Creating an app requires just the right balance of technical know-how and creative vision. It’s a unique set of skills that some would-be designers possess, and others simply don’t. But simply creating an app is just the first step in the process. Successfully launching the app calls for a completely different set of skills, including the ability to maneuver a complex regulatory landscape.
Indeed, monetizing an app will require you to think about things like taxes, legal structure (e.g., forming an LLC in California to handle your app’s legal side), and more. A good starting point is simply to learn more about the types of legal requirements that app developers face.
Laws That Affect Mobile App Businesses
Here’s a rundown of some of the laws and regulations most salient to mobile app companies.
A lot of the laws and regulations governing apps are based on online privacy concerns. Simply put, today’s consumers are increasingly concerned about if, when, and how their personal information is collected and used. Many countries and municipalities have created laws to reflect this mounting concern.
California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
This is another law that concerns the use of personally identifiable information, and it’s enforceable for any business that sells goods or services in California. Again, the requirement is to provide your consumers with clarity, specifically by offering a cookies policy to denote how your app collects data, how it stores that data, and if/when it provides that data to third parties.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
If your app collects personal information from children in the US, defined here as under the age of 13, then you need to comply with COPPA, as well. Basically, this law simply requires your app to seek parental consent before any interactions with children that might result in them furnishing personal information.
The EU Cookie Law
Eraser Button Law
Do you have an app that allows users under the age of 18 to register an account in order to post information? If so, compliance with this California law may be in order, mandating that you provide an option for these minors to remove/erase their posts at any time.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Finally, the ADA applies to any mobile app companies that have 15 employees or more, requiring them to make their apps accessible even to those who have disabilities. Specifically, app companies will want to be mindful of users who may have auditory or visual impairments.
Other Legal Issues for Mobile App Developers to Consider
Naturally, creating an app entails the development of original content, source code, an app name, and more. These elements may all be considered intellectual property (IP), and are thus eligible for legal protection through copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
As the laws listed above all demonstrate, compliance can vary quite a bit from state to state and from country to country; for instance, GDPR compliance is probably a good idea for all app businesses, but it’s only a requirement for those in the EU and a few other countries. When launching any new app, or venturing into a new marketplace, checking local laws and statutes is critical.
When launching any kind of new business, including an app business, it’s imperative to select the right legal structure. Many app companies choose the LLC (limited liability company) format because it offers personal liability protections. Specifically, any lawsuit brought against the company is prevented from seizing any of your personal assets, like a family bank account, house, or car. Some app companies may wish to be established as Corporations, though this is mostly for enterprise-level developers.
App Store Regulations
You’ll probably want to distribute your app via popular platforms like the Google and Apple app stores. Each app store has its own unique set of terms and conditions, and it’s important to review them thoroughly before finalizing any agreement for your app.
Understanding the Legal Implications of Your Mobile App Business
Creating an app can be an incredible outlet for your technical and creative skill. Turning it into a business, however, requires an additional type of savvy: Good legal sense, and an awareness of key regulatory issues. Make sure you know what’s required of you as you seek to maintain full compliance for your mobile app company.