- Limiting Liability: Terms of service are a contract between you and the user of your website. In contracts, parties can agree (with some exceptions) to limit their liability to each other, which is helpful in managing risk associated with online transactions and interactions with customers. If you allow customers to post content online, Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown policies and agent registrations are important to avoid liability for copyright infringement for content that your customers or others post online.
- Choosing the Law: Different places have different laws. It may be worth reviewing your terms of service and privacy policies with an attorney to make sure you are covered in all applicable states. Having choice of law and venue clauses (or clauses that kick any disputes to arbitration) can be great ways to protect against having to litigate in a foreign jurisdiction. You can also include jury trial waivers, and other terms that help you control the forum and method of dispute resolution.
- Protecting Your Content: Terms prohibiting scraping your website for content, making ownership of your content clear, and addressing what is and is not acceptable linkage and use is helpful in ensuring your website and intellectual property is protected from unauthorized use.
- Privacy Compliance: Depending on what kind of data you collect online, and what you do with it, you may have legal obligations to disclose to the consumers what you are collecting, how you use and store what you are collecting, how consumers can contact you to obtain copies of their data or request deletion of their data, and more. Many laws are being enacted to protect consumer privacy on an ongoing basis, and website terms of service and privacy policies are great mechanisms to ensure you are complying with privacy laws in your jurisdiction.
- Setting the Rules of the Road: As the terms are a contract between you and the user, they allow you to set the rules of the road for the use of your website. They can include provisions governing acceptable use, allowing you to terminate a user’s access if there’s violation of the terms, and they can help encourage your customers to use your website in positive way. You can also include terms about the business relationship- such as cancellation or return policies, which can be helpful to have posted and available online.