We’re working on forum customization features, and are looking for feedback on the TOS and especially our plans for User Content (Contributions) Licensing. What follows is a series of 5 posts discussing the details (seperated for easier reading and replying/quoting.)
For the record, IAMAL, no one on the team is a lawyer - there has been no overall review of these documents by a lawyer (except as noted by Wordpress - as explained below…)
##What is typically common in TOS/TOU documents?##
Looking at existing forums, the a surprising amount of trivial variability in appeared in many TOS documents - and most of that appeared to to me to be the result of lawyers having to justify the billable hours to produce a precisely customized document, not for any significant difference. (I’ve asked lawyers about this, and it is common practice to just lift a tangentially related firms TOS and massage it…) The main difference between some documents was the exact composition of a list like this:
YOU HEREBY GRANT THE PROBOARDS PARTIES A PERPETUAL, FULLY PAID-UP, WORLDWIDE, SUBLICENSABLE, IRREVOCABLE, ASSIGNABLE LICENSE TO COPY, DISTRIBUTE, TRANSMIT, PUBLICLY DISPLAY OR PERFORM, EDIT, TRANSLATE, REFORMAT AND OTHERWISE USE USER CONTENT IN CONNECTION WITH THE OPERATION OF THE WEBSITE, SERVICES OR ANY OTHER SIMILAR OR RELATED BUSINESS, IN ANY MEDIUM NOW EXISTING OR LATER DEVISED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION IN ADVERTISING AND PUBLICITY.
(By the way, the ALL CAPS thing is an over-response to the bad-old-days of contract “fine print” scams. Unfortunately, now huge sections of some TOS agreements are all caps, defeating the whole point - since long paragraphs of all-caps are virtually unreadable. We didn’t opt for all caps the Discourse TOS template…)
Creative Commons and Wordpress to the Rescue!
Like with Privacy Policies, the sections of the TOS are pretty standard, even if the language is excessively variant. It looked like a huge challenge to create a universal template for TOS - that was until I encountered http://en.wordpress.com/tos/:
“(Note, we’ve decided to make the below Terms of Service available under a Creative Commons Sharealike license, which means you’re more than welcome to steal it and repurpose it for your own use, just make sure to replace references to us with ones to you, and if you want we’d appreciate a link to WordPress.com somewhere on your site. We spent a lot of money and time on the below, and other people shouldn’t need to do the same.)”
Bravo! At least for TOS, WordPress paid the lawyers time so we didn’t have to. This document is the 90% basis for the Discourse TOS template, and we’re passing the savings onto you!
But, there is one section that often differs in ways that are very significant to most active users: The User Content License