Does my company website need a terms of use agreement?

by | Feb 2, 2017 | Law and Business

We’ve discussed why your company website or app needs a privacy policy (hint: because if you’re collecting personal data, even just email addresses for your newsletter, you’re legally required to have one!).
But what about one of those “terms of use “ or “terms and conditions” agreements that you see on websites and apps all the time? Do you need one?
Well, the short answer is yes. Even if you aren’t collecting any type of personal data on your website or app, you should have a terms of use agreement.

What is a terms of use agreement?

A terms of use agreement defines the set of rules that users must follow in order to use your website. It is a legally binding contract that lays the ground rules so you can enforce them if the need arises.

Why should my website or app have a terms of use agreement?

1. It limits your liability.

If your website is collecting personal data (see this post for a definition of personal data) or using cookies, you could get sued for negligence or invasion of privacy. Having a clearly written and legally enforceable clause in your terms of use agreement can help reduce your liability.

2. It keeps users from abusing your website or app.

Your terms of use agreement is where you can lay out the rules for users posting to forums or interacting with the site or app, or with other users. You can set a rule that there is to be no adult language or content posted in comments or in forums, for instance, and if a user abuses that rule, they will receive one warning before being terminated and banned from the website.

3. It protects your content.

A strong terms of use agreement usually includes an intellectual property clause, which states that you are the sole copyright holder over the website or app’s content, design, functionality, etc. If you do encounter an issue with someone stealing your content, this clause will make your case even stronger.

4. It covers you if your content includes errors.

Your terms of use agreement should include a clause that limits your liability if there are errors in your content. It should also make it clear that the information you provide might not be accurate, complete, or suitable for any purpose. This is, again, just to cover your bases just in case you encounter a problem in the future.

5. It sets the governing law.

Your terms of use agreement should include the governing law under which it operates (country and state), just like any legally binding contract.

Does every website or app need a terms of use agreement?

Even though a terms of use agreement isn’t required by U.S. law, it reduces your liability and gives you the power to keep users in check. If you’re ever sued or facing a copyright dispute, having an established terms of use agreement will only help you limit your liability. Your terms of use agreement will also help you effectively curb user abuse of your website, making it a safe, enjoyable experience for your loyal users and customers.

Can I just copy-paste my own terms of use agreement from one of those online template generators?

You certainly can, but a terms of use agreement that’s cut and pasted won’t protect your company if you do face a legal issue in the future. So, it’s really not an effective or smart thing to do. And you’re obviously very smart if you’re reading this article!
EmergeCounsel is one of the leading providers of legally airtight, fully customized terms of use agreements and privacy policies. We’re located in the Denver Metro region, but we work with companies across the U.S.
Contact us today for a free estimate on your website’s terms of use agreement.


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