Clauses in a Terms and Conditions Agreement
In principle, a Terms and Conditions agreement lays out the rules that define how customers and clients can use your services, web application, or mobile application. Those rules, when added to the agreement, become clauses.
Here are some examples of clauses that are useful to add to a Terms and Conditions agreement:
Use of Website Clause
A use of website clause details what users can and cannot do on your website once they’ve agreed to use your services. In some cases, the use of a website clause is split into individual points that explain what users cannot do. These points attempt to cover all of the negative use case scenarios.
Here’s a look at YouTube’s Terms of Service again:
See how each sub-clause starts with You agree not to…? Instead of telling visitors how they can use YouTube, it details everything they can’t do instead.
The use of website clause is an important part of the Terms and Conditions agreement because it defines the rules. The termination clause is important because it defines the consequences.
In the termination clause, you should list the activities or scenarios that would lead to account termination or website access termination. For example, you could inform customers that their accounts could be temporarily or permanently terminated if they fail to abide by the terms, if they’re involved in illegal schemes, or for any reason at your sole discretion.
In its Terms of Service agreement, Quora states that users can close (disable) their accounts anytime they want to through their account’s settings. It also states that the company may terminate accounts if users violate Quora policy or for any other reason.
User Submissions Clause
This next clause is specific to websites or apps that allow or encourage user-generated content, such as Instagram and Reddit.
Generally, user submission clauses begin with a listing of the different types of user-generated content that can be submitted. They also usually state that the company doesn’t claim ownership to it. They also may inform users of what the company can do with user submissions.
So, for instance, if you wanted to modify and use photos submitted to your website by your users for your own advertising purposes, you could do that if you include your right to do so in your Terms and Conditions agreement.
Copyright Infringement Clause
If you encourage user-generated content on your website, it’s highly recommended that you also include a copyright infringement clause. The purpose of the copyright infringement clause is to provide a way for your site’s contributors and readers to report copyright infringement to you so you can take appropriate action.
This clause can contain information about how your company handles the copyright infringement notices, what information needs to be included in the notice, and an email and mailing address for where to send notices of infringement.
The copyright infringement clause is important in the United States, in particular, because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under this act, you can be held liable for copyright infringement that occurs on your website, even if you weren’t responsible for it.
Disclaimer of Liability Clause
Whether you’re offering services, hosting a web application, or selling digital/physical goods through your website, it’s a good idea to include a clause that disclaims warranties and limits your liabilities. The disclaimer of liabilities clause can keep your business from being held liable in case your website experiences downtime, becomes inaccessible or for a number of other potential reasons.
If you’ve ever read through a Terms and Conditions agreement, you might have noticed that the disclaimer of liabilities section is usually formatted in bold or in all caps font, making it stand out prominently.
The Guardian’s disclaimer of liability section covers the different situations for which they will not be held liable, including statements made in the content they publish, any loss that their readers experience, and the content published on sites they link to.
In addition to this, they also say that they don’t give any kind of a warranty that their website is virus-free. And, near the end, they mention that they do not guarantee uninterrupted access to the website and will not be held liable for any delay.
Intellectual Property Rights Clause
Almost every online business should include an intellectual property rights clause in their Terms and Conditions agreement. The purpose of this clause is to prevent your visitors from unlawfully using or downloading your intellectual property.
This clause informs website visitors that the branding elements, trademarks, content, and media items created by the company are the company’s property and are legally protected under copyright laws.
Governing Law Clause
As mentioned earlier, including a governing law clause (also called the applicable law) in your Terms and Conditions is important because it dictates which laws will apply in case any kind of legal issues surface.
Amazon’s Conditions of Use page states that the Federal Arbitration Act, applicable federal law, and the laws of the state of Washington will govern the agreement.
Examples of Terms and Conditions
If you’re running an online business through a website (whether it’s an online store, a site promoting services, or a web application), it’s important that you display your Terms and Conditions where it’s easily accessible to your visitors.
Traditionally, the Terms and Conditions page is linked from the website footer. You can also link to it from your site’s navigation menu. This is common in mobile apps that don’t have static footers like websites do.
Here’s how some popular websites display their Terms and Conditions agreements, as well as a list of clauses included in each agreement: