Acceptable Use Policies or Terms of Service agreements, as they’re more commonly known, are the online version of “fine print.” Are you sure your website’s TOS is up to date? Or could you benefit from the consult of a Terms of Service lawyer?
Be honest now, when’s the last time you read a website’s terms of service agreement? Or maybe the better question is: Have you ever read one? After all, it’s easier to skip over all that lawyer-talk and just check the box that says, “I Agree,” right?
Once you click the box, though, you’re saying you agree with the contents of that agreement.
Take, for example, the plaintiff in Feldman v. Google Inc (2008). He alleged that at least 20% of the clicks for the keywords he purchased using Google’s AdWords program were fraudulent. Google came back and pointed to their Terms of Service, stating that in order for the service to be activated, the plaintiff had to accept these terms by clicking in a box alongside the words, “Yes, I agree to the above terms and conditions.” The United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the defendant and dismissed the case.
Ultimately, the court decided that the plaintiff didn’t have to read the Terms of Service, but only be given reasonable notice that such terms existed along with the opportunity to review them.
What Does A Terms of Service Lawyer Usually Includes In An Agreement?
Not only are Terms of Service contracts a critical thing for users to understand, but they are especially critical for service providers and website owners. Terms of Service set boundaries and guidelines for acceptable use by the end user. They outline what’s expected of the behavior of the end user and define what penalties the user may incur for violating the Terms of Service. Terms of service shouldn’t be limited in scope, but cover a broad range of issues that include copyright and online privacy policies, interaction with other users, account security and online safety, payment terms, provisions regarding international visitors, developer provisions, advertising protocols, methods by which disputes can be remedied and what can cause services to be terminated.
If you’re launching a website – especially if the site has to do with e-commerce — it’s best to consult a terms of service lawyer.
Copying Terms of Service Agreements Can Be Copyright Infringement
Copying the Terms of Service and making a derivative of them can land you in legal hot water.
Even though some people think copying an idea is the highest form of flattery, don’t copy another website’s terms of service. Don’t even copy it so you can “make a tweak here and another little tweak there.” That’s copyright infringement. Besides, your website is unique with its own set of requirements and circumstances. A copied agreement may not cover everything your site needs covered.
An experienced Internet lawyer can help draft one that is specific to your needs.