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Does Your Website Really Need Terms of Use?

Incorporating terms of use on your website can provide key protections for your organization. Discover the benefits of terms of use with this guide.

Incorporating a terms of use agreement on your website can provide key protections for your organization. Discover the benefits of terms of use with this guide.

There is some confusion over whether websites must post terms of use. While websites are legally required to post a privacy policy, they are not legally required to post a terms of use agreement page. However, it is strongly recommended that websites in all sectors post terms and conditions.

A well-written terms of use agreement should have several main elements. It should cover potential legal disputes, how the website protects users' privacy, and explain how it follows applicable law. The terms should be comprehensive enough to ensure that both the website and the users are covered in all plausible situations.

Website owners can see several benefits from having a terms of use page. They can reduce potential legal fees, increase website visitor confidence, and ensure users follow their rules. A well-written terms of use page can be the difference between a website succeeding and going out of business.

Elements of terms of use

Your website is your intellectual property, and it's up to you to protect it. There are three important sections that any terms of use agreement needs to have. These include a liability section, a privacy policy, and a section about the governing laws and regulations. Also, many websites have a passage within the liability section requiring users to go to binding arbitration rather than court if they have a legal dispute with the website.


A well-written website terms of use agreement has to cover liability. This part of the terms should lay out what the website is liable for and what it is not liable for. Of course, you want to reduce the website's exposure to liability as much as possible. However, there are certain situations in which the website may be exposed to liability concerns. Having a lawyer help you draft your entire terms of use document is a good idea. However, at a minimum, you should have a lawyer write the liability section of your terms of use.

A layman is not likely to know precisely what types of liability the website can afford and what liability exposure is inevitable. This part of the policy also has to make it clear that the user accepts these terms of liability when they accept the terms of use agreement as a whole.

This document will be legally binding, meaning it will reduce the website's exposure to liability as long as it is written per all applicable laws. This is perhaps the most crucial element of the entire document, as it can save your site thousands in potential legal costs and settlements.

Insurance companies that offer liability insurance will also require your website to include this section in the terms of use. You may also want to include a provision that requires users to go to arbitration rather than court if they have a legal dispute with the site.

Privacy policy

This is the only section of the terms of use agreement that every website is required to have. It is essential to explain how you will safeguard your users' data. If you are going to be sharing your users' data with other companies, you need to make this clear in the privacy policy. This is because you will need your users' informed consent to do so.

If you want to avoid legal fees, you do not necessarily need to get a lawyer to help you with this part, as the laws regarding website privacy policies are relatively straightforward. There are even many templates available online that you can use to craft a valid and law-abiding privacy policy.

However, if you have already engaged an attorney, it is not a bad idea to have them look over your privacy policy.

Governing laws and regulations

You must let your users know what laws and regulations your website will operate under. You must research all the laws and regulations that your website will have to follow.

This section of your terms of use agreement lets users know that you are running a legitimate operation and following the law to the letter. This is yet another section that should be either written by an attorney or reviewed by an attorney. This is especially true if your website operates in a heavily regulated area, such as insurance or finance. The laws governing companies in these sectors are very complex and should be explained by a lawyer.

Reasons to have terms of use on your website

There are many reasons a website should have a terms of use agreement. For example, a terms of use page would show the website is a legitimate operation and increase user confidence. However, the most important reasons a business should have a terms and conditions page are to limit the business's liability, prevent users from abusing the service, protect the site's intellectual property, and ensure that the users comply with the site's terms.

Limit your liability

As previously mentioned, limiting legal liability is one of the most important reasons to have a website terms and conditions agreement. A lawsuit could result in tens of thousands of dollars of legal bills, even if you win. If you lose (perhaps due to not having limited liability exposure in your terms of use), you might have to pay a large settlement.

You can get liability insurance, but the premiums will go up drastically after a single lawsuit. An effective terms of use document is the best way to limit your company's liability.

Prevent abuse

You can prevent users from abusing other users with your terms of use agreement. Your terms can allow you to ban users if they use slurs or hateful terms toward other users. All users must agree to these terms so you have a justification for banning them.

Protect intellectual property rights

Most website companies have little physical property, especially when they are just starting. Your site's most valuable assets are most likely its intellectual properties, and the website itself is intellectual property. You have intellectual property rights over your website and its content and can protect your intellectual property in your terms of use. For example, you can ban third party websites from distributing your copyrighted web content without your site's express written permission.

You can notify users of the consequences of intellectual property infringement, the violation of your rights, in your legally binding agreement, offering you legal protection and recourse.

Ensure compliance

Your terms can lay out the potential consequences for users who break the rules. For example, you could state that users who misuse your services can be banned immediately.

You may even want to include a provision allowing you to sue users in certain extreme services (such as stealing your intellectual property and reselling it). It is crucial that the potential consequences of misusing your site be clearly explained, as this will deter most potential problem users.

How to draft terms of use agreement for your website

It's always best to work with a legal professional to ensure your terms of use agreement follows the law. You can also write your own and have it reviewed by a lawyer to ensure you're protected. Your particular terms of use agreement will depend on your website.

Website owners can review terms of use agreements on similar websites to help them understand what should be included in theirs. Of course, you shouldn't copy these agreements from other websites, but you can let them guide you. Here's how you can draft your terms of use agreement

Identify the purpose and scope of the terms

What do you want a website visitor to know about your website and its intellectual property? Ultimately, it's your responsibility to determine if your terms of use agreement will protect a trade secret or intellectual property like content and images.

Determine the key provisions to include

You must tell website users what they can use the website for and how. You can include anything from a privacy policy to intellectual property or permitted use clause.

Your acceptable use policy should list ways users cannot use the website. For instance, if you own a social media website, your terms of use might include a clause about harassment. Additionally, all websites should have a privacy policy and detail your rights and ownership, which tells users that you own all intellectual property rights to your content except for user-generated content and that it can't be used by third-party sites without permission.

If individuals make accounts on your website, you'll need to include provisions about user accounts that tell the user they must provide accurate and true information and that they're solely responsible for that information.

Your terms of use agreement may also include disclaimers and access termination procedure information. In most cases, website terms of use agreements include information detailing that they can terminate someone's access at any time without notice.

Structure the terms of use for readability and comprehension

Your terms of use agreement may use complicated legal terms, but you can make it easy for the average user to digest by structuring it for readability and comprehension. Each provision or clause should have its own paragraph to help users understand how they can and can't use your website and its content.

Review and update the terms regularly

You should always add a disclaimer that the information on your terms of use agreement may be updated regularly. Reviewing and updating the terms will ensure you're providing users with the most accurate information on how they can use your website.

How to make your terms of use accessible and user-friendly

Making your terms of use agreement accessible and user-friendly will ensure your website visitors actually read it. Terms of use agreements tend to be filled with legal vocabulary users aren't familiar with. You want your agreement to be something everyone who uses your website can understand. Here are a few tips to make it more accessible:

Use clear and concise language

While you can ask a lawyer to write your terms of use agreement, you should reread it to ensure the language is clear and conscientious. Don't be afraid to edit it for your target audience.

Provide translations or summaries in multiple languages

Providing translations and summaries makes your terms of use agreement more accessible because people are more likely to understand legal jargon when it's written in their native languages.

Additionally, you can add summaries throughout the page that help the average user understand what the terms of use agreement is trying to tell them.

Display the terms prominently on the website

Many websites place their terms of use agreement in their website footer, main menus, and on forms to ensure it's accessible regardless of where you are on the website. Most website visitors expect it to be on the website footer because that's where other websites place theirs, so it's usually best to follow suit.

Offer explanations or examples for complex terms or concepts

Since the terms of use agreement is a legally binding contract, it can be challenging for people with different backgrounds to understand. You can rewrite your terms of use agreement based on what you know about your target audience.

Another way to make your terms of use agreement understandable is to provide examples. Even if your page is filled with legal jargon, examples can help individuals understand how you expect them to use your website.

Using terms of use to your advantage

Businesses in various sectors, especially online businesses, can use a well-written terms and conditions statement to their advantage. For example, a company offering an email marketing course could put a clause in their terms stating that users consent to receive a regular newsletter. This newsletter could contain email marketing design ideas and business email name ideas. Of course, this newsletter would be an email marketing campaign intended to get users to sign up for new courses. If you include a clause in your terms that authorizes you to send such emails, you could create an ongoing source of income.

It's essential to write your website terms of use in clear language. This will help your users fully understand your website terms and conditions. As many website terms of use are written in confusing legalese, users will appreciate it if your website terms and conditions are easy to comprehend. Not only will your users value the clarity of your website's terms, but the increased comprehension of your website's terms will lead to fewer violations.

Even if you have gone to great lengths to create clear website terms, some users will still have questions. You should provide a contact us email at the end of your terms so that your team can answer any questions your users may have.

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