Planning on starting a blog as a subdomain of your website? If so, you may be wondering about the legal complexities of creating subdomains for your website.
A common question people have is whether separate legal agreements are needed for subdomains.
Keep reading to find out the recommendations regarding how to incorporate Privacy Policies and Terms and Conditions for subdomains.
If you're considering adding a blog or other subdomain to your website, you know that it's simply a secondary domain name that can be treated as a seperate website, even though it usually retains a domain name very similar to the original. Some reasons companies do this is to create:
- A blog
- Multiple versions of the same website in different languages
- A niche website for a specific group of consumers
- An e-commerce store that is seperate from the main site
Here is a screenshot of the main website URL for Style Dot Me:
The Style Dot Me blog URL is a subdomain of the main website:
The basic logistics of creating a subdomain are relatively simple. Most hosting companies provide a number of subdomains for free with the purchase of a main domain name, so setting it up is the easy part. Delving into the finer details will depend on the purpose of the subdomain.
If the main website is informational and the subdomain is an e-commerce store, like the Herman Miller Store shown below, the Terms and Conditions of the e-commerce store will need to include more information about shipping, payments, and other relevant details.
Privacy Policies for Subdomains
Although Privacy Policies differ from business to business, the average policy will include the following clauses:
- What information does your business collect about consumers
- How does your business use this information
- Who does your business share the information with
- How can users access, edit, or delete their personal information
- How do you communicate those changes
- How you process information of children, if at all
- How can users contact you regarding privacy concerns
Many consumer privacy laws affect the average online business. Since the internet is international by nature, you will be required to comply with European, Canadian, and state laws like CalOPPA, even if your business is not based in any these locations.
Here are a few privacy laws that likely apply to your website:
- California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA)
- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
- Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Privacy Policies for Leased Subdomains
Shopify is a large-scale e-commerce provider that offers subdomains to its customers. Each subdomain acts as its own webstore and is managed by a different company or owner.
Here is an example of a Shopify subdomain store:
The webstore Sol Theory is technically a subdomain of Shopify, but it is owned and operated by an independent company.
Privacy Policies for Subdomains Owned and Managed by the Same Company
Here are a few examples:
Sperry, for example, uses a subdomain for its blog. This is the main website URL and navbar:
This is only slightly different that the blog domain name and navbar, but it is still considered a subdomain:
Another popular use for subdomains is to create several versions of the same website in different languages. To illustrate, the L'Occitane main website URL looks like this:
The Spanish version, however, has the prefix "es" incorporated into the domain name:
Targeting Niche Markets
Many larger companies also create subdomains to target niche markets or groups within their customer base. Nike, for example, has a subdomain just for investors:
Their main website URL looks like this, however:
Terms and Conditions for Subdomains
Although a Terms and Conditions page is not required by law, it is the first place courts will refer to in the case of a lawsuit against your company.
Why a Terms and Conditions?
A Terms and Conditions agreement is where you let users know about your rules, restrictions and important details that come with using your website/app.
When it comes to disputes over payment, terms of sale, shipping, or any other matter, your Terms and Conditions can limit your liability.
Terms and Conditions for Leased Subdomains
Remember: It's never required by law to have a Terms and Conditions agreement. However, it's usually a really good idea to have one.
If you operate a subdomain that's hosted under a different business' main website - such as if you run a Shopify store - you won't be required to have a Terms and Conditions agreement. But if you do choose to have one, these platforms usually make it very easy to add your agreement to your subdomain.
For example, Shopify shows its subdomain users how to add an "Agree to Terms and Conditions" checkbox to their subdomain sites so you can not only include your agreement but get your shoppers to agree to your Terms.
Depending on the nature of the leased subdomain, such as if it's an ecommerce store, a Terms and Conditions will be highly recommended.
T&C's for Subdomains Owned and Managed by a Different Company
A good example of this is the FIFA website. This is a screenshot of the Terms of Service for the main FIFA site:
In contrast, FIFA's e-commerce store is managed by a separate entity, and even though it's a subdomain of FIFA.com, it maintains a separate Terms and Conditions agreement:
Because the general FIFA website doesn't offer services like an ecommerce component that would need to address things like shipping, delivery and return or refund details, it doesn't need such an in-depth Terms and Conditions agreement.
However, the separate subdomain does offer such things that need to be addressed in its Terms and Conditions. More importantly, because the subdomain is ran by a third party for FIFA, that third party would clearly want to have its own Terms and Conditions in place to protect itself from legal liability not only to shoppers, but to FIFA as well.
If the subdomain is owned and managed by someone different the owner of the main domain, it would be very smart to have a Terms and Conditions agreement for the subdomain.
T&C's for Subdomains Owned and Managed by the Same Company
As we mentioned about Privacy Policies above, most subdomains that are owned and operated under the same company and owner can utilize the same Terms and Conditions for all.
LinkedIn maintains a separate subdomain for its blog:
Upon browsing, you will find that the User Agreement link redirects the visitor back to the User Agreement for the main website. Since the terms function the same way for both sites, there is no reason to create a separate terms page.
A helpful way to think about it is to think about whether your subdomain has drastically different functions and features from your main domain that would warrant the need for additional Terms and Conditions.
For example, say you run a photography blog where you only post your photography work but don't allow user comments or any interaction at all from viewers. Your photography blog has a subdomain for an ecommerce store where people can buy your work, leave reviews and create shopper accounts.
You can likely get away without a Terms and Conditions agreement at all if your photography blog didn't operate that ecommerce store. However, that ecommerce subdomain will benefit greatly from having a Terms and Conditions agreement.
This is because you'll be interacting with customers and allowing them to interact more with your website, which means your Terms can help protect you from legal liability issues.
In this example, you could either have one Terms and Conditions agreement that you post on both domains, or you can simply post it to the ecommerce subdomain since it would be most relevant to the subdomain.
When it comes to a Terms and Conditions for subdomains:
- You aren't required to have a Terms and Conditions agreement for your subdomain, but it's highly recommended if your subdomain:
- Has a main domain that's owned/managed by someone else
- Is a leased subdomain (i.e. a Shopify website)
- Has different features and functions than the main domain, such as an ecommerce component, a way for users to submit content, etc.