A NUMBER of clients have contacted me recently for advice on website terms and conditions.
There are a couple of reasons for this – firstly, the changes brought in by the Defamation Act 2013 mean that in some circumstances a web forum host might need to pass on a user’s details to a libel claimant; secondly, well-written, tailored T&Cs can make the job of hosting and moderating online debate a lot easier.
The Defamation Act reforms include a new defence for online publishers hosting discussion, debate, reader reaction etc. What this means is that if a reader who posts something onto your site wants to defend what they have posted, then the legal action is between them and the claimant, potentially excluding you as the host.
For this to happen effectively you need to be able to give the poster’s details to the claimant. So there are issues about how people register for your site, and how you make them aware of the legal risks they may incur.
However, in informing them about these risks, you do not want to scare users away, or impinge upon their legitimate free expression on your site.
It is a tricky path to follow.
I write custom-made T&Cs for websites, including plain-English guidance on how to avoid the major legal pitfalls while using such a site.
The guidelines are useful in helping users understand their rights and obligations. A clear set of T&Cs are also very helpful in resolving disputes that can arise between posters.
If you would like to discuss how I can help your website, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org