I run a website and I am afraid of being sued!

kofoidkofoid Posts: 1subscriber
edited January 2008 in Business Planning
Hi there, I am a newbie here so if I posted in the wrong area, I apologize in advance!
I run a parenting and pregnancy website and some recent events came up where I am afraid I could be sued if someone miscarries due to stress cased by the message board.  I know it sounds almost ridiculous, but I am quite certain in this day and age someone would try it.
The site makes a minimal profit each year: 200.00 max.  There are usually a few hundred dollars in donations that help the site run as well. 
Could I form a non-profit?  I really don`t expect to make any money off the site, and typically the money that is made goes right back into the site.  If I did form a NP, would my personal assets be protected?
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Comments

  • robertjrobertj Tampa Bay, FloridaPosts: 0subscriber Member
    I would put the site ownership into some type of separate entity. Since you say you don`t expect nor want to make a profit from this - it sounds like a not for profit structure would work.
     
    That said, I strongly suggest consulting with an attorney to be sure you understand how to protect yourself and your personal assets.
  • LiveWiseLiveWise Posts: 5subscriber
    It`s sad that this day and age a person needs to think about sued over message boards, but there are people that spill coffee in their own laps and win a lawsuit.  The legal system is not always fair nor is it logical at times.
     
    There have been teen rapes and other crimes committed against minors as a result of the information on MySpace and other communities.   There are sites out there that promote anorexia and bulemia.  There are ads that encouraged us to eat unhealthy fast food and get fat.  Video games that are connected to the obesity rate in kids since they are more inactive.  I haven`t seen anything substantial come up from these items.  But I don`t know where a person draws the line.  I would hate to see you spend thousands on an attorney to find out the answers when you aren`t making much profit.  But an attorney will be able to give you the advice of what to do to protect yourself.  It may be something as little as a disclaimer that you are not responsible for the messages left on the message board, but will remove vulgar messages or ones that are not credible.  I don`t know though.
     
    Good Luck with you site.
  • crazydiamondcrazydiamond Posts: 1subscriber
    DISCLAIMER : IANALOn kofoid`s original question - yes there are lawyers that specialize on internet issues, but it depends heavily on the issue. For instance, intellectual property right infringements is one area, civil liability and torts is another area. I have found that it is not so much internet law per se, but rather that attorneys specializing in a specific branch of law have extended their scope to cover similar issues that are internet delivered.There have been defamation suits for contents of postings on the internet, but it is an uphill battle. Apart from the disclaimers mentioned above, moderation policy and user name policy (divulgence of 3D identity policy) also come into play,A civil claim for negligent infliction of stress is unlikely has some high burdens to overcome. Amongst those are the fact that the person in question was not obliged (generally at least) to participate on line. (The if you don` t like it change the channel approach).Having said that, as also mentioned above, these are sue-happy times, and the cost of defending against a frivolous lawsuit can be as big a problem as an adverse judgement! Make sure that you have some of the following - a Terms of Service policy that must be viewed before participation, a sound disclaimer, a refund policy for someone who is appearing to be a problem waiting to happen.If you have a moderation policy, you need to enforce it properly, and for crying out loud if a problem erupts - act, and save screenshots of the problem. Postings on boards can disappear, and allegations are hard to defend without evidence.Good luckmike
  • kofoidkofoid Posts: 1subscriber
    Thank you guys very much.  I do have a site disclaimer that has rule number one as:
    1. Message boards can be a great way to make new friends, learn many new things, and to talk to other people just like YOU! When posting please remember that not everyone shares the same ideas and views on every topic and there will be disagreements. Personal attacks, flaming, obvious rudeness and putdowns are HIGHLY discouraged on the board. Please engage the moderator of the board if you feel in any way uncomfortable regarding someone’s post. Due to the nature of message boards, Yada Yada Yada (or it`s owner) takes no responsibility for the content or data transmitted through our servers or the opinions that are expressed or actions taken by our users.
    Now, here`s another question that happens to be purely selfish.  If I form an LLC for this message board, can I buy a new PC as a business expense?  Right now I use my company`s PC for everything
  • arunharunh Posts: 0subscriber
    Hi Kofoid, 
     
       Not to worry of getting sued.     Solution : Very good Privacy policy/Disclaimer helps and this is a very easy/common ways to protect yourself. If you decide to make any profit then you can either form a C corp or LLC.  (I am not sure does Non-Profit works the same.)
     
    There are dozen websites which work on the same concept  and not to be afraid of anything.
     
    And for your question:
    "If I form an LLC for this message board, can I buy a new PC as a business expense? " --- Yes you can buy anything as well run a profit oriented business with LLC. And you can play very safe here. Make sure you use your company account for everything for income tax related queries as well to save couple of bucks if you earn any money.
     
    Good Luck,
    Thanks
    Arun
  • PomeroypapPomeroypap Posts: 0subscriber
    Great Question!! 
    I am also a small business owner and am wondering what liabilities you may incur if you copied  information from another website??  Any help would be great.  Thanks!!
  • robertjrobertj Tampa Bay, FloridaPosts: 0subscriber Member
    Thank you guys very much.  I do have a site disclaimer that has rule number one as:
    1. Message boards can be a great way to make new friends, learn many new things, and to talk to other people just like YOU! When posting please remember that not everyone shares the same ideas and views on every topic and there will be disagreements. Personal attacks, flaming, obvious rudeness and putdowns are HIGHLY discouraged on the board. Please engage the moderator of the board if you feel in any way uncomfortable regarding someone’s post. Due to the nature of message boards, Yada Yada Yada (or it`s owner) takes no responsibility for the content or data transmitted through our servers or the opinions that are expressed or actions taken by our users.
    Now, here`s another question that happens to be purely selfish.  If I form an LLC for this message board, can I buy a new PC as a business expense?  Right now I use my company`s PC for everything

     
    1. You can purchase a computer for the business as a business expense.
     
    2. I don`t think you can use the LLC structure for a non-profit entity; if that is the direction you choose to go.
  • AdenaAdena Posts: 0subscriber
    There is such a thing as "internet law" . The only law firm that I know of that practices in the Northwest  can be contacted at: www.technologylawgroup.com
    I took an excellent E-commerce class from one of the law firm partners, offered at a local university.
    Also, another comment on establishing a separate entity is good advice, such as an LLC.
    Louise
  • luvmandlevmluvmandlevm Posts: 2subscriber
    I also run a website and have had this concern.  Instead of forming an LLC or an INC., I have opted for personal liability insurance so that I can maintain a sole proprietorship as long as it is possible.  Expansion may prohibit this eventually for me, but it sounds like a few extra bucks a year added onto your auto/home/life etc may be just what you are looking for.  Generally it is very inexpensive.
     
    Of note:  Stress rarely causes miscarriages unless it is traumatic PHYSICAL stress.  Of course, people have attempted litigation on sillier concepts.
     
    Marcelle R.
    Owner

    www.defilage.com

     
     
  • robertjrobertj Tampa Bay, FloridaPosts: 0subscriber Member

    Great Question!! I am also a small business owner and am wondering what liabilities you may incur if you copied  information from another website??  Any help would be great.  Thanks!!
     In the US - our copyright laws apply to web sites. Therefore, copying material from another site (without their persmission) violates the copyright!!
  • luvmandlevmluvmandlevm Posts: 2subscriber
    This message is in response to BERT above. 
     
    We are sharing ideas, not forcing anyone to do what we say "unquestioned".   Many people have posted.  It is up to the person who requires the information to research and determine what his/her needs are.
     
    As such, one idea may not be valid for the poster, but it may lead to other ideas or avenues of consideration before a final decision is made.  Isn`t what this entire site is about?  Ideas and assistance!
  • kofoidkofoid Posts: 1subscriber
    Thank you all very much! 
    And for the record, stress can cause miscarriages in the 1st trimester!
    http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-re ... iscarriage
    I think the liability insurance is a good idea.... any chance you can share how much you pay? 
  • luvmandlevmluvmandlevm Posts: 2subscriber
    It will depend on the amounts of your liability insurance. 
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