Website Terms of Use – Boring to Read But Important to Know

by Tom McEwin on 18 March, 2010

Most of the websites that can be used to make money working online will have specific terms and conditions that must be accepted when signing up.   It is important to become familiar with these website terms of use in order to know precisely what is and is not allowed.  Breaching the terms of service risks having an account banned and this would be no fun at all.

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Reading Website Terms of Use – More Fun than Having an Account Banned

Why am I posting about this?  Well, website terms of use are inevitably written in such a way to make them nice and tight legally but really boring to read (almost like it is hoped that people will sign up without properly reading them).  However, because they set out what websites allow their users to do, they are pretty important.  So I figured that if I review the terms and conditions for the websites I want to use then this forces me to read them in the first place and ensures that I understand them and don’t gloss over them. Plus it may be semi-useful for others who (like me) find them a pain in the backside to read given how they are written.

Hopefully I can also find a way to keep things fun, but this will depend on what kind material I have to work with.

Playing it Smart Requires an Understanding of Website Terms of Use

I’m the sort of guy who generally likes to play the rules. But this may not be enough of a motivating factor to make sure that I read  and understand website terms of use.  It is very easy to start reading the terms of service  for a particular site and just zone out.

What is more important to me is the risk that I would be taking on if I do not read website terms of use properly. The pain involved in reading the darn things  is no doubt much less than the pain of having an account banned after:

  1. I have spent a decent amount of effort becoming familiar with how to use a particular website;
  2. I have invested quite a bit of time building up which ever accounts I am using on that site; and
  3. I have developed strategies that may rely on a particular account remaining active in order to work.

Taking the time to read website terms of use is my way of making sure I don’t get banned for a silly mistake.  There are certainly types of behaviour that I would steer away from anyway, but unless I have read and understood the relevant terms of service, I simply won’t know if a site has a firm view about the precise way they like things to be done.

Reading Website Terms of Use will Help to Determine what that site consders thinks of Commercial UseThis is especially important given that I will be looking at using these websites in order to make money working online.  Some sites are ok with affiliate links, whereas others really don’t like commercial use at all.  This doesn’t mean that the more strict sites can’t be used to help generate an online income, just that they need to be used a bit more creatively.

An added bonus of becoming familiar with the terms and conditions for a particular website is that I may be better able to utilise the service that the site offers.  This could conceivably make a huge difference in how well I am able to take advantage of a given site to generate online income.

In my next post I’ll be looking at the ClickBank Terms of Use – to see exactly what is and isn’t allowed.

Catch you then.

© Tom McEwin
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David Moloney March 19, 2010 at 7:11 AM

Very true Tom. Reading those terms and conditions can be quite onerous, but it is important. Fortunately the majority of websites need and want users so they must keep their terms in line with normal practice. When they don’t, there’s usually an outcry. Just think of when Facebook/ Google Buzz changed their privacy conditions recently… it caused big negative publicity – pushing them to rethink the change.

Tom March 19, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Thanks for your comments, David, Lina and Rita

David, I definitely recall both the Facebook and Google outrage and how quickly they changed their stances. If I recall with Facebook, they made the changes by stealth, and hoped no one would notice. I don’t think that this strategy was the smartest thing they could have done.

Lina and Amber you are right on the money. As probably came through in my post, I think the way that website terms of use are written can be a huge barrier to understanding them. Hopefully I can help cut through some of the chaff and help put the important bits into plain English. Both for my benefit and anyone who is interested.

Lina Nguyen March 19, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Very lawyerly of you to write this post Tom! If you’re ever going to get into an argument with a site about (in)appropriate use, it’ll be the T’s & C’s you rely on to build your case. Not boring at all Tom, essential.

Rita Pepper March 19, 2010 at 1:02 PM

Hi Tom,
I don’t understand half of what is written in the terms and conditions,
I enjoyed this post. maybe I should get my lawyer Daughter to look over all terms & Conditions in future.
Rita

Cemil March 19, 2010 at 10:31 PM

Love Rita’s comment. I feel like that while reading my own website T & C’s.

Nobody really gives much attention to the legal mumbo jumbo, but it is something that I have learned very quickly to pay the most attention to. Thanks Tom.

Jo Carey-Bradshaw March 19, 2010 at 11:29 PM

Hi Tom,

I would have to agree, nearly everyone I know likes to play by the rules – and yet if those rules are 30 pages of finely typed-and-crammed-full sort of tomes I wonder who is really being served? Ah well. If you can help me to not go to sleep over the Terms pages, I will be back and back and back.

Thanks for posting this.

Tom March 20, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Hi Cemil and Jo, having the terms of use set out in a long document that is full of mumbo jumbo definitely doesn’t help people to understand them. All it really seems to do is empower the website that sets those terms and conditions in the first place. Hopefully I can help to simplify things a bit – we’ll have to wait see.

Wal Heinrich March 22, 2010 at 5:57 PM

From reading a few sites terms of use, I notice that most of the wording is in line with common sense. The problem is the fewer words that make all the difference and these are often concealed amongst the other stuff. And it doesn’t help that two similar sites might have vastly different rules.

Tom March 23, 2010 at 8:24 PM

Hi Wal, I agree that most of the wording in website terms of use tends to be in line with common sense.

However as you point out, they can differ greatly even between two similar sites, and sometimes a crucial few words which may make a huge difference to how we use these sites can get lost amongst the legal jargon. Unfortunately the only way to really know is to spend the time to read the website terms and conditions closely.

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