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TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY YOUR BLOG NEEDS THEM

By: Jackie Jade

So what the heck are terms and conditions (also known as terms of use or terms of service)?You probably know of terms and conditions (which I’m going to call T&C to make them sound cuter) as the boring language that’s on some hidden page of a blog that no one looks at.

Yeah that’s kinda true. BUT I’m here to tell you that they are actually really important, why you should have a T&C statement on your blog and what it should include. So put on your thinking caps and let’s learn about the wild and wonderful world of blog terms and conditions!! (Ok I’m trying to make this more fun – humor me, k thanks?)

(Also, I’m a US-based attorney so this info is directed towards US bloggers, but it may also apply to international bloggers. Check your country’s laws for more information about blog terms and conditions in your jurisdiction.)

 

First off, what are terms and conditions?

They are basically the “rules” of your blog and where you tell your readers how you behave and how you expect them to behave. This is you basically laying out acceptable behavior – where you say what you will/won’t do and what the user will/won’t do and the consequences of actions. (It’ll make more sense below.) So this policy or statement basically acts like a contract between you and your blog’s users.

Are blog terms and conditions required by law?

So you don’t legally NEED a T&C policy but it’s a good idea. (Side note: if you collect any visitor information on your blog, you do actually NEED to have a privacy policy – I’ll be posting about this soon, so check back!)

But here’s why they are a good idea to have – they basically set up a kind of contractual agreement between you and your blog visitors. You can also limit your liability and protect your content in these policies. Plus if you are ever involved in litigation or legal situation, a court will often look at your blog’s T&C policy when trying to figure out the contractual terms between you and your users.

What info should be in my blog terms and conditions?

I just mentioned that this language might be brought up on court. So, you want to make it as thorough as possible, so it’ll pass the court’s muster should an issue arise. If your T&C’s are a disaster, that ain’t going to look real good at court. (Tip: don’t use the word “ain’t.”)

Now, what you will include in your blog’s policy will depend on the nature of your blog and what youwant to include. But here are some of the basic elements that you should consider including.

Copyright

This puts others on notice that the content on your blog is your intellectual property and that you are claiming protection under copyright laws. (Read more here about copyrighting your blog – 7 Legal Myths About Blogging.) You can write out a thorough paragraph explaining in detail what is your copyrighted property or include a simple statement such as – Copyright © 2016. My Awesome Blog.

Limitation of liability

This sets out that you are saying that you are not liable for any errors or omissions on your blog. If you allow user generated content (such as comments), you should also indicate that you are not liable for what others post on your blog (such as offensive or inappropriate content). In this section you will want to basically disclaim liability to other’s actions in relation to your content.

Additionally, it is a good idea to remind your readers that you aren’t acting in a professional capacity and you aren’t responsible for any of their results. For example, if you talk about this great diet you went on and recommend it to others, this disclaimer of liability indicates that you aren’t a physician or trainer and don’t promise similar results.

Termination

This should basically say that you can block people or terminate their account for any abuses of your policies.

Privacy

As I mentioned above, a privacy policy is required by law. It would be best to have a separate, very detailed privacy policy, but you can also include it in your T&C policy. If you collect any data about visitors to your blog (which most do, through things like Google Analytics, or if you require an email address for comments), you need to have a privacy policy. Additionally, many advertisers, including Google Adsense, require that you have a privacy policy in place.

This section should include what information you collect and what you do (and don’t do) with that information.

Governing law

This section indicates where you are operating your blog from (state and country) and let users know that is the law that will apply.

Links to other websites

This section will note that you aren’t responsible for what’s on the websites of any of the links on your blog and that the user should read that other page’s T&C’s.

(The above isn’t a comprehensive list of everything that you should have in your T&C’s but these are some of the most common elements of a T&C’s statement.)

Do I need separate terms for my products or services?

So if you are selling on your blog or have an Etsy shop or sell services, etc, you might want to have separate T&C’s. Or you can consider creating one very broad T&C statement that will cover both your blog and your shop, to make sure that you are fully covered.

Are all the terms enforceable?

So you want put whatever you want in your T&C’s, but that doesn’t mean all those elements willactually be enforceable in court. Therefore, you should be careful to cover as many situations as possible but you don’t want to be misleading or deceptive on your website.

How do I get terms and conditions for my blog?

There are a few ways to go about this. You don’t need to actually have a lawyer write a customized statement for your blog. However, if you are selling anything or collecting and using people’s personal information, it might be a good idea to consult with an attorney to get something that’s very suited to your situation.

If not, you can write your own terms. You don’t want to copy terms from other blogs or websites (since that language is their copyrighted property), but you can view other pages to get ideas of what to include. There are also online terms generators which you can find by googling. Or there are also services such as LegalZoom, but I’m not actually sure of the cost or thoroughness of those types of sites.

Lastly, you can buy a legal template that you customize to your own use. I actually just started creating legal templates that I am selling over in my Legal Marketplace. The T&C template includes the general terms that should be in the T&C’s for a standard blog and there are instructions on how to customize the template to your personal situation. I also have a privacy policy and disclosure policy template at this time and will continue to add even more resources over there. If you aren’t ready to hire your own attorney and don’t want to use a stock generator, this is a great option! Let me know if you have questions before purchasing.

Soooooo I hope that I demystified Terms and Conditions a little bit for you. Have you written your own statement yet? Anything that scares you about these kinds of statements? Other legal blog things you’d like me to discuss?

Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. The information in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. The author is not liable for any losses or damages related to actions of failure to act related to the content in this article. If you need specific legal advice, consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and jurisdiction.

 

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