Internet law is rapidly evolving and ecommerce merchants face legal issues that were unheard of just a few years ago. No one knows this more than John W. Dozier, Jr., the founder and president of Dozier Internet Law. Dozier has practiced law for over 25 years and, during that time, was also an Internet executive, having rode the dotcom boom in the 1990s with a venture capital-backed online business. He now devotes himself and his firm’s practice exclusively to Internet issues.
PeC: Dozier Internet Law has a service that helps merchants sort out federal cases on Internet and ecommerce law. Please tell us about it.
Dozier: We go through all of the federal lawsuits that are held each day around the country and identify those that deal with the Internet and touch upon the most important issues of the day. Once a month we put them together in the Dozier Internet Law Federal Court Reports, and publish them on a network of blogs and distribute them via email.
PeC: Where can a merchant go to read the Dozier Internet Law Federal Court Reports?
Dozier: Go to our main website at cybertraillawyer.com and there’s an option to sign up for the Dozier Federal Court Reports.
PeC: What are the most common legal mistakes that smaller merchants make?
Dozier: Probably affiliate marketing issues. I would recommend every merchant think seriously about a three-step process for your affiliate program. Due diligence upfront, make sure you’re vetting properly and selecting the proper publishers. Put in place a very effective contract. Within that contract, establish performance standards and make sure your publishers are following the terms of the contract. If you do that, the likelihood of a publisher’s misconduct being imputed to your company, or to you personally in some circumstances, is greatly diminished.
PeC: On your website you offer a free copyright warning that anyone may use. Please tell us about that.
Dozier: We came up with a notice that says “Dozier Internet Law Copyright Infringement Warning.” It explains to the potential infringer all the liabilities and what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do. It is available for free on our site. Anyone can copy and paste it on his or her homepage. It’s a great warning and worthwhile to invest a little bit of time.
PeC: Anything else on your mind for ecommerce merchants today?
Dozier: We’ve been talking for quite some time about the issue of what liability can be passed through to merchants based upon the misconduct of third parties that they’re providing services to. Now, this wouldn’t apply to retailers, but it might apply to the company that is providing any type of support mechanism and services and web hosting, even ISPs or marketers. A recent decision came out that web hosts could be liable for the trademark infringing materials that were on a customer’s site merely by receiving notice of the infringement and not terminating the customer relationship. That creates a level of due diligence that up until now really hasn’t been understood or appreciated on a wide scale basis. Accept the fact that you need to really spend some quality time and know who you are doing business with. The courts are recognizing that the only remedy to a lot of this misconduct is going to business partners.