Website terms and conditions, often called terms of service (TOS), help safeguard various types of online businesses and publications. These specifically tailored contracts outline a website’s legal “landscape” — the rules, provisions, exceptions, disclaimers, and so on — needed to educate users and protect the business from improper use.
Wondering if you need a TOS page for your website? If you’re a creative person with a blog and you offer a product or service through a website, e-commerce store, or mobile app, TOS or a similar document could help protect you and your venture in the event of a disagreement with or misuse by visitors. Depending on your trade, a less formal alternative may be more suitable than a complete terms of service agreement. The following tips will prepare you for a deeper discussion with your legal representative about how a TOS page (or some of its alternatives) can inform, caution, and direct your audience and give you peace of mind.
Do I need TOS?
A terms of service page may seem unnecessary for creative websites. If you’re a photographer, videographer, or writer, you may be satisfied with a basic copyright notice that protects your ownership of the content, art, or video featured on your site so that no one can try to pass off your work as their own (visit copyright.gov for more information on copyrighting). A forum owner, on the other hand, might only need a code of conduct for users to abide by. This ensures that everyone who comments on the owner’s website or blog knows what’s expected of them as well as what’s not appropriate to post. You can view WordPress.com’s own code of conduct (user guidelines) for an example of what one might look like.
If you have an online store or e-commerce site, you might not be required by law to have a TOS, but this binding contract can also help you avoid legal issues. Rather than fretting over product liability or the possible abuse of your website, consider building a terms and conditions page to help you operate smoothly and reduce the chance for future disputes.
The importance of TOS
When it comes to your business’s online presence, a terms of service page — or a less formal set of guidelines — is a win-win situation. The more legal bases that you cover on your website, the safer your business is from being woefully wronged.
From a user’s point of view, a thoughtful and well-planned TOS page builds trust and confidence. It shows that you’re a serious business owner who handles responsibilities thoughtfully, and takes accountability for your content and online presence.
How do I build my TOS?
In the business world, requirements and obligations can vary greatly. By hiring a good business lawyer to help you compile your website terms and conditions, you don’t have to worry about overlooking any important details or improperly wording any part of the contract. To be binding, after all, a contract must be properly drafted and completed.
If you do choose the DIY route, search online for a reliable terms and conditions generator or template where you input your website’s URL and other pertinent information.
What if visitors don’t read the TOS?
A website’s terms and conditions may seem easy to overlook, as they typically appear linked at the bottom of every page. But by being there, TOS will cover you in the event of a disagreement, complication, or dispute — another important discussion to have with your legal professional.
If you want your TOS page to be more present on your website, you can place it on a static page with an “I Agree” button or plugin. Having readers scroll to the bottom of this page and agree to your terms before proceeding to the rest of your website will ensure that they are taking responsibility for their actions moving forward.
How you set up your business’s website is up to you. But it’s generally a good idea to seek legal advice and use every tool available (such as a terms of service page) to govern your site and regulate how others use it, ensuring that there is no misconduct.