Non est factum in the 21st Century

Pottering around in some of the dustier corners of the law of contract this morning, I happened on the doctrine of non est factum ("it is not my deed"), a species of mistake I haven't given any thought to since law school. The doctrine was developed by the English courts to protect those who signed legal documents mistakenly. Where the doctrine applies, a person who mistakenly signs a contract or deed is not bound thereby. The classic situation involves a blind person who executes a document after it had been incorrectly read to him or her. As well as the blind, the doctrine may protect anyone who – through no fault of their own – has no understanding of the meaning and effects of a document: the ill, the infirm, those of low intelligence, the seriously under-educated, and those unable to understand the language of the document.

101 ways to NOT get sued

Legal action can be catastrophic for a start-up or SME. When you add up lawyers' fees, court fees, damages and lost management time, the loser can be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of pounds of losses, sometimes more. Even if you win, the victory may be pyrrhic – for you if not for your lawyers. So read this list, and you might just save your business.

Transferring IP rights in software

It's axiomatic that intellectual property rights are transferable. A change of ownership of physical property can be evidenced by a change of possession; not so with intellectual property (IP). For this reason, IP transfers should always be embodied in a written instrument. Indeed it's often is a legal requirement that IP transfers be in writing. This short post is about the use of such instruments to transfer the IP rights in software.

Cookies, consents and browser settings

The UK ICO's last-minute revisions to its official guidance on the cookie laws focused on the possibility of "implied consent" for the use of cookies. This softening of the ICO's position was sensible, notwithstanding that the whole cookie law saga brings EU tech law into disrepute. There was, however, another option open to the ICO. They could have taken the position that consent could be indicated by browser settings.

Contracting with children under website T&Cs

Many websites are aimed at children, and many that aren't aimed at children are used by them. Although not all website operators seek to enter into contractual relationships with users, many do; and there lies a problem. The general rule of English law is that individuals under 18 years of age - minors in the legal jargon - are not bound by any contracts that they may enter into. In some circumstances, even where the child is bound, such contracts are voidable at the option of the child.

Prize competitions and the law: navigating the labyrinth

The laws of England and Wales on prize competitions can seem labyrinthine. But for most prize competitions, the route through is reasonably straightforward. There are three main stages. First, design the competition in such a way that it isn't in danger of becoming expensively ensnared in the gambling law regime. Second, mark those areas of illegality that are the domain of unfair trading law and consumer protection law, and steer well clear. Third, follow the path laid down in the CAP Code.

Google, paid links and English prisons

Internet marketers disagree on the question of whether link buying is unethical. For some, link buying is a form of cheating that pollutes the search results; for others, it is an essential tool in an unfair online marketplace. Whether or not that link buying is unethical, it is usually agreed that it is legal. As a matter of English law, this is wrong. Some paid links are illegal.

6 ways to manage social media legal risks

The legal risks associated with running a social networking service are not just of academic interest. Examples of lawsuits abound. The UK's own Friends Reunited found itself on the wrong end of a defamation claim a full decade ago. More recently, during 2011, MySpace was accused of supplying personal information without the consent of users. Just two days ago, hard on the heels of Facebook's massively-hyped IPO, it was reported that the social networking giant was being sued in the US courts for a cool $15 billion over user tracking. In this short post, I'll outline 7 things you can do as a social networking site operator to help reduce these sorts of risks.

Selling online and the law - part 4 - information disclosure

An important part of legal compliance for online sellers is the provision of certain information to users and customers. This post seeks to list all of the main categories of information that need to be disclosed on the seller's website. There's no way to disguise the nature of this post: it's a list. A long list, and arguably a boring one. If you're new to ecommerce, and innocent of the nature of modern - especially EU-derived - regulatory regimes, you might be unpleasantly surprised by its length.

Software development agreements: a checklist

Drafting a software development agreement? Then check here to see if you've missed anything. This checklist is designed to help those new to software development agreements ensure that they have considered the principal issues that a typical agreement should cover. It also provides a little guidance as to the different approaches to some of the the issues.