Can you copy Terms of Service?

If you have a website, you should have a Terms of Service on that website to help protect your business from various liabilities and costs. Terms of Service, also referred to as Terms and Conditions or Terms of Use, is a statement that details the rules of using your website. Terms of Service can help you:

  • Answer commonly asked customer questions and thus move them along to making a purchase;
  • Lessen your liability by spelling out what warranty, if any, you offer on purchases made on your website or on the website itself;
  • Protect your intellectual property;
  • Save costs by specifying where disputes will be resolved;
  • Lessen the amount of damages that you may be responsible for; and
  • Maintain control over your website and its users.

As you can see, Terms of Service can be extremely beneficial for your business so you should definitely have one. But can you copy Terms of Service from someone else’s website and still be receive all of the benefits that you would receive from a properly written Terms of Service? The short answer is “no.” In this article, we will discuss all of the reasons why it is not a good idea to copy Terms of Service.

Different business practices

First, the text of the copied Terms of Service may not be a good fit for your business because you may have completely different practices from the business that you copied the Terms of Service from. For example, the copied Terms of Service may offer refunds to customers any time after purchase without the customer having to have a reason for requesting the refund. If you do not normally offer refunds or offer them within a specific timeframe only (e.g. within 7 days after their purchase), you will have an issue when a customer asks for a refund and will most likely have to honor the refund because of what is stated in your copied Terms of Service.

Another great example of different business practices is offering a warranty. The company you copied the Terms of Service from may warrant the products that they sell for years, and, if you copy their Terms of Service, now yo offer a warranty too, even if you normally would not do so. Offering warranties, refunds, and cancellations because you copied a Terms of Service that did not match your business practices is not only confusing to your customers, but can also cause disputes and cost you both. money and valuable time.

Consumer protection laws

Another aspect that you should consider when asking “can you copy Terms of Service” are consumer protection laws. Certain countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have very stringent rules on what Terms of Service can and cannot say when it comes to purchases made by consumers. For example, United Kingdom’s consumer protection laws may require you to allow consumers to cancel their purchases and prohibit you from charging a cancellation fee. Failure to have the proper terms that comply with these laws can cause the buyer to complain to the authorities. These complaints can lead to costly investigations and can make your Terms of Service unenforceable. If you are copying someone else’s Terms of Service, they may be missing clauses that are compliant with those laws fi the laws do not apply to them or if they are not aware of those laws. Thus, it is imperative that you have a Terms of Service that is not copied, but rather is based on the laws that apply to your business.

Poorly written or missing disclosures

If you are writing up a grocery list, poor spelling and grammar can be excused. However, when it comes to your Terms of Service, failure to follow grammatical rules can be costly. Poor spelling and grammar in a copied Terms of Service can make your business look unprofessional and can be confusing and off-putting to the future customers who are visiting your website to determine whether they want to do business with you.

In addition, there have been many cases over the seeming minutiae of how a Terms of Service is written. For example, did you know that a warranties paragraph or a paragraph discussing the automated renewals of subscriptions need to be in all caps? If those terms are not in all caps, they are not considered conspicuous to consumers and thus may not be enforceable in all jurisdictions.

Finally, when you copy a Terms of Service, you are trusting that those Terms of Service include all of the protections that a business needs. It is an all too common occurrence for Terms of Service to fail to include intellectual property protections such as a DMCA notice, limitations of liability and damages, venue for resolving disputes, and prohibited uses of a website. Thus, it is best not to copy Terms of Service from another website, but rather have the Terms of Service created by a reputable source.

If you copy Terms of Service from another website without their permission, you may be committing copyright infringement. With the advent of services that scan the Internet for copied text, it is now easier than ever to get caught for copying the Terms of Service from another website. If you do not want to deal with an expensive copyright infringement suit, the best practice is to stay away from stealing the Terms of Service of others.

Time

The last consideration to make when asking whether you can copy Terms of Service is the time that it will take you to edit this document. Even if the copied Terms of Service complies with the laws that apply to you, fits your business practices, and is written well, you will still need to perform edits. You will need to change the business name, URL of the website, and contact information wherever it is listed in the Terms of Service. In some cases, this can mean hours of work, which is time that is would be better spent growing your business.

As you can see, there are many reasons not to copy the Terms of Service from other websites. If you are looking for Terms of Service that is customized for your business and that includes all of the protections that you need, check out Termageddon’s Terms of Service generator.