Sample Disclaimer Template and Examples
One of the great things about living in the internet age is the ease with which anyone can start their own website. You don’t need to have the backing of a large corporation to get up and running on the web. Any individual with internet access can have a site live online in just minutes.
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, this is a great thing indeed. If you would like to start your own business, a website provides you with access to millions of potential customers for a very small investment.
To have your own website that offers information, goods, or services to the public, you only need to invest a bit of your time along with a small amount of money for hosting and domain name.
While technology has made it easier than ever before to get into business for yourself, there are some issues that you need to watch out for if you wish to prosper in the long run.
As is the case with any online or offline business, there are potential legal problems that need to be avoided.
When someone visits your website, it’s likely because you’re offering information of some kind. If that information should prove to be inaccurate or otherwise damaging in some way, you could find yourself facing a lawsuit.
It should go without saying that all business owners would like to avoid any potential legal issues if at all possible.
Now that we know this, we are going to move on to the topic of disclaimers
If you own and operate a blog, eCommerce store, or any other website or even a mobile application, you should strongly consider adding a disclaimer that can potentially shield you from some form of legal liability.
Table of contents
- What is a Disclaimer?
- Disclaimer vs Terms and Conditions
- Why Do You Need a Disclaimer?
- What to Include in a Disclaimer?
- Can You Copy a Disclaimer From Another Website?
- How Can You Enforce Your Disclaimer?
- Disclaimer Examples
- Where Should You Display a Disclaimer?
- How to Enforce a Disclaimer?
- Sample Free Disclaimer Template
- Final words
What is a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer is a notice which is placed on your website in an effort to limit your liability for the outcome of the use of your website. Even if you haven’t thought much about them previously, you have certainly seen disclaimers all over the web. Nearly every website has one in place, and you should as well.
While a disclaimer certainly can’t rule out the possibility of legal action taking place at some point in the future, it can go a long way toward protecting your best interests.
So what kinds of website elements can be covered by a disclaimer?
The content on your website is usually the first place to start. Even if you make every effort to confirm the accuracy of the information you have placed on your site, it is always possible that some of the information on your pages may be inaccurate.
If a website user can prove that this incorrect information has harmed them in some way, you could potentially be found liable in court. However, if you had an appropriate disclaimer in place to cover the content of your site, you may be able to successfully argue that you are not liable.
Beyond content, other pieces of your site that could be covered by a disclaimer include potential copyright issues, the transmission of viruses, and more. Technically, just about anything you place on your site can be addressed through the use of a disclaimer.
As you prepare to take your site live onto the web, it is wise to think through everything you are publishing and consider placing a disclaimer on anything that you feel may open you up to a lawsuit in the future.
It does need to be highlighted that the use of a disclaimer does not in any way eliminate the possibility of a lawsuit. Anyone can file a lawsuit at any time for any reason, whether you have a disclaimer in place or not.
It will be up to the courts to determine the validity of a lawsuit that has been levied against you, which is where a quality disclaimer could come into the picture. If a court determines that your disclaimers do, in fact, cover the items in question in the lawsuit, you may be protected from liability.
Expert tip: Take the hassle of writing your own disclaimer away with our disclaimer generator. It will save you hours of work and possible costly legal mistakes.
Disclaimer vs Terms and Conditions
It is easy to assume that disclaimer and website terms and conditions are the same things. They are not the same thing, however, and it is important to understand the difference as you are assembling your site.
Rather than attempting to reduce liability through the use of a disclaimer, someone using terms and conditions on a website is laying out a specific framework for rules related to using that site.
For example, some of the items which could be included on a terms and conditions page include the following:
- A structure of the legal relationship between the website owner and site users
- Imposing limitations on the use of the website
- Establishing rules regarding who can legally use the site
- Granting permission to use certain materials which are found on the site
While it is true that there can be some overlap between terms and conditions and disclaimers, they should not be thought of as the same thing.
A disclaimer may be included in the content of a terms and conditions page; however, these are separate issues that should be handled separately as you assemble the legal section of your website.
Why Do You Need a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer may not always be required by law however, to mitigate risk, you should seriously consider using one. Regardless of your background or industry, adding a disclaimer to your website is a good idea for the following reasons:
It protects your rights
A disclaimer protects the rights that you have over your intellectual property against infringement by a third party. Assuming that your work is literary or artistic in nature, a disclaimer can contain a claim of ownership over the copyright of your content.
A disclaimer may dissuade others from using your content without your permission.
Other forms of intellectual property will only be fully protected upon registration, as per applicable law. If your intellectual property consists of a technical solution to a problem, you should file for a patent.
On the other hand, if you want to claim ownership over words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify your goods or services, you should be registering a trademark.
It limits your liability
Since it serves both as a warning and a way to mitigate risk, a disclaimer protects you from liability. Anyone who reads your disclaimer should understand the risks involved in using your website or acting upon the information that it contains.
It clarifies the obligations that you have towards your readers.
A disclaimer notifies your readers of your qualifications or background, as well as delimits the scope of your obligations to them. This is especially useful when you are advising in an area that is not necessarily within your field of expertise or if you write guides or how-to articles.
It disclaims third party liability
There may be instances when third parties can interact with your customers or clients through your website or blog, which could expose you and make you liable for their actions or statements.
Your website or social media account, for instance, may allow comments or ads from other third parties. In these cases, a disclaimer will protect you from incurring liability from the actions of those who comment or advertise on your website or page.
It protects the organization or company to which you belong
If you belong to an organization or company, your website or blog can easily be traced back to them, which may be damaging to both you and your employer. In this case, a disclaimer can clearly state that all opinions expressed are your own and that they do not reflect the views of the organization or company.
It is important to note that a disclaimer will not completely protect you from liability. For example, you may still be held liable if a person is injured due to your negligence or if you failed to do something required by law.
Nonetheless, writing and putting a disclaimer on your website is still worthwhile to best protect you and your business.
What to Include in a Disclaimer?
While there are disclaimer templates available on the internet, it is better to create one that is tailored to your website. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing a disclaimer:
Identify the rights that you want to protect
As mentioned earlier, a disclaimer helps protect your ownership over your intellectual property. A disclaimer that claims your ownership over your work dissuades theft of said work, and at the same time, protects you from accusations that the work was copied or stolen.
Identify areas where you might be subject to liability
Whether it is through selling goods or services or simply publishing information on a website, you are exposing yourself to legal liability. For instance, someone could get physically hurt when using your product, or someone could misconstrue information posted on your website.
When making a disclaimer, try to think of all the possible scenarios that could expose you to legal liability. A disclaimer should address all potential areas of risk that you can identify.
Here are some ideas of what your disclaimer can contain:
Let your readers know that your content is merely an opinion
Over the past few years, there has been a steady growth in litigation over online content, and most of these lawsuits are on grounds of defamation. Protect yourself from criminal charges by making the readers of your website or blog aware that its content is merely an opinion and not facts.
Warn your readers against potential mistakes on your website
You should also consider including a disclaimer in regards to the accuracy of the information on your website. Otherwise, errors in the information that you publish, even if unintentional, could expose you to legal liability.
Tell your readers that your content is not professional advice
When publishing information online, professionals usually add a disclaimer that specifies that their content is only informational in nature and should not and cannot be construed as professional advice. After all, this type of advice can only be given following an individualized consultation with a professional.
This means that readers who act on the information that appears on the website do so at their own risk.
Disclaim third-party actions or content
If your business entails dealing with third parties aside from your customers or clients, you may want to consider limiting your liability for their actions or errors.
This type of disclaimer is also useful when using websites or social media platforms. Website or social media accounts may have features that enable comments, user submissions, ads, and other forms of third-party content.
These are only examples of items that can be included in disclaimer; you should reflect upon and tailor your disclaimer to your business, your content, the products or services that you are selling, and the potential legal challenges that you could encounter.
Can You Copy a Disclaimer From Another Website?
No - you should never attempt to copy a disclaimer from another website, as it is sure to contain content that is different from yours.
You can, of course, have a look at disclaimers used on other websites for reference, but you will need to create a custom disclaimer, tailored to your needs.
How Can You Enforce Your Disclaimer?
As a general rule, a disclaimer is not something you actively enforce, but rather serves to protect you from liability in case legal action is taken against you.
Should you be sued because information on your website was inaccurate and caused harm, you may be able to refer to your disclaimer in court, as a way of limiting your ability.
Of course, this argument may or may not be compelling to a judge, but this is how a disclaimer would be used in practice.
Here are several types of disclaimers that may be useful for your website, along with actual disclaimers used by organizations and companies to serve as examples:
An "affiliate" disclaimer is basically a short sentence or paragraph that lets your visitors know that you may get compensated if they click on your affiliate links. This is required by all affiliate programs as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
Here's how WP Beginner does it on their website:
Views Expressed Disclaimer
This is what we mentioned earlier and serves to inform your readers that the views expressed on your website belong solely to the author, and should not be attributed to your employer or any other organization that you could be associated with. This can be particularly useful if you are expressing political views, discussing polarizing topics, or endorsing or reviewing products, for example.
A “third-party” disclaimer addresses third-party contractors and limits your legal liability that may arise from their actions or omissions. This is useful if you have other parties advertising on your website, users commenting on your publications or third-party contractors involved in your business.
Smith Brothers Insurance has the following disclaimer on its website:
Generic Blog Disclaimer
If you have a blog, you should have a disclaimer that states that the content is merely an opinion and for informational purposes only, as well as to disclaim any responsibility for possible errors or omissions.
Guavarose, a blogging site, has the following disclaimer:
A disclaimer for fitness websites or blogs should notify readers of the possible risks of using the website’s contents and warn them that, if they are choosing to act upon this information, they are doing so at their own risk. Moreover, it should warn readers that it does not replace professional advice from their physician or health care provider.
Jillian Michaels, a fitness coach, has the following disclaimer on her website:
A medical disclaimer should state that the information published is merely for educational purposes. It should advise that readers consult a physician or other health care provider for their personal concerns.
When it comes to medical content, WebMD has the following disclaimer:
A website offering legal advice should have a disclaimer that makes it clear that the content is for information purposes only. It should be evident to the readers that no attorney-client relationship is established.
DLA Piper has the following disclaimer:
Where Should You Display a Disclaimer?
Again, this depends on the content of your website or blog, but it should always be easily accessible, which is why disclaimers are commonly found in website footers.
Here are some ways in which websites and blogs display their disclaimers:
1. Browsewrap method
A browsewrap is a small hyperlink at the bottom of the web page that redirects the user to another page that contains your disclaimer. Most websites and applications use the browsewrap method to display their disclaimer, terms and conditions, and other policies.
2. Clickwrap method
As opposed to the browsewrap method, the clickwrap method is characterized by a checkbox. Your website will require your reader to check or toggle an “I agree” checkbox to proceed with browsing your website.
Your website can also provide even more warnings of a reader’s obligations by adding the phrase “By clicking the following button, you agree to such and such”.
3. Including it in Your Terms and Conditions
Before proceeding to browse your website, your clients or customers have to accept your terms and conditions. By including your disclaimer in the latter, you are ensuring that said disclaimer is part of an enforceable contract.
Regardless of where you decide to place your disclaimer, take note of the case of Specht v. Netscape. In this case, the court said:
Reasonably conspicuous notice of the existence of contract terms and unambiguous manifestation of assent to those terms by consumers are essential if electronic bargaining is to have integrity and credibility.
In short, such notice must be easily seen by your readers.
Although the crux of Specht v. Netscape was the product’s terms and conditions, the same principles should be applied to disclaimers in order to give them legal effect.
The bottom line is: treat a disclaimer as you would a contract. This ensures that your disclaimer will be respected by the court in the event of a lawsuit.
How to Enforce a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer is not necessarily enforceable. Enforceability depends on the nature of the disclaimer as well as the laws of the individual state in which you operate.
You can make your disclaimer legally binding by ensuring that: the terms of your disclaimer are fair and that they can be reviewed by your customers or clients.
Make sure that your terms are fair
To make a disclaimer legally binding, you must ensure that its terms are fair to your clients or customers. As mentioned earlier, there are some things that a disclaimer cannot shield you from.
For one, you cannot disclaim liability for negligence or include terms that contradict the law. You must also ensure that no vague terms that might mislead your clients or customers are used.
Make your client or customer aware of your disclaimer
Your disclaimer should be placed where it can be easily seen by your readers. To better protect yourself, it is best if you request some kind of acknowledgment from your readers before they proceed with browsing your website or blog.
Sample Free Disclaimer Template
This generic disclaimer template will help you understand how everything that we have discussed in this article comes together to form a legal agreement. Keep in mind that this is just an example disclaimer template and does not cover many of the important topics.
Generic disclaimer template
Please read this disclaimer ("disclaimer") carefully before using [website] website (“website”, "service") operated by [name] ("us", 'we", "our").
The content displayed on the website is the intellectual property of the [name]. You may not reuse, republish, or reprint such content without our written consent.
All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information on this website, you do so at your own risk.
While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.
We reserve the right to change this policy at any given time, of which you will be promptly updated. If you want to make sure that you are up to date with the latest changes, we advise you to frequently visit this page.
Businesses or websites that do not have a disclaimer are vulnerable to all sorts of lawsuits. While a disclaimer will not guarantee that you won't get sued, a properly written disclaimer is a good way to protect yourself from various liability claims in the event legal action is taken against you or your business.
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- Updated on July 14, 2020