Legal Considerations & Policy


(Duncan Field) #1

Hello,

How much consideration do you put into terms of service for your communities?

I’m looking into the legal liability of hosting discussion, especially on sensitive topics and would appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this.


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Ours are adapted from the Discourse TOS which in turn are an adaptation of the WordPress TOS which are under a CC license.

Let’s call in @Steve_Combs for comment.


(Steve Combs) #3

You definitely should have Terms of Service posted on the site to address legal concerns. It’s not really an option. You will want to address the as-is nature of the service and potential security risks of posting information. Having user “click to accept” the terms may also be required.

Here is some sample language (replace TechCo with your site/company name):

Disclaimer of Warranties
TechCo will take commercially reasonable measures for operation of the site, including to protect the integrity of private communication on the Site. However even protected sites can be subject to illegal hacking, technological glitches, user misconduct, and administrative errors. TechCo assumes no liability for any of these actions or occurrences or their results. THE SITE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”. TECHCO AND ITS SUPPLIERS AND LICENSORS HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. NEITHER TECHCO NOR ITS SUPPLIERS AND LICENSORS, MAKES ANY WARRANTY THAT THE SITE WILL BE ERROR FREE OR THAT ACCESS THERETO WILL BE CONTINUOUS OR UNINTERRUPTED. YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU DOWNLOAD FROM, OR OTHERWISE OBTAIN CONTENT OR SERVICES THROUGH, THE SITE AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
IN NO EVENT WILL TECHCO, OR ITS SUPPLIERS OR LICENSORS, BE LIABLE WITH RESPECT TO ANY SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS AGREEMENT UNDER ANY CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHER LEGAL OR EQUITABLE THEORY FOR: (I) ANY SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES; (II) THE COST OF PROCUREMENT FOR SUBSTITUTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES; (III) FOR INTERRUPTION OF USE OR LOSS OR CORRUPTION OF DATA; OR (IV) FOR ANY AMOUNTS THAT EXCEED THE FEES PAID BY YOU TO TECHCO UNDER THIS AGREEMENT DURING THE TWELVE (12) MONTH PERIOD PRIOR TO THE CAUSE OF ACTION. TECHCO SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR ANY FAILURE OR DELAY DUE TO MATTERS BEYOND THEIR REASONABLE CONTROL. THE FOREGOING SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW.

(The language is in ALL CAPS since some jurisdictions require it or to make it more conspicous.)

If you are hosting information of users, you can protect yourself in the United States from copyright claims by registering with the US Copyright Office at https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/ under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The new registration system only costs US$6, and you can include multiple websites under a single registration. There may be some benefit for those outside the US to register, but it depends on the circumstances.

The DMCA covers content posted by your users but NOT you or your employees. It’s really nice to have if someone send you a take down request for user generated content asking for statutory damages or other unreasonable amounts. If you follow the requirements of the DMCA (register and post your agent info on your website) you can avoid liability in many cases.


Legal terms for community content
(Duncan Field) #4

This is great! I really appreciate what you’ve shared here.

I’m also concerned that some of the groups we’ll be working with will want to restrict the conversation, especially when it comes to faith and religion. I guess the solution is to clearly lay out membership criteria from the outset.


(Steve Combs) #5

Setting “membership criteria” sounds like you might be excluding people. Consider just having Guidelines or a Code of Conduct. For example, Feverbee has the FAQ at
https://experts.feverbee.com/faq. There are other Codes of Coduct. Codes of Conduct tend to focus on openness. I suppose you could also have a religious-based group with limiting criteria for membership or content.


(Sarah Hawk) #6

I’ve worked in several communities where it’s against the posting guidelines to discuss politics or religion. Here is one example.

As Steve says, they don’t set membership criteria – anyone can join, they just can’t discuss those subjects.