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Developing Terms of Service

The do's and dont's for webmasters

     
1:58 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member nick_w is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Hi all,

I have to write some Terms of Service for websites that accept public input (articles/comments etc..) and was hoping to get some advice here on various issues:

  • Are there any templates out there for this?
  • Are there standard legal considerations that would apply to most sites?
  • Hints, tips and general comments on this would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Nick

2:05 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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IANAL but the less the better in my opinion. Especially if you are not going to have your boilerplate professionally drafted by a solicitor.

Look at Slashdot - Kur05hin; just throw away one liners basically...

2:06 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>IANAL

What? ;-)

Nick

2:09 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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"I Am Not A Lawyer"

Thought this was standard practice on Usenet and BBS when someone that hasn't got a clue attempts to give legal advice :)

4:04 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Stating the obvious:

I bet Brett has some insite on this, Nick. You can see how the user agreement has grown/changed here at webmasterworld.

4:11 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Absolutely. And I think it's still evolving..

It's actually a pretty interesting read and some of it is clearly what I'm looking for. An adaptation of some of the points there is clearly the way forward.

In another thread, elsewhere, a senior figure here at WebmasterWorld mentioned a 7 point TOS that required the user to manually click a checkbox on each point in order to sign up.

I really like that idea and certainly want to do likewise with boiling the key points down to less than 10 but I wonder at the drop off rate on such a form...

Sure, if they don't want to agree they'd best not contribute, but getting people to contribute can be tough and I'd not like to add barriers...

Nick

4:24 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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I like the idea of a multi-checkbox form - with really SIMPLE language for the key ideas. I.e.,

( ) I will not harass or insult other members.

is better than

( ) The undersigned certifies that he will not, via electronic transmisson or any other means, create or disseminate messages which, regardless of the intent of said messages and their author, may be perceived...

Too many people either fail to even check the TOS, or, if there is a checkbox at the end of 3 pages of small type, just blindly check it. This may be OK from a legal protection standpoint, but really doesn't communicate with the subscriber. IMO, if you want to affect behavior (not just cover your *ss), simplicity is the key.