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I built a website. Now what do I legally need in Canada?

This article originally published in 2021 has been updated in March 2024.

If you have built a new website or have done a refresh to your old website (to get rid of the website shame you were feeling), congratulations!

A lot of business owners that I talk to have either not focused on the legal requirements for their website or are relying on their web developers or web designers to include what they need.

Don't Assume Your Web Person Has Got This Handled

In my experience, most web developers and web designers are focused on the user experience and design of your website, but not the legal stuff.  They may pull a template from somewhere, but very few of them customize the website templates for Canadians and for your specific business needs.

So what to do?  I’ve got you covered.

Privacy Policy - You are required by law in Canada (PIPEDA and provincial laws) to have a privacy policy when you are collecting “personal information”.  Personal Information is any information about an identifiable individual.  

Your privacy policy will contain certain information including what information you collect, how you use it, and in what circumstances you will share information with third parties (like using third-party software).  If you are collecting personal data from parties in the European Union, your privacy policy should also comply with the GDPR legislation.  

Cookies Policy - Your cookies policy can be part of your main privacy policy but it is become common practice to have a separate cookies policy (this is required if you are subject to GDPR rules).  Your cookies policy tells website visitors what tracking software you are using to collect information from them.  You can also have a cookies preferences tool that allows them to opt-out of all but essential cookies (required by GDPR).

Copyright Notice - To protect the content on your website, you should have a copyright notice to assert your rights in the work.  The content can include written stuff like blog posts, product descriptions, photos, videos, or podcast episodes.  

Your copyright notice is in the form of © + Legal Business Name + Year of Creation.  All Rights Reserved. i.e. © Online Legal Essentials Inc. 2024. All Rights Reserved.  This serves as a reminder that you own the copyright to the content and others should not use this content (writing - blog posts, product descriptions, photos, videos, podcast audio) without your permission. 

For websites where you may publish works over a period of years, you are recommended to use © + Legal Business Name + First Year of Publication - Current Year.

Website Disclaimers - It is important for your Website to have a legal disclaimer for several different purposes.  

You should tell your website visitors that you are providing information but not professional advice through your website. You want to make it clear that visitors should not rely upon the information on your website as a substitute for professional advice from someone who understands their situation.

Your disclaimer should be transparent about any compensation that you receive for recommending any products or services.  Make sure that you are stating when you are promoting products, services or programs as an Affiliate and that you may receive compensation in exchange.  Your disclaimer is required to be clear that particular results are not guaranteed and any testimonials or endorsements are not indicative of similar results.

Website Terms of Use - The Website Terms of Use brings together the copyright notice, privacy policy and disclaimers and provide other rules for how people can use your business website.  

To make the text more readable, you can provide hyperlinks to the Privacy Policy and Disclaimers in the main body of the Terms of Use rather than repeating them.

You should define acceptable and unacceptable uses of your website for visitors and give yourself remedies for unacceptable use.  

If you are selling goods and services on your business website, your terms of use should also include such commercial contract terms as refund policy, price changes, additional fees etc. 

Conclusion - Protect Your Website

If I have convinced you that there are some legal requirements for your business website that you need to comply with, I would love to help you with this.  As your legal guide, I have created a Website Legal Essentials template pack which makes each of these four requirements easy to put into practice in no time.

This article has been updated March 2024.


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