Website Liability, Anyone? - Part 1
Each day more people decide to create their own Websites, blogs or otherwise participate in social media activities. The reasons for having a Website or blog vary, or other activities range from frivolity to earnestness. Personal Websites and blogs commonly describe the host, his or her family and interests such as a particular hobby, sports, profession, humor, etc. Whatever the reason for creating a Website or blog, they, along with social network activity, can represent an additional source of loss that may require additional insurance. The loss potential is directly related to the purpose and content found on the Website.
New Opportunity For Old Losses
Website liability is an extension of the ages old accountability for what you say or write. Such responsibility extends to household members; so, it's important to be aware of what a family's little E-wizard may be doing. The types of losses that may be created by a Website, blog, or social media activity include:
Libel - knowingly publishing false information that harms a person's reputation.
Invasion of Privacy - disclosing information that interferes with another party's peace of mind.
Infringement - violating or interfering with another's property rights or the right to pursue business.
Oops, You May Not Be Covered
Most homeowner policies protect against liability for tangible injury to another person or for actual damage to another party's property. Liability created by publishing or broadcasting content typically involves personal (or non-physical) injury that is not covered by a typical homeowner policy. While individuals may be able to add protection (such as add-ons to a homeowner policy or umbrella coverage), certain losses may still be uncovered because they involve intended acts or business activity.
Can You Protect Yourself?
The good news is you can take steps to eliminate or, at least, minimize the possibility of facing electronic publishing-related loss. The first step is to identify areas of concern. The key to understanding and addressing any possible Website liability is to focus upon:
the nature of the Website or activity
the Website or account’s contents
who may be harmed by the site or activity
how a party may be harmed
It is important that you think hard about these issues and approach the job objectively. Your building a site, blogging or using social media just for "fun" could end with you explaining the punch line in court. Two people can interpret information in radically different ways. Use a method of examining your Website that helps you view it through "fresh" eyes that won't gloss over important facts. Asking the help of others could be a big plus.
See Part 2 for important considerations about Web activity.
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