Freelancers, here’s the legal policies required for your business website

Freelancers, self-employed creatives and other FreelanceUK readers were last week advised – quite rightly --  not to go without four sections on any website they operate for their business -- a privacy policy, a cookie policy; terms and conditions, and potentially a disclaimer.

But, writes Alix Balsan, legal intern at Gerrish Legal, how should self-employed business-owners actually go about implementing each of these four sections? It’s an important question because the four effectively act as legal contracts for your website usage.

1. Privacy policy

Privacy policies are essential to all websites and will likely be the longest policy because it will not only be thorough in matters which are exclusive to this policy, but also touch on aspects which will be addressed in depth in your site’s other policies.

So think of your Privacy Policy as an ‘umbrella’ policy, summarising all views and procedures on the information which your website collects from users.

Some aspects common to Privacy Policies, which freelancers should look to factor-in, include: 

Defining the parties in the contract

In other words, website owners must make it clear that “Us” or “We” denotes the website owner / freelancer, and “You” or “User” denotes the website user.

Similarly “Third Party” includes – well, whoever you wish to specify.

Defining parties in this way ensures clarity of reading in what can become a long and confusing document, but also makes it explicit to whom these terms apply, thereby strengthening the contract.

Data

In particular, specify what data the website collects from the user; how this data is collected, why this data is collected; and, rather crucially, on what legal grounds this data is collected.

For all websites processing EU or UK residents’ data, the GDPR and UK GDPR respectively will apply in this regard. This data-related section of the Privacy Policy will certainly overlap with the Cookie Policy (see the ‘Cookie Policy’ section further below).

Marketing

The Privacy Policy should provide an overview on how marketing is conducted -- if it is conducted. This section on marketing is another section which will most likely overlap with the Cookie Policy.

Third Parties

We mentioned such parties earlier, and in this section dedicated to them, your site visitors should be able to read absolutely everything they need to, and which affects them on the involvement of third parties.

Freelancers, here’s a top tip: In line with the thoroughness recommended in the information you provide about third parties, the Privacy Policy as a whole must be as comprehensive as possible. This is so you can fulfil your obligation of transparency to the sites’ users. Other aspects can differ depending on the website. For example, the need for your Privacy Policy to be written in simpler language for ‘minors.’

2. Cookie Policy

Your website need only have a Cookie Policy if it utilises cookies, in which case a thorough Cookie Policy explaining cookies and your use of them is essential.

Your Cookie Policy might include the following sections:

  • A brief explanation as to what ‘a cookie’ is.
  • A list of the specific cookies used, from ‘strictly necessary’ cookies to ‘targeting’ cookies. Each type of cookie should have a few short sentences explaining what information the cookie collects and what you (as the website owner), use that information for.

As with a Privacy Policy, we would suggest you define the parties, i.e. make it clear that “Us” or “We” denotes the website owner / freelancer, and “You” or “User” denotes the website user. Again, this ensures clarity of reading but also makes it explicit upon whom these terms apply.

Due to the practical aspect of cookies, our legal advisory tends to form a Cookie Policy ‘skeleton’ from the start of our work with a client who is creating a website. This saves time and ensures the freelancer/website owner is protected as soon as the usage of cookies begins.

3. Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions are also essential to any website for your freelance business.

Often referred to as ‘Ts and Cs,’ Terms & Conditions impose specific obligations on the site’s users, as to how they can and cannot use your website.

The Ts & Cs section is where you prohibit specific and potential user acts. For example, by including a clause prohibiting the attack of the website through a virus or malware.

If a user does attack in this way, he/she will be in a direct contractual breach, making data recovery options vaster and easier for you as the owner.

Other protective clauses in your Ts &Cs can be broader They might include the following:

We permit you to use the Platform only for the purpose and in the manner set out in these Terms. Use of the Platform in any other way, including any unacceptable use set out in these Terms, is not permitted.” Then follow-up with a specific, exhaustive list of ‘Acceptable Uses.’

The Ts & Cs is also the contract-section most tailored to your website, depending on whether your website is a forum, blog, or more interactive platform through which users can message or upload/download content.

But with all these platform-types, it is sensible to prohibit defamatory comments or uploads.

Similarly, a clause requiring that all users respect intellectual property of other users in their content can be a good idea. Yet be aware, such a clause may only be relevant or applicable to a platform on which users publish their own content.

4. Website disclaimer

A website disclaimer may not always be necessary for self-employed people looking to set up their own website for business, especially as it is something which can be incorporated into the Ts &Cs.

But a disclaimer is where you would exclude all liability for any loss of damage arising directly or indirectly from website usage (or other more specific situations, it will depend on the nature of your website), except where impossible to do so by law. The safest course is to consult a legal expert to determine if a disclaimer is necessary for your type of freelance business.

Final thoughts

In our experience, contracts regulating your freelance website would almost always benefit from the hand of a lawyer, to ensure all legal bases for the business-related platform in question, are covered.

We hope this overview of four key legal contracts for your website provides you with a good start! Remember, although compliance can seem daunting, it is possible to achieve it quite seamlessly with the right legal expert accompanying you. Often, a bit of time and investment at an early stage can avoid potentially nasty headaches later on, and this is especially true given the importance of compliance with the UK GDPR and related e-marketing rules.

                             

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