How to Start a Forum, Part D
This is a continuation of Part C
Contrary to what you may have read or experienced, you must be at least 18 years old to run a website which will register users. The reason is because you can't enter a legally binding agreement until that age.
What is a legally binding agreement ? It is a contract between you and others.The Terms of Service is a contract people agree to when they register. That contract is null if you are not 18 or older.
You can't collect information from people unless you are old enough to legally carry some liability . You can't collect money or sell anything. You need to be at least 18 years old.
You can create a website at any age. But if you plan to collect people's information or require they fill out a form with their information, you need to be legally liable in the event that the information is lost or stolen or misused.
If your site caters to children 13 and under the site needs to be protected even more. There are no hosting plans that cater to anyone younger than 13. However there are plans that a parent or guardian or a teacher can set up where it is a controlled environment and is safe for the children to participate under the supervision of an adult.
If you decide to cater to children under 13, you must make sure all of their personal identifying information is not viewed by the public. If you collect any information you must delete it once you are done using it. You are forbidden from tracking them using cookies or keeping their email on file. (According to COPPA guidelines )
This includes, email , real name, school , hobbies , address or home town. Practically any information that can personally identify that child. The reasons for this are obvious. All a predator needs is an email or a name and they can find where the child lives…
All of this information is an invitation for a predator to stalk the children and possibly finding where they live and causing them harm or their family.
This reason is why COPPA was created in the USA. It is logistically impossible to enforce this law so it depends on whistle blowers. The Hope is that website administrators will act responsibly once given the guidelines they need to follow.
Many web owners simply do not cater to children under 13 because they can't possibly comply with the guidelines. This does not stop children from gaining access to these sites because they can lie on the registration form and are only discovered when people realize the person is very young based on their responses.
Adult sites are better protected from children gaining access than so called child safe sites. The most compliant ones require a credit card as proof of being 18 or older. This is also one of the possible ways COPPA advices in order to gain parental consent in writing from a parent acknowledging they are aware their child is joining and are ok with it. To verify what the child is saying . A copy of the Identification or a phone call to the parents works well too.
Allowing children under thirteen without even the smallest compliance to secure their safety and information is illegal in the USA. Help keep them safe by not allowing their info to be public.
Children want attention and they will publish everything about themselves even though they are told not to. This is why they are children and the responsible adult should make sure for the child to keep the info away from the public in the case that the child insists on making it public.
Copyrights , Trademarks and Business
Make sure you are well informed about what constitutes copyright and trademark infringement . Avoid it as much as possible. Don't use names for your forum that belong to other companies or products. For an obvious example, don't call it Facebook-forum or Pepsi-forum . Just because you added the word forum it does not give you the right to take a name that belongs to someone else. Specially if the name is copyrighted or is a trademark. It is not worth the trouble if someone can sue you in court over a name you do not own.
For Domain names and infringement of Domain names, see ICANN
Only copyright what you legally own. That is images audio or software, that you authored.
If you decide to place a copyright mark on your site, make sure it is for real. It can be embarrassing explaining that you did not register the copyright at all or that you don't really own the copyright. That just makes people think of fraud. It is not a game. People spend huge amounts of money copyrighting their work and it is a serious matter when someone infringes upon it. No matter how innocent or ignorant the person was who infringed upon the work.
Avoid all this by creating something original and then copyright it. It will be the best $ bucks you ever spent.
Make sure your users respect copyright laws. It is not ok to distribute copyrighted images or use them for commercial purposes without permission. The same goes for music and videos. Just because others pirate , does not mean you should too.
Businesses pay taxes. Avoid naming your forum Myforum INC or LLC if you want the taxman to stay away. Also makes it seem as though you have money and opens you up to scammers. If it is not a real Business why make it look like it is ?
Could be construed as an attempt to commit fraud by fooling people you are a business.
It can either make you look professional or make you look like a joke depending on the content of the site.
You need to avail people of a way to contact the administrator directly. Forcing people to register to be able to contact the admin is inadequate.
If you are serious about your forum, it is advisable that you take extreme measure to keep your site healthy and safe and comply with all the laws and regulations.