How To Respond To Legal Threats To Your Web Hosting Business?

August 10, 2009

David Snead, a lawyer who has 15 years experience in the web hosting industry and Jeff Gordon hold the session “How To Respond To Legal Threats To Your Business?”. One of the thins David said was that in general web hosts are not responsible for what their customers do. According to him “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker of any information by another information or content providers”.

As I understand this part of the session any web host can be considered as some kind of “conduit”, which means to provider or enable computer access, or provider of bandwidth. Web hosts must not not “edit, change or manipulate customer’s content” or to “review customer’s content”.

“Don’t freak our when you receive a claim from a customer or someone”, Said David and added that web hosts must not admit anything, but it is a good idea to respond by saying “we are thinking about this” and to be, let’s says “vague”.

Another advice from David’s to web hosts was “When you receive a letter from an attorney, you need to respond back to the attorney”. Web hosts must not respond to their customer or anyone else.

When a web host receives a complaint, claim or similar request, there are 2 types of customer email response options – to ignore it or to respond. “But if you respond, do not admit anything”, suggests David. One of the options is to demand a letter from an attorney.

“Note that the treat may not be anymore credible”, adds David, but this is something any hosting provider should discuss with their attorney or legal adviser.

When Receive A Subpoena

“Always give your customer notice when you receive subpoena and give then an opportunity to object”, said also David Snead to the representatives of web hosts who participated to the session. He also suggested web hosts to “prepare for requests for production”, to “amend TOS to require clients to bear the costs”, to “amend TOS to specifically address issue”, to “determine their own tolerance for risk”, “confer with parties early and often”, and to “assess cost of storage now”.

Be proactive when a local FBI agents shows up. Go to the local FBI bureau, ask for more information and how to cooperate. If a sheriff shows up you are allowed to call your lawyer and you are allowed not to give them your server right away”, said also David Snead.

That’s it from a session, which was very useful for the representatives of the web hosts, as well as for me as someone who is involved in this industry for more 10 years. I strongly suggest anyone involved in hosting industry as provider to talk to David Snead when they need to prepare the legal side of their business, and especially when they face legal challenges.