Is Your Business Breaking the Law?
As a business owner you are responsible for operating a legal, safe, ethical and honest business. It is super important to know the laws that apply to your specific business, to the country you operate in and those that affect your consumers and protect your business. While your lawyer will make sure you meet these obligations, (if you have a lawyer), many small businesses out there, are often just winging it and I want to offer some information that I think will be highly valuable to many of you.
While I am definitely not a lawyer and I do not claim to be, I have had to learn some important laws to make sure the work I do meet the requirements in New Zealand, however the learning is constant...
I got really overwhelmed recently when I started focusing on my legal obligations with my businesses and projects and wanted to reduce some of that for you. Here is what I've learned through research and talking to people 'in the know'.
Disclaimers: Wikipedia: A disclaimer is generally any statement intended to specify or delimit the scope of rights and obligations that may be exercised and enforced by parties in a legally recognized relationship. Here is some more information here: http://www.clendons.co.nz/resources/articles-and-publications/technology/website-disclaimers-yes-they-do-work/ and here https://www.termsfeed.com/blog/disclaimer-examples/
Images & Intellectual Property & Copyright: You can't just google an image and use it for personal or commercial use. All images and artwork are automatically protected by intellectual property laws and copyright. It could result in a lawsuit if you use the wrong image and get found using it... which can be done via a 'reverse image search'. Basically using images online works is in 4 ways:
Open licence/public domain like on unsplash.com then anyone can use it for any purpose
You purchase the licence to use the image from the site you found the image on (eg. creativemarket.com or a stockphoto website)
You get written permission from the owner to use if for your purpose
You took the photo or created the image and therefore own it
The reason these laws exist is to protect the owner of the image or artwork so it cannot be mass produced or used without crediting the person who actually put the effort into creating it. The same goes for artwork... definitely worth looking into as these laws are getting better enforced these days.
To protect your own images you can put a watermark over the top or in the corner and keep the file size small - however this is not always possible, so just be respectful of the law and use common sense.
Facebook: Basically the same goes... best practice is to share the content from someone else's page by using the share option. Otherwise if you choose to share images that are your own and include other people and their work, it is best to tag the business page and credit them in the text wherever possible. It really comes down to common sense, courtesy and respect.
Website Terms and Conditions: Terms and conditions (“Terms”) are a set of legal terms defined by the owner of a website. They set forth the terms and conditions governing the activities of the website visitors on the said website and the relationship between the site visitors and the website owner. See Wix's information here: https://support.wix.com/en/article/creating-a-terms-and-conditions-policy
Spam: Spam is unwanted electronic commercial messages including emails, texts, faxes, SMS messages and multi- media message services. This mainly refers to email spam... To add someone to your enewsletter database they need to either opt in via an opt in form or give you permission to add them (which you should keep where possible, like from competitions or events, etc). You cannot just add people who contact you to your enewsletter list. However because all of this is new to most people, you can always send out an email first to ask people if they want to be on your list - this is especially important if you haven't actually organised your email addresses and want to start a list. You always have to offer a way to unsubscribe. Basically it comes down to respect and common sense - think of how you want people to use your email address... But do be careful so you don't get fined for abusing emailing. NOTE: If a customer fills out a form in store or at an event, etc, they need to tick a box to give you permission to email them marketing materials or information. More information here about the Anti-Spam Law NZ
Handy Notes Re Email: Make sure to use To, CC and BCC correctly. For privacy you can't share a big list of email addresses with everyone else, use BCC for this (it will send to each person but they won't be able to see anyone else's email address). For sending out newsletters, use something like Mailchimp which is free (up to 2000 people on your list/audience) - Mailchimp can easily manage unsubscribes and also offers opt ins and subscriber forms for Facebook and your website.
The HDC Act NZ: The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (the Act) tackles some of the ways people use technology to hurt others. It aims to prevent and reduce the impact of online bullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of abuse and intimidation.
Advertising: There are specific laws and guidelines in New Zealand that you need to follow for advertising and promotions and also individual rules and guidelines for specific platforms like social media and each country. Here are some for Facebook advertising, they mainly consist of non-discrimination, visuals and competition rules. For New Zealand advertising check out the Advertising Standards Authority here - you could even give them a call and chat about your concerns or queries. There are specific advertising guidelines in New Zealand for healthcare, weight loss, alcohol, gambling, etc. Know where where you stand for your unique business.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation EU): At its core, GDPR is a new set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. I don't know much about this because it doesn't relate to my business much because it is mainly for European based people or businesses that work with EU countries, but here is some info here: https://www.zdnet.com/article/gdpr-an-executive-guide-to-what-you-need-to-know/
There are other laws, obligations and guidelines that you are required to follow depending on your individual business type, you can find more information here:
Advertising Standards Authority NZ: www.asa.co.nz
Consumer Guarantees Act NZ: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz
Intellectual Property NZ: www.iponz.govt.nz
Privacy NZ: www.privacy.org.nz
Online Safety Laws & Rules NZ: https://www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-help/consumer-laws/online-safety-laws-and-rules/
Don't freak out or get overwhelmed about this, get educated and empowered so you know you are doing business right and fairly. It is just a part of life that we have to keep learning and improving to get better... and this is just one of the facets of business. I know I am still not doing everything 100% right, but I am trying, and that is the difference. Use common sense, good manners and respect.
Helpful sites for images:
>> This website is great for free to use images: www.unsplash.com
>> This website is great for adding watermarks and words to images for free AND has a range of images you can use for free: www.canva.com
I have been trying to track down someone to help better summarise and explain all of this and hope to be able to have more information for you. But it is hard to find the right fountain of knowledge...
Thanks for reading.
Amanda Sears *Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or a legal authority on the subject of business legalities and obligations. These are just my observations and some of what I have learned through research. Please seek professional legal assistance if you require more information on these subjects. The information here is intended as a guide only.