Terms of service. Also known as TOS. Who needs them? Who reads them? The answer is: everybody and nobody. It’s a pity, too, that the answer to the second question there is “nobody,” because the TOS is one document every user should read. It is, after all, a legal document to which they are signing their name.
- So what do you do if you need to create a TOS? Since it is, after all, the official rules clients must follow when using your products and services, it is the stuff of lawsuits. You don’t want to be too vague, too specific, too confusing or too brief.
- To help you navigate that pile of contradictions, here are a few tips for drawing up a TOS without coming to any legal harm.
- Don’t just copy and paste
Terms of service may seem pretty much the same across the board, but don’t let the legalese’ samey-ness fool you. There are important distinctions hidden in each monolith of text. That said, it is generally okay to use a terms of service template, also known as a terms and conditions template. These tools, often available for on the web, let you put together your TOS part by. This means that your legalese is written for you, and allows you to cover all the bases.
Be thorough when defining protected content
A customer might understand that copying and pasting an article from your magazine goes against copyright, but he or she might not realize the logo is off limits. Be sure to define how every type of product and service may or may not be used.
Don’t forget about user rights.
If you run a website, for example, to which users submit content, you’ll need to include a clause explaining what you intend to do with that content. If, as is often the case, the user is relinquishing all rights to the content he or she submits, you need to put tis in writing.
Don’t have too much fun with the language
Writing for today’s market, you need to strike that delicate balance between overly stiff, inscrutable language and language that is too casual for its own good. You want your customers to understand your terms of service. Moreover, you want them to get through the whole document! However, it’s important not to shirk the necessary legalese. After all, your TOS is a binding contract.
The key here is to use formal language but keep it short and sweet. Some companies even offer a plain-speech version – a sort of a launch pad into the document itself. These rewrites translate the terms of service into human English, but the signature part lies at the end of the actual document. Check out Google’s approach to this problem, for example, or Pinterest’s