In this age of information technology, a website usually marks an online presence for an entity or business and will provide more information about the business. In some cases, websites are used to carry out online transactions.
Often times, businesses or entities create and develop websites with brilliant ideas but leave these unprotected. In this article, I will show the different stages and methods of protecting a website.
The first step in protecting your website is to sign what is called a Non-disclosure agreement also called a Confidentiality agreement. This should be signed at the discussion level usually before any information about the website is disclosed to the developer.
A Non-disclosure agreement is an agreement that protects the disclosure of information between the parties and provides for penalties in case such information is disclosed in breach of the agreement. In this case, it will protect the information disclosed by the one intending to develop the website and the one hired to develop it. In Uganda, such agreements are enforced as “Contracts”.
In some cases, a person or business comes up with a brilliant idea for a website, explains this idea to someone else and before you know it, that other person goes ahead to “steal” this idea and develop a similar website. Non-disclosure agreements are one way of preventing such a thing from happening.
A domain name is a unique address and name used to identify a website e.g www.barefootlaw.org or www.thinvoid.com. The domain will serve as an online “signpost” for the business. Once reserved, the domain will be protected for a certain duration of time which means no other business or entity can claim that domain. It is advisable to reserve as many similar domains as possible to protect against copycats.
Agreement for work done
Such an agreement is vital in that it will provide the basis for the relationship between the developers and the website owner. This agreement will provide terms such as fees, deliverables and will act as a guide in case of legal disputes. These agreements usually take the format of a “Service Level Agreement” and not Employment Contracts unless the person due to develop the Website is a full time employee of the company.
Terms of service
Terms of service are rules and conditions which could have a binding effect on those using the website and whose contents depend on the nature and type of business the website represents. If one does not wish to abide by these rules, then such a person is free not to access services on the website. It is recommended practice that the developer seeks legal assistance in order to come up with terms of service for a particular website.
This will shield the website from certain wrongs or liabilities that might arise from one using the website. Certain disclaimers however, might not hold any legal weight, but none the less, it is always prudent to have a disclaimer on the website. Again, it is recommended that legal advice be sought in the drafting of this disclaimer.
Some websites go further and have what are known as “Exclusion clauses” which seek to protect the website in case of liability issues. For example, if the website offers health tips, then such a website will have an exclusion clause asking the user to seek further medical advice from a professional.
A copyright protects ones works and this could apply to the website. In Uganda, the law governing this is the Copyright and Neighboring Act which could be interpreted to provide protection for material on websites e.g photos, articles etc. In addition, the HTML code of the website could also be protected in this way. In case someone copies the entire website or material from it without consent, then such a person could be held legally liable.
Patents in Uganda are protected under the Patent Act although this law is currently being revised. Under this law, products and how such a product works is protected. In relation to websites, a Patent would protect the way the website operates and avoid others from copying such a website.
In Uganda, this is provided for by the Trademark Act and covers things like the logo and sometimes the look on the website. This would make it unlawful for someone to copy the logo and sometimes impersonate your website or website activities.
Editor’s note: This is a post from BarefootLaw. If you have any question or comments on this issue, or any other legal issue, please do get in touch with BarefootLaw through their website at www.barefootlaw.org, Facebook on www.facebook.com/barefootlaw , email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0414660539.