pages is not assigned to you in writing, the developer will continue to be the copyright owner. This means that the developer may be able to reproduce all or part of your site for another customer and you may not be able to copy or adapt the web pages without the permission of the developer. In brief, some issues that need to be considered include:

  • Intellectual property ownership
  • Who will responsible for hosting the site and are there extra charges if traffic increases, or your web site expands
  • What is your likely traffic and how well will your Internet connection cope with your expected bandwidth usage
  • How will you update and add information
  • Will you register your own domain name
  • Do you require statistics regarding traffic
  • Who is responsible to take backups
  • Will the developer have access to sensitive material - eg new product release information?
  • If you have links on your web site to other web sites, have you obtained permission to do so
  • Will links to other sites “frame” the other site's material? In some cases this has been considered to be a copyright infringement
  • Do the words used in your web site's meta tags infringe any trade marks
  • Does your domain name infringe any trade marks
  • Will you offer your goods and services for sale to people in other countries? If so do you comply with the laws governing the sale of goods and services in that country
  • How critical is minimising down time for your web site and e-mail facilities
  • Do you have permission to use third party copyright materials such as photographs, music etc.
  • If you are acting as a distributor, does your Distribution Agreement permit sales both inside and outside your territory, over the Internet
  • Will your web site design allow you to conduct e-commerce

This article is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for proper legal advice, readers should make their own enquires and seek appropriate legal advice.

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  This website is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for proper legal advice.
  Readers should make their own enquiries and seek appropriate legal advice.
  For legal advice please email wcl@computerlaw.com.au