Module 16: Authorized Considerations Confronted By eCommerce

It’s price noting that I’m not a lawyer, and the knowledge on this module is generalized and shouldn’t be thought of authorized recommendation. 

It is best to verify with a regulation skilled to find out if there are some other authorized considerations, what applies to your specific scenario, and if there are any relevant legal guidelines or rules based mostly in your state of residence. 

That stated, there are a number of authorized considerations price contemplating by yourself earlier than you set off in your e-commerce journey or start paying a authorized skilled.

Desk of Contents

Copyright and Mental Property

It ought to go with out saying that you have to comply with all copyright legal guidelines when promoting merchandise in an e-commerce setup by Shopify. Nevertheless, there may be usually some confusion about what’s allowed and what falls beneath the idea of “truthful use.” Let’s clear that up.

If you don’t personal the copyright to a product, trademark, picture, or different supplies, you can not put it to use for revenue with out categorical permission from the creator or the right licenses. This particularly extends into many areas of design.

An apparent instance contains the usage of one other firm or individual’s mental property. Take Nintendo’s ever-popular character, Mario. Regardless of the huge quantity of merchandise on-line that use his picture, a overwhelming majority of them are technically breaking copyright legal guidelines by infringing on Nintendo’s trademark character. 

With out acquiring the right licensing, inserting his picture on a t-shirt, mug, poster, pocket book, or some other product is technically unlawful.

This is applicable even for those who drew your personal illustration of the character. Whereas this sort of infringement is commonly neglected, it’s fully doable for Nintendo to sue you for primarily stealing from them. The identical is true for different online game characters, cartoons, films, and so on.

With ebooks, movies, and different digital content material, it’s clearly copyright infringement to obtain these things and resell them with out first getting permission. Not solely is that this unlawful, however prospects are inclined to frown upon sellers that don’t do any of the work for themselves.

Likewise, regardless of the favored act of merely discovering pictures on Google Pictures and utilizing them in your design tasks, it’s essential that any pictures you utilize are both within the public area otherwise you’ve paid for a license to make use of them. 

This additionally applies to issues like fonts, clip artwork, design components, and so on. It’s a enormous false impression that just because a font could also be free to obtain that it’s additionally free to make use of for industrial merchandise. For those who’re not utilizing a font that comes together with your laptop, it’s clever to take the time to find out if you’re required to buy a license to make use of it. As a rule of thumb, for those who’re not sure for those who’re breaking any copyright regulation, simply keep away from that exact aspect, picture, and so on.

Enterprise Licenses

Not all e-commerce sellers require a enterprise license, nevertheless it will depend on many elements. 

First, you must verify your state’s legal guidelines relating to e-commerce and enterprise licenses. 

Second, for those who plan to have any salaried or hourly staff, you have to to acquire a enterprise license and an employer identification quantity for tax functions. (It’s price noting that you could rent impartial contractors with out an employer identification quantity.)

For these of us that don’t want a enterprise license, we might be thought of “sole proprietors,” and meaning that we are going to typically be the one “worker” in our enterprise. 

This additionally implies that our private funds and enterprise funds are intermingled, and as such, our taxes are as nicely. Because of this, it could be advantageous to acquire a enterprise license even for those who don’t plan on working with staff. 

Must you use credit score to construct your corporation and should default on loans or declare chapter, this might be private chapter as a substitute of enterprise chapter, which is able to hurt your monetary well being for years to come back.


As a basic piece of recommendation, it’s important to pay your taxes. That stated, with on-line gross sales, the final rule for federal taxes is that you have to declare your earnings in full for those who’ve made greater than 200 transactions and netted $20,000 or extra in gross sales. 

Except you’re nonetheless a fledgling vendor with a full-time job on the facet, it’s secure to imagine we must always simply declare our earnings no matter assembly these standards.

As talked about above, in case you have staff working beneath you, you have to have an worker identification quantity, and you have to report your worker’s earnings. You’ll be chargeable for issuing W-2s for workers. 

For impartial contractors, you may be required to challenge 1099-MISC types in case you have paid them over $600 inside the 12 months. It’s clever to have a tax skilled sit down with you and stroll you thru the entire ins and outs of taxes as both a enterprise or a sole proprietor. 

Doing your personal taxes could prevent a number of {dollars}, however the chance of being audited rises dramatically for self-employed people that fail to deal with the method accurately. Some states require that you just cost gross sales tax for consumers inside the similar state as nicely.

Privateness and Spam

Do you know that it’s truly unlawful to spam? To place that into perspective, it’s unlawful to push merchandise in an unsavoury manner. This doesn’t imply you must forego emailing prospects; in truth, e-mail lists are an effective way to extend gross sales and market your new merchandise. 

Whenever you make a sale or in case you have somebody join an e-mail checklist, it’s alright to e-mail them, you simply have to take a number of steps to make sure you keep away from falling into the “spam” class.

First, all your messages needs to be clearly marked as commercials. Second, the textual content inside the topic line and physique of an e-mail shouldn’t be deceptive in any way. 

Lastly, it’s worthwhile to provide a technique for purchasers to unsubscribe from receiving messages from you. Ideally, additionally, you will embody a authorized postal handle inside all your messages as nicely, even when it’s only a PO Field.

As an internet retailer, you’re generally aware of fairly a bit of knowledge regarding your prospects, together with contact data, postal handle, full identify, and rather more. 

Whereas it could be tempting to promote this data or use different strategies of making the most of it, it’s extremely unlawful, and the fines and potential jail time are way more damaging than the meager earnings a number of scams provide. Simply don’t do it.

State Legal guidelines

I’ve talked about it briefly, however you will need to perceive that some states have their very own legal guidelines regulating how e-commerce and operating a enterprise in that state have to be dealt with. Take the time to analysis your state legal guidelines, discuss with authorized professionals, and ensure to make the most of this information to keep away from potential points.


This isn’t an entire checklist of authorized points, however it’s a transient start line that can assist you keep away from the most typical authorized errors new entrepreneurs discover themselves making. It’s extremely suggested to hunt authorized counsel and do your personal analysis relating to the potential authorized points surrounding your corporation.