Online Sweepstakes, Games, & Contests: Navigating Legal Issues and Pitfalls

Online sweepstakes, games, and contests have become increasingly popular thanks to the widespread use of social media and iOS applications. Companies, however, often overlook the need to include proper documentation and guidelines required by state or federal laws and regulations. Moreover, today’s new technology often allows for web/app users to submit cloned entries or otherwise circumvent online rules. Likewise, the collection of personal information for sweepstakes, online games, and contests may trigger a variety of entirely different legal issues, often unbeknownst to the host company. Care should be taken before launching new sweepstakes, games, or online contests.

One of the biggest challenges with online sweepstakes and games is the state-by-state differences in rules and regulations. Before launching a new sweepstake, online contest, or game, the host should verify that it complies with the laws in every state where it is made available. This often requires an analysis of the laws of each state since many sweepstakes, games, and contests are made available to residents of all 50 states given the nature of the Internet and iOS/Android applications. Some states require registration for certain kinds of contests.

In addition to state laws, hosts of online games need to verify compliance with federal regulations and laws such as the Children Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), and similar privacy laws. Given the global nature of the Internet, attention should be given to whether compliance with foreign laws is needed or whether access to the Internet sweepstake, game, or contest is limited to US participants. The laws of European countries, for example, provide for more stringent privacy restrictions than US ecommerce law.

While companies may be able to achieve compliance with state and federal regulations on their own, retaining an ecommerce attorney is advisable due to the complexity of the legal landscape. The first step is to evaluate the associated promotional material and online rules to ensure no violations of federal and state laws, including online privacy laws. Next, the ecommerce attorney will likely analyze the entire framework of the contest, game, or sweepstake to ensure overall compliance with both state and federal law as it applies to the client. As mentioned, this may require registration in certain states and posting bonds. Lastly, the attorney will draft overall guidelines as a reference for use with any future promotions. These guidelines can be used to reduce costs for future online sweepstakes, contests, and games.

Disclaimer – As with any discussion of legal topics, this article is intended to be educational only, and is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it provide legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Please seek legal counsel before making any decisions. Also, please note that this article will likely not be updated, so the law and circumstances may have changed by the time you have read this article.

Books For Attorneys – Three Resource Books For Every Lawyer

If you are a new lawyer, or you’ve been practicing for some time you’ll want to add the following books to your library, if you haven’t got them already:

Lowering the Bar by Marc Galanter – While there are tons of books available that bash lawyers, this is not one of them. Instead, just like a modern Shakespeare, Galanter takes lawyer jokes and draws similarities to trends of society in America. There are thousands of jokes including cartoons that mock lawyers and the legal system, and he shows how it is all influencing the way relationships are changing between individuals, as well as between citizens and the American government, and also between corporations and their customers. Lawyer jokes remain popular because they’re still out there fighting for the little guy. This is a great read if you’re starting out in the world of law.

The Creative Lawyer by Michael Melcher – This is a book that is written with lawyers in mind. It is also pretty useful if you want to find more satisfaction from your life or career. It is written well, in an articulate and entertaining manner. It provides insight that actual works when attempted in the real world. It will give you a new perspective on how you feel about yourself, and your job. Like many books similar to this one, it is an interesting read, but you’ll find the most benefit by actually trying the suggestions made in it. It’s time to stop thinking about the life you want and get a success coach, a career mentor, or whatever you need to get it to happen!

The Unhappy Lawyer by Monica Parker – The American education system is outdated. Since the 50’s the entire American population has been brainwashed to go to school and when you finish get a job. This is very true in the legal field where it is seen that becoming a lawyer will fulfill all of your goals in life. If you are feeling pigeon-holed after passing the bar, you need to realize that you don’t just have to become a lawyer, you can do anything you want to do. You could be a speaker, a writer, a great thinker, a business man, and you’ll have a leg up since you already know the law. This book will help you explore all of your potential.

Plus one for good measure:

How Lawyers Lose Their Way by Jean Stefancic – Most lawyers don’t have the time to read books outside of all the books they need to read for the job. You should do yourself a favor and find some spare time and read through this book. If you’ve been feeling disenchanted or that you’ve taken the wrong path, this book will get you back. If you feel that your life is governed by formality and materialism, you need to start reevaluating things. This book will help you find new meaning in all the sacrifices you made to get where you are.

Why Business and Law Go Hand in Hand

If you are getting ready to start a new business, or if you have already done so, it is important that you understand the areas where business and law intersect and rely on one another. There are a wide variety of potential legal situations that business owners might find themselves in when starting a business or growing an existing one. Because the average person might not be aware of the minute details of business law, they could end up facing severe financial consequences.

The best way to properly protect yourself from legal liability is by hiring or consulting with a business lawyer. However it is also important that you learn about the general concepts of business and law, so you will be able to know when you need legal protection. If you want to adequately protect yourself and your new business, here are some things you should understand about business and law, and why the two should go hand-in-hand.

Starting a Business

Starting, running or growing a business can be a very exciting venture. Unfortunately many people are so eager to get up and running that they often overlook very important legal aspects of starting their business. And because of the nature of a new business, even if legal issues are known, the business owners might not have enough financial resources to obtain legal assistance.

No business is exempt from the potential of being faced with some common legal problems, including discrimination or harassment claims, dissatisfied customers, patent or copyright issues, disgruntled employees, and many other legal issues. If large and small companies alike do not have the help of experienced business lawyers on their side, they could end up mishandling certain situations and facing disastrous consequences. Even seemingly minor legal issues could quickly spiral out of control if they are not handled properly by someone who is familiar with the ins and outs of corporate law.

Even the most optimistic business owners can find their lives turned upside-down by a single harassment claim by a disgruntled employee or a claim of errors and omissions by a customer. In some situations, business owners may unwittingly admit to something they are not guilty of just to calm down an angry customer or employee.

These risks should not dissuade people from starting businesses, but should instead serve as examples of what could occur if the proper precautions are not taken.

Legal Considerations

When you start a business and are offering goods or services to a particular market, there is always the possibility that a transaction could go wrong, that a customer or employee could feel they have been wronged, or that a contractual agreement may fall apart. In these situations, it is crucial that you and your assets are protected. An important step in running a business is choosing the proper legal entity that it should be. Different entities have different levels of protection, shielding individuals from liability, offering different tax benefits and establishing roles between partners. Another step in protecting yourself is obtaining and implementing the proper type of insurance, that might be relied on if a particular dispute arises.

Other legal considerations of running a business involve the use of clear contracts between you and those you do business with. One of the biggest causes of business disputes is where two parties are involved in a business arrangement, end up disagreeing what that arrangement is, and either have an inadequate contract, or no contract at all that describes each of their obligations. Individuals and businesses can lose large amounts of money simply because they failed to properly define their legal obligations and put a contract in place.

Business Attorneys

At any time during their operation, both small companies and large corporate entities can be faced with unexpected legal issues that they are simply not prepared for. One of the best ways to prevent such dangers, and to protect yourself if a dispute arises, is to hire or consult with a specialized business lawyer.

A lawyer who is experience in the areas of business law will be able to help you avoid potential liability in the future, and can help defend or enforce your business against others if a dispute arises. If you want to make sure that your company is able to reach its full potential without being sidetracked by legal problems, you can significantly increase your chances of success by hiring an experienced lawyer.

As long as businesses continue to exist, there will always be the need for competent legal protection. Make the smart move for the future of your business by hiring a qualified lawyer to make sure your company is always represented and prepared for unexpected legal situations.

Business and Law

The areas of business and law are intrinsically connected and will always go hand in hand. Our legal system has many regulations and laws in place to govern those operating a business, and it is important to have at least a basic understanding of the legal implications of starting a business. With a little research, basic knowledge, and ideally help from specialized business litigation lawyers, you can continue to grow your business while implementing best practice strategies, and protecting yourself, employees and customers at the same time.