The University of Missouri System has established guidelines for protecting the legal rights of Mizzou students, faculty and staff as well as members of the public who use MU websites.
These recommendations do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information only. For specific legal questions, please contact the University of Missouri Office of the General Counsel at 573-882-3211.
The University of Missouri's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for information technology applies to websites and social media. Mizzou Web developers should review the policy before embarking on a Web-based project.
Accessibility & ADA Compliance
- According to Chapter 1, Section: 1:025 of the Business Policy and Procedure Manual (adopted in August 2012), official MU websites must be accessible to people with disabilities. It is the responsibility of each MU unit and its Web developers to become familiar with the guidelines for achieving accessibility and to apply these guidelines in designing any official MU site.
- The Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are the standard for Web accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. See the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
- Also applicable is Missouri law RSMo Section 161.935. Regarding information technology: “When developing, procuring, maintaining or using information technology, or when administering contracts or grants that include the procurement, development, or upgrading of information technology, each state department or agency shall ensure, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the department or agency, that the information technology allows employees, program participants and members of the general public access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access by individuals without disabilities.”
- Accessibility priority is given to websites with core institutional information about topics such as admissions, registration, advising, courses and student services. Units with websites containing this information must ensure the accessibility of their pages.
- Each official website must contain an accessible link or information about whom users can contact if they have difficulty accessing content within the site.
- In a few instances, it may not be feasible to make a website fully accessible. In such instances, units must provide accessible information on the site about alternative and equivalent means of obtaining the otherwise inaccessible materials, such as email or phone information.
- The MU Information Technology Committee and the Division of IT conduct periodic accessibility audits of MU sites and may notify site administrators about compliance requirements. Site administrators will be expected to become compliant within 60 days thereafter or incur sanctions, which may include removal or relocation of the site.
- The Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center provides information about Web accessibility standards, guidelines and services.
Copyright protection is granted by law to authors of published and unpublished materials. MU websites must comply with copyright law, and site administrators should maintain copyright ownership of the university’s materials and resources.
- Web editors should become familiar with copyright and fair-use requirements and obtain releases for copyrighted materials. MU Web pages should be copyrighted in a standard format: “© [year] — Curators of the University of Missouri. DMCA and other copyright information. All rights reserved.”
- The words “copyright information” should link to the MU Web page missouri.edu/copyright/. "DMCA" should link to missouri.edu/dmca/.
Missouri courts recognize tort actions relating to invasion of privacy, including:
- Publication of private embarrassing facts.
- Appropriation of name or likeness.
- Publicly placing one in a false light.
The NCAA imposes restrictions on discussing prospective Mizzou students on websites and in social media. NCAA rules prohibit comments about possible recruits on any university-affiliated social media pages.
In addition, federal statutes govern the release or publication of personal information. Web editors should be aware of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
MU Web editors posting any information about students or “educational records” must understand and comply with FERPA. FERPA protects the privacy of the “educational records” of current and former students.
This law requires that most information about individual MU students not be disclosed without express written consent from the student. This includes:
- Student number
- Race / ethnicity / nationality
- Social Security number
Disclosure of “directory information” generally is permissible, although students have the option to prevent this disclosure as well.
Before posting student information on a website, MU Web editors must check with the MU Registrar’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org to be certain that the student has not exercised his or her right to restrict disclosure of this information. Additional FERPA information:
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
MU Web editors posting any individual health-related information must understand and comply with provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Before posting any such information, Web editors must check with the campus or Health Sciences Institutional Review Board (IRB).
- HIPAA regulates the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health information. The law applies to health care plans, health care providers and research at MU.
- MU websites may not divulge an individual’s past, present or future mental or physical health, health care or payment for health care information without permission from that individual. This prohibition includes all personal health information created or gathered through research activities.
Other Privacy Considerations
- Do not post information about others that could be embarrassing or otherwise the subject of potential litigation.
- Be cautious about requesting personal information on Web forms.
- Obtain release forms from subjects of photographs before posting photographs online. Download a photo release form.
Plagiarism is the act of passing someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own.
- Do not plagiarize or publish plagiarized content.
- Develop mechanisms to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of site content, consistently working with content contributors to properly cite the work of others and give credit for original work.
- When unsure about a potential risk, consult the UM General Counsel’s Office for assistance.
Reuse of Materials
Members of the campus community are welcome to reuse institutional public relations material developed by departments within the University Affairs division. These departments include Web Communications, News Bureau, Marketing Communications, Publications and Alumni Communication and Constituent Relations. Please check with the originating department by phone or e-mail to request permission and to obtain proper credit instructions. For more information, call 573-884-8075.
Some materials, such as donor profiles, should be handled with care. In many instances, a donor may give permission for a story and/or photo to be used in print or on a specific website but may not be comfortable with unlimited use of the information. Donors must be contacted by their development officers regarding permission for additional use. The main development phone number is 573-882-7703.
Defamation & Libel
Defamation and libel focus on statements that intentionally and fallaciously attack a person’s character. Special care must be taken when publishing defamatory or libelous content.
- MU Web editors must be cautious to avoid publishing materials that might be considered defamatory or libelous.
- When unsure about the potential risk of content, consult the UM General Counsel’s Office.
Harassment is behavior directed at a specific individual with the intent to disturb or cause distress. Numerous forms of harassment can result in litigation and criminal prosecution.
- MU Web editors must avoid posting any content that an individual might perceive as specifically intended to harass him or her.
When unsure about the potential risk of content, consult the UM General Counsel’s Office.