Identifying Internet Scams

Today was a great day – rain was falling in our state which had been dry for weeks.  It was the beginning of a great week.  We had just celebrated the Fourth of July and I had been on a slight vacation – partially by chance and partially due to health.  I was glad to be back to a full work week.

However, my first week back to work was quickly brought down by a phone call.  This person alerted me that someone was using my information to sell items through  This person is stating that she is an attorney located in Denver Colorado and must sell items through kijiji (the Canadian version of our Craiglist’s) such as instruments and machinery. The person is saying that the buyer should go through a site called sell2pal and submit all the money in advance and then the items will be shipped to them.

I have never sold on the kijiji website.  I have also never sold to anyone in Canada. Needless to say, this made me realize how easy it is to become a victim of identify theft.  So, in addition to saying if you are buying large items though kijiji I recommend you don’t if it is through someone saying they are an attorney in denver named Elizabeth Lewis, I recommend in any case you do the following:

  1. Never send money up front – especially large sums of money.
  2. Make sure you know who you are dealing with.  If you are going to be making a large purchase, the person should have a name, number, address, and other information that is verifiable.
  3. If you are making a large purchase and must put money down, have an agreement to go through any escrow agent to hold the funds before delivery of the item.
  4. Lastly, if a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.

And, finally, if you get contacted by someone saying they are lizzyhome at, run the other way.  I’ve never gone by Lizzy and am not selling items in Canada.  Use some common sense.  Do some research.  Call the supposed person you are buying from.  And, no, I am not selling anything at this time – especially not to anyone in Canada!

Can I do that? Social media investigations in the hiring process.

As an attorney that frequently speaks on social media, online law, and other techy legal issues, I get asked by employers what they can and can’t do as far as investigating applicants online.  Unfortunately, the answer really varies on the specific circumstances.  However, in most cases, employers should follow at least the following basic rules:

  1. Don’t do anything online that you can’t do offline.  For instance, do not use information you find online to discriminate against a potential new hire.  If you cannot discriminate against someone due to having children offline, you can’t research whether they have children online.
  2. You may be required to tell individuals where you get information about them during the interview process.  If you are going to hire a company to research online sources to find out more about applicants, check with your attorney to determine if you must reveal this under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  3. After hire, make sure you clearly state what you expect from employees both on and off the job regarding the use of social media.  For instance, do you need to worry about complying with the FTC endorsement rules (i.e. if your employee says good things about you do the disclose the employment status)?

Depending on the number of employees you have and the type of business you have, you may need to have a policy on both using social media in the hiring process and after hire.  If you are hiring employees, or have employees and haven’t thought about whether you need a policy before this, contact me, your Denver Small Business Lawyer today to find out if you need one today.

Privacy Policies and Your Business Website

Last week, I talked a little about terms of use and why your website needs one. The TOU is only one of several documents that most website needs – websites typically also need privacy policies and copyright policies. Today you get to learn a little about what privacy policies are and when websites need them.

What is a privacy policy?

A privacy policy explains what you as the website owner do with the information you gain about website users. For instance, you may gain information about people through web-logging software such as Google Analytics. You may ask users to submit their names, birth dates, or email addresses to your site. You may request credit card payments from users or mailing addresses. All of this information collected will be used for various things. You may use someone’s name for both the username on the account and to mail them direct mail. You may collect analytic information to sell to marketers. A good privacy policy will go over what you collect, how you use it, how others use it, and where it will end up.

Does every website need one?

Most websites need privacy policies. Almost all websites collect some type of information. If you believe you do not need a privacy policy, it is always best to run this by an attorney to make sure it is true. Many privacy policies are fairly boiler plate; however, it is important to ask your attorney if there are any issues that aren’t addressed in your particular situation that should be as boiler plate text only works to a certain extent.

If you have a website and are wondering if your privacy policy is sufficient or if you need one written, contact your Denver business contract attorney today at 720-258-6647.

Terms of Use and Your Website

Last week, your Denver business attorney was lucky enough to get out of dodge and headed up to the gorgeous town of Breckenridge, CO to speak at the Colorado Women’s Small Business Development Conference. While I got out of the heat of Denver, I spoke about a topic that can get a business into a lot of hot water: online marketing. When setting up a business website, business owners worry about issues such as search engine rankings, visibility, and usability. However, many times they forget to think about whether the website is opening them up to liability issues. In today’s blog, I am going to briefly speak about what a terms of use is. Stay tuned next week to learn about privacy policies and the week after to hear a few things about copyright policies!

Terms of Use Policies

A terms of use, sometimes also referred to as a terms of service, is the agreement a user of a website enters into with the website owner. Typically, a terms of use states what the rights and obligations are of both the users of the site, the owners of the site, and browsers of the site. It ensures that everyone knows what they can and can’t do. For some sites the terms of use is fairly short. For instance, a site which is for a small audience and doesn’t allow comments is going to have a much smaller terms of use than a e-commerce social media site where people interact and buy and sell things.

What You Need To Include

A good terms of use will cover the issues that a site owner may encounter with a website user that would result in legal issues. Ninety-nine percent of terms of uses will include a basic description of what the site is going to be used for, whose law controls any disputes (i.e. Colorado or Vermont or Utah), where disputes are heard (i.e. Denver district court, Clay County, Florida, etc), whether the rights of a user can be transferred, and basic contract language (for more on this, attend one of my Contract Basic classes). In addition, depending on the site, terms of use may include clauses that are e-commerce specific (sales, shipping, and return policies); social media specific (account, user interactions, and uploading policies); or profession specific (attorney disclaimers, real estate disclaimers, etc).

Why You Need One

If your business is online, you need a terms of use. It may be something as simple as a few paragraphs if your website is only an online business card or it may become several different documents if you end up running a website as large as Google, Facebook, or MSN. If you don’t have one, especially if you are providing products or services through your website, you may find that you are fighting court battles in places you never expected (and didn’t particularly want to go) when a transaction goes wrong.

If you find yourself in need of a terms of use because you are starting an e-commerce site or have never had a website for your business, please call me, your online business law attorney at 720-258-6647.

Copyright Infringement – Then and Now, Part 2

Monday we talked about how copyright infringement is more public now than twenty years ago.  It is also my opinion that part of the issues is that those who have grown up with the Internet don’t see copyright infringement as that big of a deal.  Napster, eDonkey, Gnutella, and other sites were the first in a wave of being able to share copyrighted music and movies with not only those that lived in your neighborhood, but those who lived in another country.  Youngsters (and even older folks) would just download songs from these sites without thinking twice about the fact they were committing copyright infringement.  A whole generation has grown up where “borrowing” and “sharing” are the new terms for copyright infringement.

In addition to being able to easily commit copyright infringement, I think more people (especially those that are younger) don’t see music, videos, or other things as something that can be “owned”.  When I was a kid, you had to buy content.  When a band came out with a new album, you had to purchase the album to all of the songs on it.  Only a few were played over the radio.  To watch the videos, you had to have cable to get MTV (back when it played music videos that is).  To get a book, you had to buy the book or borrow it from a friend who had bought it (many times fair use, which is another discussion) – to copy it on a printer was not worth the time and money that it took, in most cases you could buy the book cheaper than copying it.

However, with the advent of the internet, that all changed.  All of sudden, you did not have to pay a cable bill to see the newest music video – you just went online.  You did not have to make a mixed tape in your basement – you did it with a few clicks of a mouse.  As a business owner, if I “borrow” something a business owner has written in a far away state, it no longer goes to 1,000 people in my metro area which the likelihood of that business owner knowing I even borrowed means they has to know one of those thousand of people here, but is put on my blog which may have a readership in every major city in the U.S., not to mention available by Google search.

Many people think that because it is online that it has been shared with the world and that the rights of the author have been given up.  Of course, as we business attorneys know, that isn’t the case.  People keep rights to works even if they distribute them online.  They don’t give up rights just because they have published something online.   However, as more people grow up online it may be that the laws will need to catch up to the change in society.

If you have questions about whether a work you have found online can be used on your site, contact your Denver small business attorney, Elizabeth Lewis today at 720-258-6647 or Elizabeth.Lewis at

Copyright Infringement – Then and Now Part 1

On Friday, June 17, 2011, I was invited to be part of the conversation at the Social Marketing for Business Meetup.  One of the questions I was asked as part of this conversation was why is copyright infringement seem to be so much more prevalent now than before the advent of the internet.  In my opinion, the answer is twofold.  First, it is easier to infringe on someone’s copyright today in public view than it was 20 years ago.  Second, it is more acceptable among younger generations to infringe on someone’s copyright.

In regards to the first point, even twenty years ago copyright infringement occurred.  A teenage boy trying to woo a teenage girl would create a mixed tape of her favorite songs – I highly doubt more than 2 boys twenty years ago got permission to do these mixed tapes (although I have nothing to back this claim up, it is just an instinct).  People would use two VCRs to copy one videotaped (and copyrighted) movie to a blank tape.  Bars would play copyrighted music into the night without paying royalty rights.  Copyright infringement occurred twenty years ago – it just wasn’t as visible as it now – or as detectible.

Twenty years ago, it would be hard to for the general public to learn that a forlorn teenage boy had made a mixed tape to get the girl he loved to go to prom with him.  Today, a 2011 version of that forlorn boy posts a musical stream to the girl he loves on his blog and within a few days, it is the stuff of legends on Comedy Central.  The posting of a single photo online can end up on a thousand sites by the end of the day.  And with tools like Google Alerts, the owner of an authored work can have digests sent to them of posts using a similar sentence.

Twenty years ago, copyright infringement occurred in small doses behind walls and out of public view.  It happened – don’t get me wrong.  However, it wasn’t happening online for hundreds, or millions, to see.  The Internet and other modern technological devices like the iPod and computer make copyright infringement easy and something that can be done in public view.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s post on how society’s view of copyright infringement is changing.  Until then, if you have questions about whether you may have infringing materials on your website or any other questions about your business, contact your Denver business lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis today at 720-258-6647 or Elizabeth.Lewis at