What Is Internet Business Law?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory

Internet business law is the body of law that refers to the legal issues that pertain to doing business online. Some of the issues include cybersquatting, copyright law issues that relate to establishing and maintaining a website, and business contracts that are negotiated and executed using the Internet. Companies need the security to pursue their business on the web in a safe manner, and Internet business law often provides a legal recourse if that doesn’t happen. Any business that conducts some or all of its work online is subject to business law, not just e-commerce websites. These businesses include insurance companies, health care service providers, and law firms.

A courthouse.
A courthouse.

Cybersquatting occurs when an individual buys a domain name without any intent to use it. The purpose is to resell the domain name for a profit, often to the business owner or individual who wants it because it relates to her business or name. Cybersquatters are in violation of Internet business law, and victims can often sue or go to arbitration under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) in the United States and similar laws in other countries. A plaintiff who is successful can often get the domain name transferred to him as well as payment in monetary damages. The plaintiff often has to show that the defendant tried to associate with a trademark through purchasing the domain name and sitting on it with the hope of generating a profit by selling it to a trademark owner.

Copyright law and Internet business law overlap when webmasters and others post content on the website. Web publishing is often a regular task of website owners, and it may involve publishing works that were created by others. When works are used without permission, the business owner can be liable for copyright infringement. For example, Internet business law protects a photographer’s work from being copied and incorporated as part of the web copy on someone else’s website. Some works do not require permission, such as works in the public domain or those that are considered fair use for news and commentary purposes.

Business contracts are often initiated and executed online on a daily basis, and many of them are subject to Internet business law. One of the main reasons is because of the electronic signatures used to finalize the contract online. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act passed in the United States is an example of a law that enforces contracts signed electronically and makes them binding. Some examples include click through contracts, wherein the consumer or web visitor signs the contract by clicking the “I Agree” or similar button prior to making a purchase or viewing a contract.

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    • A courthouse.
      A courthouse.