This tutorial has covered a signficant amount of territory; probably sufficient enough to overwhelm most online entrepreneurs. We understand that your legal challenges are often not first and foremost on your mind. That's as it should be. First you need to think about a product or service that you can monetize, the budget you have to work with, and time-to-market considerations.
With respect to the legal substance presented in this tutorial, the basic take away is the question of literacy. Once you commit, and have worked through the business issues, there are some legal basics that you need to understand before launching your online initiative. Hopefully the material presented here is in a format that lends itself to return visits. It will be easier to eat the legal literacy elephant "bytes" at a time.
The areas to focus on, at the appropriate time, are as follows: 1) business entity formation; 2) understanding of basic intellectual property doctrine related to copyright and trademark law; and 3) understanding the kinds of contracts that your online startup will require. It may be counterintuitive but the third topic to focus on (online contracts) may be the least understood and the most daunting, given the importance (and number) of the online contracts Internet businesses enter into.
Other questions that you may be wondering about are at what point in time should you seek advice of counsel and what sort of legal counsel do you need? Let's take the question of timing first. As a rule of thumb you should seek advice of counsel prior to spending a significant amount of money on your venture. Here are some possible trigger points: 1) you are about to enter into a professional services contract with a website developer; 2) you are seeking outside investors and are already contemplating a complex organizational structure with several partners; 3) you are contemplating a site with a social networking component and therefore one that has significant exposure to third party liability; and 4) you are in particularly high risk online verticle such as adult entertainment or healthcare.
What kind of counsel do you need? The answer to this question is that you clearly need an Internal Lawyer that is familiar with the cyberlaw issues discussed in this tutorial, but the answer is also more subtle than that. You need an attorney that understands online business models and the legal context that governs these models. The online context makes all the difference in the world. We have covered various online business model legal implications throughout this tutorial, from entity formation through marketing and record keeping. We encourage you to explore all of our tutorials so as to get grounded regarding the legal issues implicated in doing business online.
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