Technology December 12, 2014 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,313 Reads share

Mobile Apps And Non Profits: Some Legal Considerations

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Today is the age of the mobile gadget and consequently the mobile app. Most industry segments have adopted the mobile phone as well as the mobile app as a strategic business element. Business and other corresponding sectors have grown rapidly as a result. This includes nonprofits as well. Non profits are also involved in using mobile apps and many of them have also developed and use their own mobile apps for various strategic purposes.

However, it should be understood that mobile apps are just another type of software. Hence, mobile app development entails the same implications and challenges that are involved in traditional apps development. As non-profits can be naturally constrained for resources, they have to make decisions which are constrained by budgets.

When going in for mobile app development, various factors determine the total cost to the business. They include factors such as hardware as well as software costs, technology related decisions and choices, employee costs and employee downtime, and total time taken for problem resolution.

What is clear now is that non profits face some very unique considerations and issues such as intellectual property rights, who owns the software, what levels of privacy are involved, the intensity of data security measures, and others.

  1. When any nonprofit agency begins work on a mobile app, one of the first points that should cross its mind is about intellectual property considerations. While building an app, it may contain copyrightable content, trade secrets, patented subject matter, and other such material. Therefore, the intellectual property considerations of the app much be duly protected.
  2. It may also so happen that the non profits might have involved certain 3rd party app development agencies. This work might even have been done on a cost-free or a volunteer basis. This entails greater responsibility on the shoulders of a non-profit. Therefore, any non-profit needs to involve the sole or all the 3rd parties involved in the development of the mobile app. It is essential that the employee or the developers assign all the intellectual property rights regarding the app to the developer. In the absence of such an assignment, the developer would have written the app, may have a copy right claim, or even a patent pertaining to the app.
  3. Once the nonprofit builds the app, considerations on how to distribute the app arise. This includes informing the target audience that the app is now built and that the app can now be downloaded for use. The fact that whether the app will be available for free or for a cost, should also be considered. Also, various app stores will have different rules and steps towards the rights for distributing an app.
  4. The agreement that app stores might require as part of the distribution may vary from one app store or another. There may be additional compliance policies that may have additional consequences relating to the development and further distribution of the app on various app distribution channels. There are also certain insurance amounts for coverage of liability, and the terms and conditions also vary amongst various platforms and app stores. They can also change or alter the terms and conditions at any time. They are also free to add additional requirements if and whenever they require.
  5. When it comes to mobile app development, privacy as well as data security has become a major issue of concern. Data could also involve personal data and sensitive information such as credit card information. Therefore, privacy generally revolves around issues such as the kind of personal information being collected, the countries involved, the subject of collection, and the freedom to use or the restrictions involved regarding the collected data.
  6. Finally, advertising considerations surrounding the marketing or selling of an app are also important. When a nonprofit sells an app, there are additional laws and regulations that concern advertising and can involve laws such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 in the USA. There may be other state laws and laws of other foreign countries as well.

Overall, there are great opportunities for app development; however, there are significant issues that are involved for non profits to avoid any potential risks for liability or other legal responsibilities.

Images: ”develop smartphone appsShutterstock.com

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Shivani Ajmerani

Shivani Ajmerani

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