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  1. #1
    Beer drinker Srirangan's Avatar
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    Clauses that Website Terms and Conditions Must Contain?

    For a generic content website with a community forum, what are the essential clauses that the terms and conditions statement must contain? I can think of the following:

    -- generic disclaimer for content (example: we are not responsible for any losses you incur when following a tutorial published on our site)

    -- privacy policy clarifications

    -- privacy policy disclaimer (example: we are not responsible for privacy policies of websites linked through my site)

    -- terms clearly stated against verbal abuse/trolling on community forums

    -- security related clauses (example: you aren't allowed to "experiment" with resources on the server)

    I'm sure most of these can be phrased better. And are their prominent clauses that I am missing out on?

    - Sri
    Online Startups Insight for new entrepreneurs

  2. #2
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    You're likely to write something that's not legally enforceable if you make up the terms yourself or try to copy-and-paste from other documents. You need to talk to a lawyer if you want the document to offer any protection.

  3. #3
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    I disagree with Dan... I'm not so sure that many TOU web documents are legally enforceable and the SP guidelines and most other forum guidelines aren't written by a lawyer, so I think you can probably write guidelines for his/her site use without consulting a lawyer. (although IANAL... if you're in doubt do consult one!)

    If I were you, I'd look at similar sites to yours and see what type of policies they have in place. I wouldn't copy them but you'll get a general idea of what you need and can better search for the resources (legal or otherwise) to generate the content.

    Here's a url to a Privacy Policy Generator
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  4. #4
    SitePoint Evangelist asprookie's Avatar
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    - Usage of this website is subject to our terms and conditions.

    In other words, anyone using, surfing, accessing your website as a legitimate user or bot/spider is subject to your terms and conditions. This must be stated clearly on all pages. Make sure the terms and conditions AND Privacy policy pages can be accessed from all pages.

  5. #5
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asprookie View Post
    - Usage of this website is subject to our terms and conditions.

    In other words, anyone using, surfing, accessing your website as a legitimate user or bot/spider is subject to your terms and conditions. This must be stated clearly on all pages. Make sure the terms and conditions AND Privacy policy pages can be accessed from all pages.

    If that "must" be stated on every page, why are there so many websites without it? Giving his visitors a heads up as to what is acceptable and what is not, and what his other policies are, is a courtesy... not a requirement.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  6. #6
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I disagree with Dan... I'm not so sure that many TOU web documents are legally enforceable and the SP guidelines and most other forum guidelines aren't written by a lawyer, so I think you can probably write guidelines for his/her site use without consulting a lawyer. (although IANAL... if you're in doubt do consult one!)

    If I were you, I'd look at similar sites to yours and see what type of policies they have in place. I wouldn't copy them but you'll get a general idea of what you need and can better search for the resources (legal or otherwise) to generate the content.

    Here's a url to a Privacy Policy Generator
    There are lots of lawyer-written TOU statements on websites all over the place. Most corporate or government sites have a legal statement that's lawyer written, and there is lots of case law building up in the US & UK to support those statements.

    While there are loads of home-made TOU statements on the Internet, and many of them may not be enforceable, it's really hard to say that the generic copy that most forums use would or would not be enforceable.

    There is nothing saying that terms that aren't written by an attorney are NOT enforceable, and there is nothing guaranteeing that they would be.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  7. #7
    SitePoint Evangelist asprookie's Avatar
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    The terms and conditions page is the place to explain copyright in regards to content, images, multimedia, etc. Copyright is enforcable in all countries. Webmaster should indicate clearly his rights but also his/her responsibilities in the event a user post content that he/she doesn't own.

    I Have noticed on some websites that they have clause that says that if a user post a comment, an article or whatever, that it belongs to the website and yet, a paragraph or two later, they say they are not responsible for innapropriate content, go figure...

    I'll soon post a clause regarding site scrapers, by the way, everything I posted on my myspace page was replicated on a MySpace clone, a lot of my content is stolen by bots and site scrapers, not much by individual real life users.

    Pardon me, now I'll leave you so I can fine tune my anti-bot, anti site-scraper script.

  8. #8
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    No, that is what a copyright statement is for. Terms of use are just that - what people can and cannot do with and on your site. It's basically a written version of saying "this is MY HOUSE and these are my rules - if you don't like them, there's the door and don't let it hit you on the way out".

  9. #9
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Schulz View Post
    No, that is what a copyright statement is for. Terms of use are just that - what people can and cannot do with and on your site. It's basically a written version of saying "this is MY HOUSE and these are my rules - if you don't like them, there's the door and don't let it hit you on the way out".
    Exactly. You can have a lawyer right them if you wish, but it certainly isn't necessary, IMO, unless you think a situation may arise which will land you in court. These days in the US, brick and mortars are full of terms of use.

    "No shoes, no shirt, no service."
    "No pets"
    "No skateboards or roller blades"

    Here at SP, our guidelines are suggested by the staff and approved by the admin. Although I don't know for sure, I don't believe there is legal counsel involved. Still if you spam, flame, or self-promote, you are as banned as if you bring your Greyhound into a grocery store.

    Every one that owns a website... and especially those that own interactive sites like forums, has the right to tell their members and guests what they can and cannot do on their piece of cyber real estate. After all, members are only guests bumped up one step with a few extra privileges.

    I think it's important to define what those privileges are and important to be sure that members know they are privileges and not rights of use.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  10. #10
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    The problem with writing your own rules is that without legal training you are almost bound to make a hash of it. It's a minefield and ignorance of the law is no defence. If it's done by a lawyer you are covered by their professional indemnity should anything go wrong. I have to pick up on what Shyflower said as a classical example. If in the UK you displayed a sign saying "No dogs allowed" in a supermarket you would almost certainly be prosecuted for discriminating against people with impaired vision who need a guide dog (Greyhounds can be guide dogs). We all know that isn't what Shyflower meant but if a lawyer had written the sign it would say "except for guide dogs" as well; sometimes it isn't what you say but what you leave out that can be the problem.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Member daquino's Avatar
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    Just like a will, a legal document doesn't need to drafted by someone who has a law degree. It just needs to be legally "clear." It should clearly state what is being exchanged for what. (i.e. domain for $x amount.)

    Where lawyers come is that they cover many other legal angles of ownership and past and future liabilities and ownership of future income. Another feature is that a well written contract spells out the ownership and transfer of intellectual property.

    It's always better to use legal documents created for web related transactions (websites & domains).
    Website Sales Contracts --- Do you legally OWN that website?
    Legal Security for buying & selling websites & domains

  12. #12
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobyme View Post
    if a lawyer had written the sign it would say "except for guide dogs" as well; sometimes it isn't what you say but what you leave out that can be the problem.
    Sometimes they do say that here. Although they are more apt to be called 'assistance dogs' since both the hearing impaired and the chair bound people also own them. However, your point is well taken.

    Here's my point about lawyers though. On the web, most forum owners and site owners... and most visitors for that matter, have little intention of bringing suit. The court costs in most cases would far outweigh and damages-- especially if the two parties were from different locations which is usually the case.

    Therefore, I believe in most cases, if you can do it yourself or get it done cheaply to your satisfaction, go for it. Still, as I said earlier, if you are in doubt then you definitely should consult a legal professional.

    In short, I still agree with what Dan Schulz said. Your domain, is your domain and you have the right to rule over it. If people break your rules, you have the right to evict them, just as if a restaurant patron breaks your dishes, you have the right to throw the bum out.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  13. #13
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    In short, I still agree with what Dan Schulz said. Your domain, is your domain and you have the right to rule over it. If people break your rules, you have the right to evict them, just as if a restaurant patron breaks your dishes, you have the right to throw the bum out.
    That is exactly my sentiment and precisely what I would do in real life, however here in the UK everyday sees the introduction of yet another piece of "let's be fair to the moron" legislation as we fall into line with our EEC partners. I guess I am prone to taking an overcautious approach regarding the law as nowadays it seems "you are damned if you do and damned if you don't" and like to pass the responsibility to the lawyers.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.


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