The power of the Internet “lies in its ability to be accessed directly by the public”, according to a paper prepared in 2000 for the International Institute for Public Ethics. The same accessibility also provides widespread opportunity for website users and email recipients to seek compensation when they encounter defamatory statements or rely on content that is ambiguous, misleading or just plain wrong. Webmasters, bloggers, and Internet users can avoid this outcome by placing disclaimers in web pages, blog entries and emails.
Draft your email disclaimer for review before using it. Review by a second person can pick up mistakes that you miss.
State clearly that your email and any attachments are for use only by the person to whom you intended to send it. State also that the contents may be confidential.
Advise any person receiving your email by mistake that he must notify you, the sender of the email, immediately and delete the email. State clearly that he may neither use the email or attachments in any way nor disclose the contents to any third party.
Disassociate your views from those of any organisation on whose behalf you may have sent an email. Assert unequivocally that any statements made and any opinions expressed are entirely yours, the sender’s, and not those of any third party. Include the organisation’s name where appropriate.
Advise all recipients of your email and attachments that you cannot guarantee they are free from viruses or other malware. Recommend that no-one should open any attachment if its integrity is in doubt.
Review your draft and make any corrections. Submit the draft to a third party, ideally a suitably qualified professional adviser, for a second opinion. Attach the disclaimer to your emails as a footer.
Website and blog
Draft all website disclaimers for review before relying on them. Independent review can highlight errors that you fail to spot.
Keep the content of your disclaimer consistent with any other conditions of use for your website or blog. Avoid duplicating any provisions that already exist elsewhere.
Allow use of your website or blog subject only to the terms of your disclaimer, together with any other conditions of use. State that, by using the website, people agree to be bound by those terms.
State the basis on which you provide access to your website. Often, access will be free of charge but if not, reference the applicable section of the website conditions of use.
Accept no responsibility for the accuracy, availability, completeness or currency of any information contained on your website. Offer no warranties in respect of the use of the website, including its fitness for any specific purpose.
Exclude any liability arising from the use of the website, howsoever caused. Exclude specifically any consequential loss or damages to the extent permitted by law.
Include in a blog disclaimer a statement that you accept no liability for content added by any third party. State that blog users, not you, are responsible for ensuring that third party content is legal, decent and truthful, does not infringe any copyright or other third party rights and does not contain links to any site containing viruses or malware.
Assert that your intention is not to publish any defamatory content. Confirm that you will remove any such content immediately you are advised of its presence on your website or blog.
Confirm the applicable law. If you are based in the UK, state that your disclaimer is governed by English law and that any matters arising from the disclaimer will be subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts.
Provide your details. If you represent a company or business, state the company’s full name, address and contact information. Include your Company Registration number if appropriate.
Review your draft and make any corrections. Submit the draft to a third party, ideally a suitably qualified professional adviser, for a second opinion. Publish the disclaimer on your website or blog.
If you don’t want to create a disclaimer from scratch, find a website that offers free or low-cost disclaimer templates.
If you are in any doubt whatsoever about the exact wording to use, take advice from a suitably qualified professional adviser before publishing your disclaimer. Do not rely solely on the advice in this article when writing your disclaimer.