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The Morton Memo - May 2012
This issue is about change. The first article gives a checklist to business owners for things they must consider before they go live with a website. You simply can't throw together a website or hire just anyone to do it for you anymore. There are a number of important legal issues that must be considered before you go live with your site. The other article is about the changes we have made with our firm. We are moving out of the box and into the cloud.
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A company’s website is a valuable asset. For Internet based companies, it is often the company’s most valuable asset. However, business owners often are plagued by problems resulting from their websites. These problems often result from overlooking some basic things.
Be sure to follow these guidelines and ask yourself if you now have all the information you need to effectively move, change, or manage your own website.
1. Own your own domain. It may seem obvious but the business needs to control the domain name. Too often, a partner or third party will obtain the domain and secure it in his or her name. That person then has the power to shut down the business website and its email. Avoid future problems and make sure your business owns the domain name.
2. Possess all access information for your domain. You, personally, should have the username and password for the account that manages your domain – e.g. the GoDaddy account with which you bought your domain. Provide access to this information strictly on a need to know basis and maintain knowledge of the login at all times. Otherwise, your website and email could disappear in an instant.
3. Purchase all related domain names. If you don’t, your competitors may purchase them and use those domain names to intercept traffic from your customer’s searching for your website. Internet marketing consultants strongly recommend buying every variation for your primary domain. So, if your primary domain is xyzwidget.com, then buy xyzwidget.biz, xyzwidget.net, xyzwidget.org, xyzwidget.xxx, xyz-widget.com, xyz-widget.net, xyz-widget.org, etc. Spend some money and buy them all up.
4. Use a reputable website designer. Don’t use someone who is doing you a favor or your nephew or your girlfriend’s cousin. People who dabble in website design and development may make costly mistakes for which you will be held liable. Enter into a contract with a professional website designer and require that they provide you with details on where your site is hosted and how to make changes. Furthermore, the website designer should warrant that no images or other materials infringe on copyrights of third parties, and that you own all the rights to the content developed for your site (see below).
5. Have a contract with the designer. You must have a written contract with your web designer. The contract should spell out the services and the price and contain two terms:
a. The designer’s work is “work for hire”. What this means is that any work done by the designer of your site will belong to you and not the designer. This is important because otherwise your designer will own the copyrights to the content of your site. You want to own it.
b. All stock art, photos, content will be licensed. There should be a line item in the contract for the cost of getting licenses for stock photos. Do not allow your designer to put someone else’s pictures, art or photos on your website without a license or permission. Some website designers still search the web and download photos or artwork that they like from other person’s websites. The designer then puts them on their clients’ websites. This is copyright infringement and you are liable for it. Even if the art or photo does not have a copyright notice, you don’t have a right to use it. Stock photo companies are very aggressive in finding their stock photos in use on websites. If a company using the photo on its website doesn’t have a license to use it, then the stock photo company will demand large sums of money and possibly sue for copyright infringement. Ask your website designer: “Do you understand copyright law?” If the designer does not, find one who does.
6. Protect your trademarks. Before going live with your website, file an application for your trademarks/tradenames. You should protect your rights to the trademarks that you do business under. Once you go live with your website, the whole world will know of your trademark. If you do not register your trademarks, unscrupulous persons might try to take them away from you.
8. Know your host. Websites reside on servers owned by a hosting company who collects recurring fees. Be sure that you are in direct contact with the company hosting your website (who is probably providing your email service as well). You should be in direct contract with the hosting company so that if the designer goes out of business, your website doesn’t disappear. You also need to be able to handle problems with the site directly without going through your designer. Even if you let the designer handle such problems, you need to know who to contact if you have a hosting or email problem.
a. Have your FTP information. You must also have the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) login (user name and password) and any other information that will allow you full access to the site and enable you to transfer the site to another server. Designers like to hold onto such information for job security but you are entitled to it. Without such information, you can’t move your site or make important changes.
9. File your copyrights. Once your site is complete, file a copyright registration for its content. Stealing content from websites is common place. With a copyright registration, you can force content thieves to remove stolen content or sue them. Copyright registrations make it worthwhile to sue for infringement. Without a registration, you can’t do much about an infringer.
Use this checklist when you start (or replace) your company’s website. If you need any help with any of the above items, please contact us at at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 722-6582. We have extensive experience developing the contracts, policies, trademark registrations, copyright registrations, and other protections that will enable you to have a vibrant and successful online presence.
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out of the box and into the cloud
We are becoming the law firm that we always wanted to be. We are now more flexible and effectively collaborating with attorneys and other professionals while we provide full transparency and accountability to our clients.
Since our last newsletter at the end of 2011, we have made several changes to our firm. The first change was the move from Oceanside to Carlsbad.
The more significant change, particularly for our clients and their advisors, is that we have moved our practice into “the cloud.” This means that we are now a virtual and almost entirely paperless firm. With this system we hope to eliminate one of the most common client complaints: “I don’t know what is going on in my case” because clients can now be given access to their files.
We operate with an online program called MyCase that stores our files, library and calendar, and allows us to perform other administrative tasks over the Internet. An authorized firm attorney or paralegal can securely log in and work on client matters – from any location. We scan important documents and file them online.
Most importantly, for our clients, they can get access to their files through a secure login that can provide each client with a dashboard that displays information such as the case calendar, documents, and billing information. Access is strictly controlled so that only authorized users can view information connected to their specific matter.
As a result, clients can be fully informed about the status of their legal matters and can access important documents at any time. This can be important for corporate clients that need access to organizational documents or past transactions.
This system helps us to achieve our goals of complete transparency and allowing client’s to truly be in control of their legal matters, including the cost. For instance, in a litigation matter, the client will be fully aware of the status of the case when we meet every month to determine the next steps in the case and the cost.
Online law practice management has been around for a few years. We explored a few different solutions and determined that MyCase—designed by a San Diego attorney–met most of our criteria. We are also exploring ways to integrate other systems that will help us continue to expand and to work with other attorneys and professionals so we can provide a complete menu of services to our clients.
You can check out MyCase at www.mycaseinc.com. If you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com or (760) 722-6582.
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