Nowadays more and more businesses are established online. The predictions are that in the nearest future even less people will be attached to the physical location of their offices or stores. Internet allows great flexibility, less start-up and operational costs, much wider outreach to markets, consumers and professionals, whose assistance the businesses may need, and availability of many other useful business resources (e.g. the use of forum sites, professional sites, targeted advertising). Accordingly, establishing a business presence online can be a lucrative way to sell, buy, market, advertise and otherwise promote your goods or services.
From legal perspective, the same laws and regulations apply to online and offline businesses. So when starting an online business you have to know what laws and rules regulate your industry in general and what specific legal considerations must be given to your type of venture (e.g. contractual relationships, employment matters, form of business organization, intellectual property issues and many others).
But in addition to the legal matters, which all businesses face, online businesses must comply with special laws and regulations, which govern commercial activities in cyberspace. Also, the owners of online businesses should discuss with a business attorney how such general laws as, for example, intellectual property, contracts law, taxation, and customer protection law are interpreted, applied and operate in cyberspace since the specifics of online presence impose certain questions and practical rules.
Online business activities are regulated simultaneously by federal, state, and local (municipal) laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary federal agency regulating e-commerce activities, digital rights, use of commercial emails, online advertising and consumer privacy. There is an extensive list of FTC’s e-commerce rules and regulations, and your attorney should familiarize you with the ones applicable to your type of business.
All activities that are illegal in real life are also illegal on the Internet. Cyber law also defines what actions are illegal to do online. The example is child pornography, cyber stalking, online fraud, cyber scams, hacking, cyber harassment and virus attacks. The objective of the Cyber law is to protect Internet users and make Internet a safe place for business and personal interactions. Cyber law is enforced by courts and police officers across the country. If a person violates cyber law they can be subjected to civil and criminal liabilities, ranging from fine and penalties to a jail term. Cyber law is also monitored and enforced by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.