Tips for Using a Terms of Service Template

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Terms of service are designed to protect website owners from potential abuses including malware and bots. However, they are also intended to protect users. When using a terms of service template, it is important to ensure all elements necessary are included to avoid future issues.

What You Will Find Here

  • Explanation of Terms of Service
  • Terms of Service Versus Privacy Policy
  • What Clauses are Needed and Why
  • Helpful Resources

Explanation of Terms of Service

Each of us at one time or another when we visit a new website are confronted with a Terms of Service agreement. As a website owner, you want to ensure you have protected yourself from potential liability in the event a website user has issues with any aspect of your site.

You also want to make it clear to anyone who posts items on your site, purchases items through your site, or clicks through on advertising on your site that there are rules which must be abided by. You must also retain the right to remove someone from your website in the event you feel they are abusing the system. This is typically done through use of terms of service and for most website owners, a terms of service template can be the best option.

There are two types of terms of service and only you can determine which best suits your needs. One requires no action from the user, while the other involves active engagement. These two types are:

  • Browsewrap Agreements — abrowsewrap agreement requires no action from the user. Instead, it depends on the fact that the user, by virtue of being on a particular website understands they are obligated to abide by the terms of service.
  • Clickwrap Agreements — aclickwrap agreement specifically direct a user take action to accept the terms of service. Anyone who is asking a user to register, offers items for sale, or accepts a payment method online should consider using this form of terms of service because it forms a contract between the user and the website owner.

Terms of Service Versus Privacy Policy

It is important to notconfuse terms of service with a privacy policy. Privacy policies inform website users of how you will be using their private information. Nearly all websites have both terms of service (TOS) but also have a privacy policy as well, even if they do not collect personally identifiable information from their users. Privacy policies are intended to protect users, while terms of service are designed to protect website owners primarily.

What Clauses You Need and Why

There are some specific clauses which must be contained in your terms of service to ensure your rights as a website owner or manager are protected. These include:

  • Company and Property —clearly name your company and specify which website(s) the agreement covers.
  • Policy Documents — you should include links in your terms of service template to your privacy policy, return policy (if items are being offered for sale), security policies and other applicable site policies.
  • Age Compliance — every website owner must comply with Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) which covers children under the age of 13. However, your policy should include a minimum age limit (usually age of majority) for use of the website.
  • Community Responsibilities — what responsibilities the community has as far as commenting on posts, leaving product review, etc. These should be as specific as possible.
  • Unacceptable or Illegal Conduct — unacceptable use of the site including infringing on copyright or trademark laws. Polices regarding using images, trademarks, or text from the website.
  • Inappropriate Conduct — addressing issues such as spam, use of bots, pornographic material, links to inappropriate content, etc.
  • Website Fees — any fees which may be charged, how those fees are to be paid, and what the user is getting in return for those fees.
  • Intellectual Property — clause indicating what materials are owned by the site owner/manager and what happens to the rights of material or content the user uploads or shares.
  • Third-Party Links — if your website has links to third party websites, make sure your users know they have their own terms of use and privacy policies.
  • Dispute Resolution — how will disputes be handled should one arise between you and a user.
  • Change of Terms — explain clearly how changes in terms will occur, what notification system will be used and make sure users know that continued use of the site means they have accepted such changes.
  • Termination of Privilege — when you will ban someone from using your website (anytime you want with or without cause is typical).

You may also have to clarify in your terms of service when these terms reflect U.S. law versus international laws and whether your service allows for international use.

Helpful Resources

Facilitating Agreement of Your Terms of Service

Once you have customized your terms of service template, you want to make sure you have a clear acceptance and acknowledgement by the user. You canuse Nitro Sign to get any of your contracts or important documents signed quickly and easily!

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