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Terms of service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Terms of Use" redirects here. For Wikipedia's Terms of Use, see our Terms of Use.

Terms of service (also known as terms of use and terms and conditions, commonly abbreviated as ToS or TOS[1] and TOU) are rules which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service. Terms of service can also be merely a disclaimer, especially regarding the use of websites.


    1 Usage
    2 Content
    3 Public awareness
    4 Criticism and lawsuits
        4.1 AOL
        4.2 Sony
        4.3 Instagram
        4.4 Zappos
    5 See also
    6 References
    7 External links


The terms-of-service agreement is mainly used for legal purposes by websites and internet service providers that store a user's personal data, such as e-commerce and Social networking services. A legitimate terms-of-service agreement is legally binding, and may be subject to change.[2]

A terms-of-service agreement typically contains sections pertaining to one or more of the following topics:

    Disambiguation/definition of key words and phrases
    User rights and responsibilities
        Proper or expected usage; potential misuse
        Accountability for online actions, behavior, and conduct
        Privacy policy outlining the use of personal data
        Payment details such as membership or subscription fees, etc.
        Opt-out policy describing procedure for account termination, if available
    Disclaimer/Limitation of Liability clarifying the site's legal liability for damages incurred by users
    User notification upon modification of terms, if offered

Public awareness

Terms of service are subject to change and vary from service to service, so several initiatives exist to increase public awareness by clarifying such differences in Terms, including:

    Copyright licensing on user content
    Transparency on government or law enforcement requests for content removal
    Notification of government or third-party requests for personal data
    Transparency of security practices
    Saved or temporary first and third-party cookies
    Data tracking policy and opt-out availability
    Pseudonym allowance
    Readability of Terms
    Notification and feedback prior to changes in Terms
    Availability of previous Terms
    Notification prior to information transfer in event of merger or acquisition
    Indemnification or compensation for claims against account or content
    Cancellation or termination of account by user and or service

Criticism and lawsuits

In 1994, the Washington Times reported that America Online (AOL) was selling detailed personal information about its subscribers to direct marketers, without notifying or asking its subscribers; this article led to the revision of AOL's terms of service three years later.

On July 1, 1997, AOL posted revised terms of service to take effect July 31, 1997, without formally notifying its users of the changes made, most notably a new policy which would grant third-party business partners, including a marketing firm, access to its members' telephone numbers. Several days before the changes were to take effect, an AOL member informed the media of the changes and the following news coverage incited a large influx of internet traffic on the AOL page which enabled users to opt-out of having their names and numbers on marketing lists.[1]

In 2011 George Hotz and others were sued by Sony Corporation. Sony claimed that by violating the terms of service of the PlayStation Network, Hotz and others were committing breach of contract.[3]
See also: Instagram#Criticism and lawsuits

On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its terms of use that caused a widespread outcry from its user base. The controversial clause stated: "you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you".

There was no apparent option to opt out of the changed terms of use.[4] The move garnered severe criticism from privacy advocates as well as consumers. After one day, Instagram apologized saying that it would remove the controversial language from its terms of use.[5] Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, responded to the controversy, stating,

    Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.[6]


Some terms of service are worded to allow unilateral amendment, where one party can change the agreement at any time without the other party's consent. A 2012 court case In re, Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation held that's terms of use, with one such clause, was unenforceable.[7]
See also

    Acceptable use policy
    Standard form contract
    Internet privacy
    Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013 film)
    Terms of Service; Didn't Read


    Kornblum, Janet (1997-07-29). "AOL dumps new member policy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
    "Terms of service Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia". 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
    Nilay Patel (January 12, 2011). "Sony follows up, officially sues Geohot and fail0verflow over PS3 jailbreak". Retrieved 2011-03-06.
    Pepitone, Julianne (December 18, 2012). "Instagram can now sell your photos for ads". CNNMoney. CNN. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
    McCullagh, Declan; Donna Tam (18 December 2012). "Instagram apologizes to users: We won't sell your photos". Cnet. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
    Systrom, Kevin (December 18, 2012). "Thank you, and we’re listening". Instagram. Instagram. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
    Goldman, Eric. "How Zappos' User Agreement Failed In Court and Left Zappos Legally Naked". Retrieved 1 October 2013.

External links

    Terms of Service; Didn’t Read User rights initiative to rate and label website terms & privacy policies
    Electronic Frontier Foundation Donor-funded nonprofit organization for digital rights litigation
    Clickwrapped Ratings of the terms of service and related agreements of major consumer internet companies


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