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Legal issues to consider when creating a mobile version of your website

So you like your current website, but want to ensure that it shows up well on a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet.

Perhaps you received a call or an email from an outside company suggesting that they can provide you with a “mobile version” of your current website quickly and at a low cost.  Since these companies don’t have access to your current website, they will often create a mobile version of your website using a process called transcoding.

About transcoding

Transcoding, or  “screen scraping”, is a process that sits between the user and the desktop version of your website. A program script reads the desktop version of your website code, applies a different style sheet to it and then renders it as a mobile version. It is similar to adding a slipcover to your current sofa. Your sofa still has its original material, but you’re adding another layer that gives your sofa a new look. This process occurs on a separate server from your main website and uses a separate website address, or url.

Technical and legal issues to consider

There are a number of technical issues to be mindful of such as slowness of the mobile version, risk of broken pages, features that don’t work, and decreased functionality and reliability. In addition to technical issues, there are  legal issues to consider, including:

1. Content licensing. Since your main website is scraped for your mobile site, the content on your mobile site can be considered a separate instance of use. If your main site includes licensed content, whether a health library, animations or video, use of this content on a third party website may be a violation of your terms of use for your license with those publishers. The reasoning behind this is that the publisher of this content cannot ensure the credibility and use of their content outside of their control.

2. Stock photography. Your license to use photos on your main site may not always transfer to a separate instance of use. Be sure to verify license terms for all images on your site.

3. Secure forms. If your main website is collecting patient information through a HIPAA compliant form, you may run the risk of a possible security breach on your mobile site. To ensure compliance with HIPAA/HiTech, use of screen scraping is not advised. Responsive design and development is recommended for those groups who wish to provide a mobile version of their website.

4. SEO. Since your mobile site is a duplicate of your main website, this could mean that your mobile site could be indexed as a separate URL, which could negatively impact your SEO due to duplicated content.

Responsive design

The bottom line is that there are better options out there. Responsive design allows your site to dynamically change its layout based on your users resolution.

Contact us to understand what options make the most sense for you.