A Terms of Service Agreement is a document setting out the rules by which a user must abide in order to utilize a service. These can be lengthy documents, laying out a complex series of rules or can be as simple as a disclaimer on a website, indicating common sense rules that the users must follow. They are used to inform any users what their restrictions and responsibilities they have for using the product or service.
Terms of Service agreements are currently most commonly utilized by websites or other internet services such as the iTunes store or Steam storefront, to indicate how the users can utilize the website or other service, and what rules they must abide by when using it. These agreements are legally binding, although they have come under fire in recent years due to issues with customers failing to read them thoroughly.
How is a Terms of Service Agreement Used?
When drafting a Terms of Service agreement, the writer should ensure that the agreement is simple and clear, easily readable by everyone including laymen or those with no knowledge of complex legal issues. However it must also be entirely comprehensive, as failing to outline a rule will mean that the user will not be technically required to abide by it in order to use the service the agreement is for.
In addition, a Terms of Service agreement should also include information about the users responsibilities, such as what they can and cannot use the service for and what community guidelines are. Often times this will include restrictions on language use in the community and information about what DRMs or other copyright protections the software or services have.
Any and all Terms of Service agreements should include information about what information, if any, is being gathered about them and what this information will be used for. This is most common with Terms of Service agreements for social networking websites and services, as they will gather the most information about the user, but all websites and services that gather any information about their users, even if it’s simply an IP address, should disclose that in their Terms of Service agreement to avoid any legal liability.