On June 6, 2011, Garfield & Hecht attorneys David McConaughy and Dan Reynolds presented a seminar in association with the Aspen Young Professionals Association on the law of ECommerce and Doing Business in Cyberspace. The seminar was well-attended and included a lively discussion of current issues regarding the interplay of law and technology. The seminar included a step-by-step description of how to select and register a unique domain name for a website, issues to consider in designing and launching a new website, and options for electronic billing and payment. With any new business, but especially when doing business in cyberspace, it is vitally important to have policies and procedures in place to avoid the misuse of data or information that may be protected by copyright or other means, to protect customer data and proprietary intellectual property, and to provide for secure financial transactions. Additionally, these policies should be reflected in employee handbooks so that employees are required to protect and keep confidential certain information such as passwords and company and customer data. Employees should also have restrictions on personal use of the internet and sending personal e-mails from work. Federal law imposes requirements and restrictions on unsolicited e-mail or “spam.” (Federal courts have defined “spam” in reference to a Monty Python sketch from the 1970s.) Businesses can be liable for business-promotion spam that does not comply with the federal requirements, even if the source of the spam is a third party and not the business itself.
E-commerce presents new issues for entering into contracts electronically. Under both Colorado and Federal law, signatures on contracts will not be declared invalid simply because they are in electronic format. However, a wide variety of avenues exist to create legally binding electronic contracts, ranging from “click-wrap” agreements to passwords and user accounts to the emerging area of biometrics. Different approaches are suited to different applications.
The potential for identity theft and internet fraud is enormous, and companies should take steps to protect themselves including the adoption of policies to identify and prevent fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has adopted requirements for certain types of business to have protective policies in place. Social Security numbers must never be required for use as usernames or passwords.
The slide show from the presentation, including links to helpful websites and internet resources, can be found below. The web pages mentioned in this slide show are offered as examples for general reference, and their inclusion in the slide show should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation of any particular company, product, or service by Garfield & Hecht, P.C.