Cyberlaw 101Written by June Campbell
You've already discovered that Internet is a great medium for promoting your business. But just as you can use Net's various components like web, email, chat and newsgroups to network, to make new contacts and to generate leads, you can easily find yourself in hot water over legal disputes and legal challenges.
Doing business on Net can be fraught with legal perils for those who act unthinkingly or unknowingly. In some situations, laws governing cyber activities are clearly defined and reflect laws that govern our activities in real world. In other cases, Internet is still a "gray area", and laws will be established through outcomes of court cases.
Although situations differ, as do laws in various jurisdictions, following tips might help you stay clear of trouble:
1. Registering a domain name doesn't prevent legal challenges to your right to use that domain name. Many a web site owner has been dismayed to hear from a company claiming his or her domain name is a trademark violation. To avoid problems in this area, conduct appropriate searches before registering, and consider registering your own domain name as a trademark. Businesses that register domain names can help you assess your options.
2. You risk copyright violation if you copy content, graphics, layout, name, look or feel of another web site without express permission. Several countries of world, including Canada, and US, have signed an international copyright convention that protects copyright in member countries. If discovered in violation of copyright, your penalty could be as small as being asked to remove offending material to as large a penalty as a court might see fit to award.
3. If your web site contains bulletin boards or chat rooms, you can be held liable for material posted by visitors to your site. To reduce potential for problems, check your forums and chats regularly and remove any content that could create trouble. Material to watch for includes anything that could be considered libelous, promotes hate, could be considered adult content (and you do not have an adult site), could be perceived as threatening or harassing to others, or promotes an illegal activity, etc. 4. Avoid advertising statements that would be illegal or prohibited in other media. Be particularly cautious if your site advertises alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, financial services, gambling, contests or adult entertainment.
CHECK FRAUDWritten by Les C. Cseh
YOU COULD BE ON THE HOOK!
Did you know that UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) regulations place responsibility for forgery losses partially on bank customers, rather than solely on banks? But in addition to this exposure, there can be significant expenses and lost time investigating crime, not to mention damage to your credibility and reputation.
Your only defence is to show that you have taken due diligence. One way to demonstrate this is by implementing careful practices regarding your checks. Another is to use checks with well implemented security features.
HOW BAD IS THE PROBLEM?
The problem is so serious that banks don't like to reveal extent of problem. Estimates range from hundreds of millions to 10 billion dollars annually.
In 1991, FBI tracked over 26,000 cases, but this is just tip of iceberg, because FBI mostly focuses on cases where amount exceeds $100,000. Just one example comes from The Green Sheet (a publication to Financial Services Industry), reporting an incident where a family had allegedly stolen more than $1 million from area merchants since 1993 by writing checks on closed and non-existent accounts at 11 financial institutions in Indiana and Chicago under 25 different names.
In just 4 years, Northern Trust Bank has detected more than 3 million dollars worth of counterfeit checks.
WHAT KIND OF THINGS DO CRIMINALS LOOK FOR?
It is an endless list, but here are some of types of things that someone looking to counterfeit or tamper might look for:
* High volume bank accounts where a fraudulent check can easily slip through. * Checks that are easy to reproduce using a color copier. * Checks that are easy to tamper with. * Easy access to checkbook or check stock.