As a web designer, you know a lot of work goes into making an attractive, secure, and functional web site for clients. Unfortunately, the intricate, multi-layered nature of your work also means you’re exposed to a lot of liabilities.
Specifically, web and graphic designers are most likely to face three types of potential lawsuits related to their work:
- Trademark / copyright infringement.
- Errors and omissions.
- Cyber liabilities.
Let's look at each liability in detail and what you can do to protect yourself from a lawsuit.
The Surprising Truth about Copyright and Trademark Infringement for Web Designers
As long as the Internet has been around, there have been concerns about copyright infringement. While you probably know not to use any images, video, or other media you don't own, did you know you can also be sued for copying someone's code or using brand names in your metadata?
Let's look at these two surprising sources of copyright infringement…
- Coding. Yes, you can actually be sued for using someone else's code. If you crib CSS style sheets or copy large portions of non-standard coding, you could face a lawsuit. The web-developer tutorial site Nettuts+ lists this as one of its 5 biggest copyright pitfalls for web designers. In addition, using a design based on another website (or template from WordPress) could lead to a lawsuit.
- Metadata. Using metadata to optimize your search engine results is a common practice, but if you put a competitor's trademark (i.e., brand name) into your metadata, you can actually be sued for infringement. Recently, when a competitor used Venture Tape Corporation's trademarks in their metadata, they were sued for $500,000 in damages and legal fees. Because search engines use metadata to rank results, lawyers have successfully argued that using a competitor's trademark in metadata is akin to using it in advertising and could unlawfully confuse consumers.
You may be wondering whether there is a web design liability insurance policy that protects you from these lawsuits. There is. General Liability Insurance for web designers can pay for lawsuits over advertising injuries and trademark / copyright infringement.
When Can You Be Sued for a Malfunctioning Website?
Designing the perfect website is hard work, and there are many potential pitfalls. A customer could be dissatisfied for a number of reasons. Maybe the website doesn't work well when accessed from a mobile device. Maybe the marketplace loses orders or double charges customers.
Few rollouts go according to plan, and whether it’s a server outage or a problem with your code, mistakes or problems can lead to a lawsuit. These professional liabilities can be covered with an Errors and Omissions Insurance policy.
Data Security Concerns for Website Designers
Every day, you're exposed to threats from hackers. Targeted attacks, cyber extortions, DOS attacks, and any number of constantly evolving cyber threats could hit your website, plunder your data, and compromise user security.
When you design a client website, you become liable for its security. You can be sued if hackers access customer data like credit card numbers or personal information. Many small-business owners don't realize how expensive a cyber liability lawsuit is until it's too late.
With the average cost of a data breach rising to more than 5 million dollars in 2012, you'll want to purchase Cyber Liability Insurance to cover you from the cost of a lawsuit.
To learn more about the cost of insurance for graphic designers and web developers, take a look at this sample insurance quote for web designers.