5 Things You Need in Your Site's Terms of Use

The Terms of Use page sets the parameters for how people that visit your website can interact with it and how disputes should be resolved. A terms of use policy consists of conditions of use, disclaimers, and other language that gives legal protections to you. These terms are intended to be a contract that established the association between the company and each user.

Like your privacy policy, Terms of Use can vary widely, it usually depends on on what information is on your website and what website functions are offered.

Well-written Terms of Use are really smart for businesses with an online presence to have. In this article we will discuss the five things you should include in your website’s Terms of Use.

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Here are some of the key things that should be in your website's terms of use:

Your Website’s copyright/DMCA policy

If your website lets users post content, you’ll probably need a section addressing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This policy is intended to provide you with the legal protections under the DMCA safe harbors that protect website owners from copyright infringement liability resulting from things their website users post. The DMCA requires you to appoint an agent and register that agent with the U.S. Copyright office. The agent is the designated person at your company that will receive any and all complaints regarding copyright infringement;

Governing Law & Venue

Your Terms of Use should also include where your website is operating in terms of the governing law of your geographic location. For example, “These Terms of Use are governed by the laws of California.” You can also set the “venue” for any disputes, which would likely be in the state in which you reside.

An Arbitration Clause

Arbitration is a way to settle disputes outside of a courtroom. This is an important dispute resolution method for business owners because it can be a way to solve disputes much more quickly and inexpensively than going to court. Also, unlike a court proceeding, these disputes are also private, which can save your business from needing to worry about potential negative publicity or having trade secret information inadvertently uploaded for the world to see.

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Limitation of Your Liability 

This is a statement that limit your organization’s liability that is based on what your website contains and allows. This section can be a valuable way to explain to your users the circumstances where you won’t be liable. It can be very important in circumstances when your website permits users to post content that you don’t have control over or when your site links to other websites you don’t own. You should also consider having an indemnification provision, which can set the parameters of when a violator of your Terms of Use must pay for your costs or expenses stemming from the violation.

Permissible Uses of Your Site & Content 

This section should set forth all the different reasons users may utilize your website, whether it be for viewing content, downloading for personal use, linking, etc. Your Terms of Use should also inform your users about forbidden activities. Again, while the particulars of your business might require that have you add additional restrictions, it’s common for Terms of Use to prohibit users from:

• leasing, selling, copying, sublicensing, transferring, or assigning any information, intellectual property, goods, or services offered on your website;

• using the site for illegal purposes;

• obtaining unauthorized access to the company’s data or user data;

• altering, modifying, adapting, reverse engineering, decompiling, disassembling, or hacking the company’s intellectual property;

• altering or modifying another website to make users think that it is associated you’re your company’s website;

• using or exporting the company’s information, products, or services in violation of U.S. export laws and regulations;

• violating anyone else’s legal rights (such as privacy rights) or any laws (such as copyright laws) in the user’s geographical location;

• using the website or the company’s services to transmit content that could be determined to be illegal, threatening, harassing, racist, abusive, libelous, pornographic, vulgar, defamatory, obscene, indecent, or otherwise inappropriate, including any messages instituting or encouraging criminal conduct;

• breaching, or attempting to breach, the website’s security systems;

• enabling third parties to violate the Terms of Use;

• failing to ensure that all end users of the site are at least 18 years of age or older (if required by law).

Get a Lawyer to Help

Again, it’s always a safe bet to consult with an attorney about what is recommended in your state and country. He or she will speak with you and determine the best language and content for your website's Terms of Use.

 

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