You have hundreds of questions to address before starting the development of a mobile application. And we bet that most of them are connected to the business idea of your app and the software development process. You are so excited about the fact that your app will soon be developed and the prospects that you totally forget about app legal issues that need to be considered.
Fortunately, we gathered the pieces of advice that hiring an app development lawyer or legal adviser would provide you with, we collected all of the information that you might need in one place – especially for you and for free.
Legal considerations for app developers
The app marketplaces are usually worldwide, meaning that your application is accessible and can be downloaded in different countries. The question is if you develop and establish your application in accordance with the jurisdiction and legal standards of any one country, or do you have to modify the app to fit with expectations of various legal codes. Of course, it is a complicated task to handle all local laws of different locations on your own. Our suggestion is to find and hire an experienced lawyer who will help you avoid problems with any out-of-law development, providing you with the safety and peace of mind of making sure that you are conforming to and taking into account all of the jurisdictions of those countries where your app will be available to be downloaded and used.
Incorporate a Business to Limit Your Liability
Before you decide to develop your app idea and build the solution, think of the type of business you want to run. Would it be a sole trading type, partnership, or LLC (limited liability company) – the decision is yours. The last option would be quite profitable and flexible as you will not be responsible for all issues related to your project, as the name suggests, it is limited liability, so the rest of your assets, wealth or net worth will not be endangered by your endeavor.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
We always encourage our customers to sign a non-disclosure agreement before discussing their app idea. This document will secure your confidential information that has economic value. Read more here.
App Development Contract
This document is important for both app development companies and customers. The contract has to clearly define the scope of work or services, time limits, fee arrangements (fixed, time&material or mixed), code ownership, whether to use open-source software, etc.
It is often advised to establish an LLC prior to starting app development. That way app owners could limit their liability if any problems arise. While entity formation is a common step among entrepreneurs, there may not be necessary if you’re developing an app for personal use.
Intellectual Property (IP) Ownership
There are two aspects that one should consider during the app development: protection of own copyright and not infringing third-party copyright.
You can protect your intellectual property by:
- The trademark identifies the source of origin of goods or services. Trademark is used to protect your app’s name and logo.
- Copyright protects the app’s source code, artwork, design, text. The app automatically gets copyright protection once the work is done. Besides, you can file a copyright application to the US/EU/GB Copyright Office in order to establish a public record.
Registration is required to be able to bring a lawsuit in the federal court, but usually one needs to apply in each country he/she wants protection in. Therefore, global registration may not be necessary in case you’re not Apple. Take your time to create a profitable app first.
What industries should consider App development legal issues?
We would like to highlight the key legal requirements for software that should be considered when developing a software solution by the example of three prospective worldwide industries – healthcare, education, and finances. This day these areas are being digitally transformed and continue to adopt the latest technologies for the purpose of providing the same quality services online considering all local laws and limitations. Additionally, do not forget that legal considerations are obvious to take into account for all industries but their filling depends on particular industry conditions.
Healthcare applications imply particular regulations as this industry gets a high responsibility for people’s lives and health. First of all, healthcare applications should eliminate the possibilities of human errors in diagnosis, assigning treatment courses, health monitoring, etc. Further, we would like to highlight the main medical regulations that should be considered when developing medical software like EHR.
The educational industry has started a digital transformation for the purpose of improving the quality of education and students` educational experience. Different types of educational organizations develop and implement educational platforms that provide the same quality learning process and knowledge evaluation as in-person learning does during and at the end of courses. When developing this type of software solution, developers should firstly consider the next app development legal issues:
- data security – this feature suggests having preventive measures not to allow the personal breach of data violations;
- access for users with disabilities;
- intellectual-property – think of the protection of your IP to save the property rights to all information your system contains like works, tests, lectures, presentations, grading systems, etc.
Financial Services Sector
Finance data requires the highest level of privacy and security. The demand for online banking apps is huge to this day, so it is crucial to consider all mobile app development legal issues when developing one to make users feel confident and protected. Among the legal issues that should be considered in fintech solutions are:
- data access – considering GDPR and ePrivacy regulations;
- New Payment Services Directive (PSD2) – this legal issue regulates third-party access to customers payment accounts;
- cybersecurity – prevention of hacker attacks is a must;
- KYC compliance ( know your customer) – checking the counterparty before the transaction conducted;
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) – compliance with international payment systems.
We also would like to present a video where you can learn more about the app development legal issues and find out the consistent steps that would help you take into account all of them.
Third-party Intellectual Property Ownership
Apple strictly prescribes the use of third-party materials and carefully protects intellectual property rights. Laws (and app laws) differ in different countries but fundamental rules are common across all app stores. Apps should only include images, music, and texts you have the right to use. If you have been granted access to use assets owned by others you can notify the Google Play Market view team using an advance notice form or just sending a cover letter while applying to Apple’s Store.
Encouraging copyright infringement
There may be a possibility that your app allows users to stream or download copyright-protected materials. In such situations, you should get legal advice concerning this specific issue.
Restricted content policy. Review your app and store listing page for any restricted or explicit content, such as fake news, adult content, foul language, violence, or drugs. You can check out all rules on the Google Restricted Content Policy page.
Any app that contains or features user-generated content (UGC) must take additional precautions, such as reporting systems, correct categorization, and IARC ratings. DMCA. While you’re obliged by app stores to maintain “moral ground” inside your app, there is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (known as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act) that exempts from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries.
Meaning you’re not liable for copyrighted or inappropriate content spreading across your media resource if you’re registered as a designated agent, take action to remove the infringing content, and ban offenders.
There is always a possibility that your app won’t pass the review for the first time. Usually, those problems can be easily fixed. For such cases, we’re providing after-delivery maintenance in order to help you during the registration process and make adjustments according to the user’s and stores’ feedback.
User data protection
Several federal laws protect users from information disclosure you should be familiar with:
- Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988.
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.
Kids Personal Data
If your app uses kids’ personal data you should carefully review all requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This is the primary document that guides the decisions of app store moderators. Additionally, you should check with IARC rules.
GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation became applicable on May 25th in the EU. According to GDPR, parental consent is required for the processing of the personal data of kids of a certain age. The age limits differ from country to country and are between 13 and 16 years old.
International Age Rating Coalition. IARC is aimed to streamline the acquisition of content ratings from authorities of different countries, such as ESRB governing North America and PEGI gov Europe, Australia, and Brazil. Therefore, by referring and conforming to IARC rules you will, by extension, comply with the requirements of the most significant kids protection authorities in the world.
Health Apps Requirements
If your app is collecting a patient’s health data it may require complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA and HL7). The general rule is: if your app provides and exchanges users’ health data to doctors/hospitals/organizations and any third parties, it must comply with HIPAA.
Here are several scenarios when your app must NOT comply with HIPAA:
- The user downloads the app and fills in with health data for personal use. You do not create, receive, maintain, or transmit protected health information.
- Users download personal health data from hospital/doctor resources and upload it to your app in order to manage/add to other health materials WITHOUT the involvement of the health provider. You do not share this information, and you develop and use the app WITHOUT the involvement of a health provider or any other interested party.
Legal Tips for Video Apps
Video streaming or selling apps may fall under the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 in case of disclosure of user rental information or if it’s shared with third-party companies. The VPPA protection does not apply to users of free Android apps (downloaded without providing ID information). Moreover, in 2013 Netflix lobbied the change to VPPA that permits sharing rental information on social networking sites after obtaining customer permission.
According to the statistics update, the number of privacy-related lawsuits against app developers increased in 2017 because of the extension of the app’s functions and data collection. For example, Niantic (Pokemon Go developer) was sued by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations as the game violated German privacy laws. Pokemon Go was sharing user data like player location, recent web history, messages, and search terms.
In order to avoid problems with the law going forward, developers have to integrate privacy protection during the app development process and always pay attention to data collection and sharing in apps.
Use of open-source software
Most open-source software is under GNU GPL license (copyleft license). If your product includes source code licensed under GPL or LGPL (Lesser GPL), then your code may become subject to the GNU terms: if you distribute your product, you then have to distribute the underlying source code.
However, several non-copyleft open-source licenses allow you to release software under proprietary licenses.
Summing up all possible pitfalls, here are the most important app legal issues, you need to consider when developing a mobile application:
- Include a Disclaimer to limit your risks in case your app is not working properly or being misused.
This list of required legislative issues may look long and tedious. But you should not worry about it when working with our team because 90% of those precautions and requirements are covered by our side.
All you need is to relax, entrust us with the development of your mobile application and consider it developed.
Where to find a suitable team of developers?
Building custom software is a challenging process as it requires considering many development standards, industry peculiarities, app legal issues, etc. So the main point is to choose an experienced development company that provides a transparent project development cycle and documentation.
The variety of software development teams is surely large, and we would like to mention the core attributes each reliable software development company should offer:
- proved experience in your industry;
- suitable skills of developers (tech stack);
- regular communication;
- keeping you informed about the development flow;
- clear and easy-to-understand estimation;
- development within your budget;
- research in your industry before the start of the development process;
- maintenance services.
Talking about Altamira, the company has a formidable experience of 10 years in developing custom software solutions for clients from different industries, digitally transforming our clients` companies, and improving their general efficacy. Our main philosophy is full transparency of all processes during the entirety of the development cycle. If you feel the need for a consultation with our team to build an app for your business from scratch or check if your existing software corresponds to legal requirements – just contact us and we will discuss every issue you are curious about.
To sum it up
When developing a custom application, considering all obvious legal requirements as pertains to your business industry eliminates a certain amount of unnecessary and unwanted future legal risks and protects your property rights, this copyrights umbrella, if devised correctly, will encompass everything that this app contains that is important to you, the IP, DNA or makeup of this solution.
The number of standards and requirements is vast, however, you don’t have to handle all of them on your own. We invite you to a free consultation with our Business Analyst and promise that you won’t be sorry that you chose us.