I completely understand why many startups have terms of service with terrible content– providing terms of service whose content is fair to the user is incredibly risky and/or expensive (though it isn’t unheard of).
But there is just no excuse for terms of service with terrible organization, especially when you’re trying to sell services to real companies who might (gasp) actually have someone read the damn things. Having a well written document doesn’t cost you anything. If it should be two separate documents, make it two separate documents, and not one (which is what set me off on this rant). If it should be five documents… wait, it should never be five documents.
So please, think of the lawyers. Write your terms of service in a comprehensible, sane structure today.
This has been a public service announcement; we now return you to your regularly scheduled kvetching.
3 thoughts on “a quick vent about the structure of online agreements”
The typical terms of service say: “We can do anything we want. You can’t do anything unless we say you can. Anything you upload is ours. We won’t sell your secret info, unless we feel like it. If it wasn’t yours to give to us, we’ll nuke it and sue you. Have a nice day.”
Per the usual rules about writing a bug report (and preferably a patch) to go with your rant, I think you’ve now taken it upon yourself to write, or at least outline, the terms of service we *ought* to use.
Seriously. Write up a sample terms of service that would protect an online service *and* its users in the simplest terms possible, without sucking. We’ll use it.
Trying to write contracts in such a way that the poor customer is bound hand and foot in clauses written in such legalese jargon that he doesn’t even understand them is, alas, nothing new. That’s why some countries (like mine) have laws saying that “leonine” (i.e. excessively one-sided) clauses in a contract are automatically null and void. Having such laws enforced is another problem, of course — it often requires hiring a lawyer and bringing the supposedly leonine supplier to court, an expensive process whose result is often uncertain.
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