The Internet is the most important social and economic change since the development of currency and the organisation of civilisation as we know it, and it has certainly has a profound effect on our everyday lives. The Internet is the home of many of our businesses, a vital channel for communication with loved ones, and one of the most important knowledge resources the world has ever known. If you’re doing business online, just like the offline environment, it is imperative that you operate within and understand the law in your area. Not only does this avoid potential problems, but it also ensures the smooth running of business and trade. In this article we will look at certain fundamental issues when doing business online, and how they can be effective in determining how we run our online operations with a view to profit.
Online businesses almost always operate through websites of their own, which brings in a number of pertinent legal issues. Primarily, the consideration of what is allowed to be published should be forefront in the mind of the webmaster. As a general rule, only very ‘inappropriate’ material would be considered invalid online, such as certain categories of pornography and terrorist information. Of course, the Internet is heralded as the one true bastion of free speech, which is somewhat of an exaggeration. It is, however, important to remember that by and large the majority of content on the internet isn’t policed which is a good thing and a negative thing in equal measure. Secondly the issue of copyright will obviously play a big part. How can I protect my website from information theft? This is proving to be an extreme problem for the music industry, currently losing billions of dollars in lost sales through P2P file sharing programmes. At present there is very little that can be done at large to protect online content, other than pursuing a course of legal action against every violator. It is suggested that a move towards internet copyright policing would be very welcomed.
Next, there is the issue of online business, at the very heart of which is the issue of getting paid for the work you do. How can one ensure he will get paid for the goods, or indeed receive the goods he has paid for? Services like Escrow.com have proven to be very successful in helping this situation although there is no real measure in place to avoid scammers and rip-off merchants from plying their trade. As such, this has become a major plague on the internet, and has resulted in numerous small businesses going under and private individuals losing money. This is primarily as a consequence of unscrupulous traders, although there are also those plain fraudsters that simply pursue fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, at present, it can be very hard to distinguish between the two, which is frankly giving the Internet a bad name
Furthermore the issue of online litigation comes into play when issues of contract and copyright violation are raised. Unfortunately again there is seldom much that can be done cross border, which makes this type of transacting all the more risky. In spite of this, the Internet is still one of the most invaluable sources we have, and still an essential for modern business. Businesses that aren’t online simply fade away to competition that is more technology savvy, as customers become more and more virtual. Likewise, those that market online are seeing greater returns on advertising spend through targeted marketing, which is boosting business offline as well as on. The law of the internet is without a doubt one of the most important issues facing the net at this time, and one which looks set to dominate the agenda in the coming years. With the development of more comprehensive controls and regulations, the Internet looks set to only grow from strength to strength in the B2B and B2C markets.
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