Thursday, December 13, 2007

Five things one should know about Web Sites [General]

1. Who Is The Person Behind the Web Site?
For top level generic domain names such as .com, .net and .org, go to or similar web sites like and enter the domain name for the web site into their search/whois functions. They may not give you the name of the person or company who registered the domain name, but they will likely give you the name of the local registrar. If they do, go to the web site of the local registrar and enter the domain name in question into the local registrar's search function. This should produce the name of the person or company who registered the domain name for the web site. For country-specific top level domains (for example, .ca), use Google or another search engine to identify a registrar in the applicable country (for example, to find a registrar in Canada enter the following key words: "Canada", "domain name" and "registrar") and then use the local registrar's search/whois function.
2. Content Can Cause Problems

If the content you are incorporating into your web site is not your original content, you almost always need to get permission to use it. If you use any portion of a popular song (even five seconds) on your web site without getting the appropriate rights, you could be infringing one or more person's rights in the song. Not all clip art is released into the world on the same terms and conditions. For example, some clip art providers prohibit the use of their images for commercial purposes.
3. Linking

Typically, a text-based link to another party's web site which opens the other web site in a new window is not problematic. Still, you should check the terms and conditions of the web site to which you wish to link to make sure that they do not prohibit or restrict links.
Additionally, if you place links to web sites which you do not control on your web site, you should make sure that the terms and conditions for your web site make it clear that you are not responsible for anything related to those web sites.
4. Hosting Agreements Come in Different Shapes and Sizes

At its most basic a hosting agreement requires the service provider to provid server or co-location space and a connection to a network (typically, the Internet). From there, there are many types of services which may also be purchased such as back-ups, on-site assistance, server management or application management. The nature of the materials hosted (for example, do they need to be highly available or could they be down a few hours a month) and the volume of the materials to be hosted also vary from situation to situation.
Basic hosting services for a small web site such as one which provides information about an upcoming family reunion can be acquired for less than $20.00 per month. The hosting agreement for such services will typically be short, non-negotiable and very biased in favour of the service provider. Hosting services for a small business' web site (when the small business does not depend on the web site for any significant portion of its business) will be somewhat more involved, and the hosting agreement should be more detailed and somewhat less biased than a basic hosting agreement. For example, it may include some service level commitments and warranties from the service provider. Hosting agreements for high traffic, high volume, web-based businesses and other web sites which must be available at least 99.999% of the time tend to be long, detailed and aggressively negotiated.

5. Terms and Conditions - One Size Does Not Fit All

Although there are elements which are common to most sets of terms and conditions for web sites, there is no single set of terms and conditions which is appropriate for every web site. There are a number of factors which affect the contents of these documents including: (i) the types of content forming part of the web site; (ii) the ways in which visitors to the web site are encouraged to interact with it; (iii) the target audience for the web site; and (iv) the location of the server on which the web site resides.

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