You’ve spent weeks perfecting the landing page, writing your bio, and other content.
But what about that legal fine print you see linked to the bottom of every website?
You doubt anyone will ever read it but you know it’s necessary.
So do you really need to create a Terms and Conditions page for your website?
I made this guide to help entrepreneurs and website owners just like you protect your website so you can profitably and successfully run your website or blog.
Simply put, the Terms and Conditions page sets the rules for using your website.
Terms and Conditions may not be required by law, but it’s still a smart thing to include. These pages can limit your liability should a customer take you to court, as well as protect your rights to the content contained in your website.
Considering a court will look at your website terms to determine the contractual terms between you and the customer, you’ll want to take this page seriously enough for it to hold up in court.
In this guide, you will learn what a Terms and Conditions Agreement is, what a terms and condition agreement does, who needs a terms and condition, and 5 reasons why you need a terms and condition.
Again, My name is Sam and I’m a business lawyer in Los Angeles who represents entrepreneurs, creative artists, and business owners with their new and existing businesses.
With that, let’s get started!
What is a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
Simply put: a Terms and Conditions agreement is the rules that one must agree to in order to use websites, mobile applications, and other online platforms.
Consider your Terms and Conditions agreement a legally-binding contract between you and your users (those can be visitors to your website or registered accounts users) and include all the disclosures you need to keep your website or mobile app away from abuses or misuse (including spam or other fraudulent activities.)
These agreements include guidelines for acceptable behavior, rules against users abusing your website or mobile app and many more useful sections.
In other words, Terms and Conditions tells the user that you’re not responsible for anything bad that happens when using the site.
However, you want to make sure you have an agreement in place between you and the visitors of your website to make sure you’re completely protected from any legal issues.
What Does a Terms & Conditions Do?
A terms and conditions agreement typically contains sections related to the following topics:
- User rights and responsibilities
- Proper or expected usage of website and potential misuse
- Accountability for online actions, behavior, and conduct
- Payment details such as membership or subscription fees
- Opt-out policy describing procedure for account termination
- Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability clarifying the site's legal liability for damages incurred by users
- and User notification upon modification of terms
Who Needs a Terms & Conditions?
So who really needs a terms and condition for the website?
This really includes anyone who owns or operates a website or a blog. So if you run a website or a blog and want to protect yourself from any legal issues, you should have have a Terms and Conditions set in pace.
5 Reasons Why You NEED a Terms & Conditions
Because of the importance of a Terms and Condition, here are 5 reasons why you should have a Terms and Conditions for your website if you own a website or if you’re a blogger:
Reason #1: Terms and Conditions Prevents Abuse
A Terms and Conditions acts as a legally binding contract between you and your users.
This is the agreement that sets the rules and guidelines that users must agree to and follow in order to use and access your website or mobile app.
In this agreement, you can include the necessary sections to inform users of the guidelines of using your website or mobile app, what happens if users are abusing your website or mobile app, and so on.
Some examples of actions of abusive users can include: spamming other users, posting defamatory content, stealing content, along with many other abuses.
Also, if your website or mobile app hosts content that is generated by users, you can include a section in your Terms and Conditions to inform users that harmful language won’t be tolerated, as well as spamming other users. All of these can result in having those users who are found abusing your website temporarily banned.
Reason #2: Terms and Conditions Lets You Own Your Content
As the website owner, you are the owner of your logo, the content, the design of the website, and so on.
In the Terms and Conditions, you can inform users that you are the owner of such content and that the content you own is protected by copyright laws.
Reason #3: Terms and Conditions allows you to Terminate Accounts
You can also include the termination clause. This clause informs users that abusive accounts will be terminated and banned from using your website.
The Termination clause is aimed at websites that have a registration section (for example, when a user has to register before using or accessing certain sections of the website), as you can disable or ban the abusive users based on the activity of their accounts.
Reason #4: Terms and Condition Sets the Governing Law
Usually, the Governing Law clause of a Terms and Conditions agreement refers to the jurisdiction or area that applies to the terms presented in the agreement.
For instance, if your website is operated by a registered business in the state of California, then the governing law of your Terms and Conditions would be presented something like this:
These terms and conditions are governed by the laws of the United States of America and the laws of the State of California.
And most importantly...
Reason #5: Terms and Conditions Limits Your Liability
Terms and Conditions agreements commonly include a Warranty Disclaimer that tries to limit the website owner’s liability in cases where errors are found in the content presented on the website.
You’ll want to have some kind of disclaimer aimed at limiting your liability in cases where there are errors in your web content. This will be some kind of clause that says you can’t be held responsible for any errors in content or that the information provided is accurate, complete, or suitable for any purpose.
Also, if you allow visitors to post content to your website, you’ll want to add language that limits your liability from their offensive postings. Add a disclaimer that you don’t endorse and aren’t responsible for the statements made by third parties.
So again, this kind of clause notifies users that the owner can’t be held responsible for any errors in the content presented, or for the information provided being accurate, complete, or suitable for any purpose.
How to Create Your Terms & Condition
When it comes to creating your Terms and Conditions, there are 3 common ways to go:
1. You Can Copy It from Another Website (or Should You?)
Since practically every website has a Terms and Conditions page and no one seems to ever read it, why not just lift the wording from someone who has the same form of business you do who looks like they know what they’re doing?
As tempting as this may be, this is NOT a good idea.
For starters, it’s copyright infringement to take content that’s not in the public domain. More importantly, if you copied your Terms from another site, you may not be able to rely on it to protect your business in court.
While you can’t copy Terms and Conditions from anyone, it is smart to take a look at some examples from similar businesses in your line of work. This will give you a sense of what you need to include in your own.
2. Use a Terms and Conditions Generator
Considering how many sites there are that will generate a Terms and Conditions for you, there’s no real reason to ever copy from another site anyways.
You can simply Google “Terms and Conditions generator” and you’ll see countless options to choose from. These sites will put together a basic Terms and Conditions for you, and in many cases this will be a decent suitable option, particularly if you are not actually conducting any business from your website (for example, your website just advertises your services).
3. Have a Lawyer Draft It For You
In some cases, you’ll want to have a lawyer create or at least review your Terms of Conditions to make sure they meet the specific needs of your business, as well as what you intend your website visitors to do with the site.
In my opinion, small businesses should think about getting an attorney if they are involved in e-commerce (for example, if you sell a product or service on your website); or if your website gathers website user’s personal data; or if your website is talking to an audience under 13. For the last one, special rules apply for marketing to minors and you’ll want to make sure you are compliant with the law and your website reflects this.
So in summary, while a Terms and Condition Agreement is not legally necessary unless you’re collecting user data, it is wise to have a Terms and Conditions statement for your website.
However, if you do decide to use a terms and condition generator or if you do use my sample, I would highly recommend contacting a business lawyer to review it before you post it on your website.
As website users become increasingly aware of the importance of protecting their personal information online, the need for websites to include comprehensive privacy policies is more important than ever.
Personal information can be anything that can be used to identify an individual, and can include the name, address, date of birth, marital status, contact information financial records, credit information, and medical history.
It also include a website’s policy on how it collects, stores, and releases personal information it collects. It informs the client what specific information is collected, and whether it is kept confidential, shared with other websites, or sold to other firms or companies.
These are 3 reasons...
1. For most countries, including United States, it's required by law!
2. One of the biggest concerns among visitors to web sites is how their personal information is going to be used.
3. Not just for legal reasons, but because it acts as another effective way of being transparent and building trust with your customers and readers.
For example, does the site owner collect IP addresses to establish a database of user habits to sell to other organizations? Does the site owner request addresses with the express purpose of selling the list, or are the email address provided for a legitimate purpose, such as sending existing customers relevant information about product issues and upgrades?
Readers and customers won’t find a policy helpful if they can’t decipher the meaning behind the legal jargon.
1. Copy It from Another Website
As I already discussed under the Terms and Condition lecture, As tempting as this may be, it’s not a good idea.
All of the following clauses should be included to protect your user’s privacy:
- An introduction outlining your business, organization or blog and what your website does.
- Information you collect, including details you request to signup, subscribe or purchase. You should also include information that will be logged by your servers, such as IP addresses and host names.
- Your collection method, whether it’s automated collection or via a form your customers or readers fill out.
- How you store their information. You customers and readers will want to know you make every effort to store their personal information in a safe and secure database, so detail whether their details are stored on your servers or in the cloud, or overseas.
Mollaei Law is a law firm specializing in business law serving businesses and entrepreneurs. We provide legal expertise in all stages of business development by drafting and reviewing contracts and agreements, assisting transactions and negotiating, forming LLC's and Corporations, registering trademarks and copyrights, business planning, and answering any legal questions you may have about your business.
Sam Mollaei, Esq., business lawyer, can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone (818) 925-0002.