The Importance of Well-Drafted Website Agreements
Did you know that –technically, under the law– you have a legal relationship with everyone who visits your website, regardless of whether you know they are visiting or not: regardless whether or not they buy anything if yours is an e-commerce site? It is to your legal advantage to define the terms of that relationship by publishing a website agreement. Valerie Kramer can help you draft a website terms and conditions agreement for your brick and mortar’s web presence or your Internet-only business. Moreover, Valerie can help you implement your new website agreement in a manner that will increase its ability to protect you or your business.
A Terms-of-Service (TOS), Terms-of-Use (TOU), or Terms-and-Conditions website agreement is only as good as it can be enforced. Copying other websites’ agreements and doing a quick edit and re-deploying the agreement as yours is often a disaster waiting to happen. Valerie can help you create affordable Internet agreements including Terms-of-Use, Terms-of-Service, Privacy Policies, and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) policies in a manner most likely to be enforceable.
Website Terms of Service (TOS) Agreements
Website Terms-of-Service (also referred to as Terms-of-Use, or Terms-and-Conditions) can often be prepared for websites for a modest cost depending upon the complexity of the website. For example, a news aggregation website would likely have a relatively simple Terms-of-Use, whereas a dating site would obviously be more complex. There would be more potential liability with a dating site that has nothing to do with you, but could rope you in as the responsible party. We’ve all witnessed stories about the various “Craig’s List Killers” and “Craig’s List Rapist,” yet Craig’s List did not charge for any of the postings involved! Thanks to their bulletproof website agreement – they suffered some public outcry to regulate their “personals” ads, but successively dodged any ugly legal messes that would surely have been attempted if they had holes in their Terms-of-Use Agreement. Wisdom and experience would dictate a greater need to study the increased potential risks facing the operator of the dating website so it would be prudent to draft as broad and as potent a website agreement as possible.
Terms-of-Service website contracts serve both as the agreement that defines the legal relationship between a website and its website visitors and a document that is often used as a non-legal marketing tool to define the website owner’s marketing strategy and help encourage users to speak kindly and praise the site on “Privacy Issues.” Better-drafted Terms-of-Use Agreements should attempt to address both if your website is growing, high-visibility site.
Take this excerpt from the hotly contested copyright section, for example:
By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below. …
DropBox definitely was able to achieve an effective balance between Useful Contract and Good Marketing. “You retain full ownership to your stuff.” Ya gotta grin at that! That is not your typical Internet lawyer’s jargon – but in this instance, where market share is at stake, it is both legal and clever.
Building Your Website Terms-of-Service Agreement
If your website has “users,” rather than just visitors getting information and leaving, it is important that your website has the absolute discretion to terminate a user’s right to access the website if they violate your Terms-of-Service agreement.
Protect You and Your Website from Frivolous Lawsuits
There are many court cases where website users have come to rely on the content, tools, resources, or services offered by a website (no matter if paid for or offered for FREE!). As weird as that may seem, it is only prudent that your Terms-of-Use agreement make perfectly CLEAR that the website makes no warranties as to quality, accuracy, availability, or validity of information.
Common Pitfalls Befalling Website Operators
If your website sells or charges for services rendered or delivered through your website, or has your client’s data stored through your website then a lack of access, for whatever reason, or a reduction of website performance could result in your website’s users incurring some kind of a “loss” or “damages.” Sure, any website could slow down, be attacked and shut down, have a technical difficulty so it’s common sense that “life happens!” Unfortunately, the courts are full of such lawsuits. Foolish as they might seem, if you are served a lawsuit in your jurisdiction, it will cost you to answer it. Better, therefore, that your Terms-of-Use have all of your users agree at the start of their service that the website has only limited liability in terms of the types of damages and the total amount of such damages should it ever get that far.
If a dispute arises between your website and a user, the owner of the website would not want to travel to New York if they reside in the Bay Area, so you will want to include in your Terms-of-Use agreement where the Legal Venue is to be and that venue would also determine what laws apply and what laws do not apply. Defending a dispute in New York should be nipped in the bud immediately.
Let’s Get YOUR Terms-of-Service Agreement on Your Site
The above examples barely touch the surface of what constitutes a well-drafted website agreement. Don’t run your website with only a hope and a prayer, when a cost-effective, custom-drafted Terms-of-Use Agreement will allow you peaceful sleep as your site grows and your user base expands.
Business Attorney Valerie Kramer understands that investing some time in getting your business contracts in order, handling common legal transactions, or negotiating a lease should be cost-effective.
Valerie Kramer is also a Real Estate Attorney and helps Property Owners, Buyers & Sellers, Real Estate Brokers, Commercial Tenants and others involved in everyday real estate transactions and disputes. Valeries’s clients get maximum value for every penny spent, without padded hours for unnecessary “additional services.”
Call me personally – (619) 259-5030
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