Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Terms of Service"... Uh, Sure, I Read Them...

American Public Media's Future Tense program ran an interesting piece the other day on this topic and a tool from the Electronic Frontier Foundation called TOSBack:

New service tracks changes to sites' policies
June 5, 2009 | Link

Very clever. But my question is this: Do these terms of service really need to be this complex?

For an example of a more palatable TOS, visit Instructables' terrific "human readable terms of service."

Why can't more terms of service be like this?!

UPDATE (June 11, 2009): Since this post, I've been giving more thought to notion of Terms of Service...

They are obviously written for the benefit of the Web site owner (or software developer). I understand that. They have their intellectual property to protect, and possibly guard against liability. And I am sure lawyers salivate over the language used -- 100% pure legalese. All in the voice of the site or developer.

But what's missing in most of these?

They are completely one-sided with little or nothing from user/customer's perspective. No wonder no one reads them. Ever.

A parting idea. Here's an example I used a number of years ago with several books I authored:

COPYRIGHT STATEMENT: You have permission to use this book in digital or printed format for instructional purposes only. Any commercial use is strictly prohibited without written consent from the author.

PLAIN LANGUAGE VERSION: Use it, enjoy it, even share it. (Just not for money)

I'd love to see more of that simplicity.

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