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Can I legally use the 'terms and conditions' from another businesses website on my own site?

Austin, TX |

I have a business that is similar to a few others so I want to use much of the exact wording in their terms and conditions as well as their email sign up forms. Would this be considered plagiarism punishable by fines or?

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Seriously, if you are going to do the effort to create your own website, why not simply take the ideas you like out and write them yourself in your own words. Obviously, we have not seen the website involved but the odds are very good if not certain that the test is subject to a automatic copyright. Why take the chance when it only takes about 15 minutes to simply use that information as a reference and write your own "Terms & Conditions". Not only do you risk misusing the copyrighted writing of the website, but also potentially misusing the work of the law firm that wrote them, if there was one. In my view, that is simply a bad idea. Obviously, if you need actual legal advice you should contact a local copyright attorney and seek legal counsel from your own attorney who reviews the actual language, copyright and web site involved. Good luck with your new website.

  2. I like the answer of Mr. Kazaleh.
    It's not plagerism (that's a school term for copying) but copyright infringement.
    Most Terms of Use are written by lawyers and often hard to understand.
    You may review similar Terms of Use to locate issues; you may re-phrase, hopefully in plain English, and you should have no problems.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

  3. My colleague's right that you shouldn't use the exact documents someone else has used, but I don't think you should put these things in your won words. I don't think you're qualified to determine what terms belong and what terms don't, and what's similar and what's not. Only a lawyer is.

    For example, you need the right to reproduce any user's contribution to your site, so if your site involves user generated content, that right needs to be included or you can't publish anything anyone contributes. Hire a lawyer, it's a smart investment in your business and one you'll regret not having made later one if you don't make the investment now.

    Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

  4. Terms and condition statements, also know as terms of use policy, when used on a website need to be tailored to the website's particular business model. Cutting and pasting someone else's terms can get the copier into trouble beyond issues of copyright infringement. Consider also the importance of having a lawyer assist with developing your unique privacy policy. Consider for instance addressing limitation of warranties, and choice of law and venue for purposes of dispute resolution. There are many other reasons why you should invest in the services of a skilled business lawyer or an eCommerce attorney in Texas. Best of luck with the website.

    This answer is provided for information purposes only. It should not be relied upon as legal advice which can only be offered to clients in an office consultation setting when all the facts and circumstances can be fully considered and reviewed.

  5. Here is a list of a few, among many, legal issues you might face in setting up a website. Get a lawyer. The WORST thing to do is to grab someone else's Terms & Conditions when you don't know if it really applies to you or if it even covers all of the key issues for you. After reading the list below, I bet you realize it doesn't cover all the issues pertinent to you. Sometimes a borrowed T&C is worse than no T&C, sometimes it's slightly better than terrible, sometimes you get lucky and it works. Without a lawyer you will never know which is your situation.

    Checklist for starting a Website
    Bruce E. Burdick

    Written by: Bruce E. Burdick Pro

    Intellectual Property Law Attorney
    Contributor Level 20



    Posted 20 days ago. 2 helpful votes, 0 comments
    Share with:

    A helpful list of legal issues you need to consider in starting a website. This is not a recipe for avoiding a lawyer, if you use it that way you are making a BIG MISTAKE. The list should, instead, make you realize you must use an attorney and help you assure the attorney handles all the issues.
    Intellectual Property Issues

    1.1 Trademark or Servicemark -Services or products? Will the name help sales? Clearance search done? If not available, check with a TM attorney on options or pick another mark. Register? Where? When? What? How?Start with just common law rights (seldom smart.) 1.2 Tradename - Available? In the state where you will base your operation? 1.3 Domain Name – Use the TM/SM as domain?Availability search done? Register with host? 1.4 Copyright - Of Others - Images used? Stock? Original? Licensed? Registered? DMCA notice, procedure, software Of Yours – Registered? Images? Content? Notices? Copy-Protect? Embedded tracking? 1.5 Patent - Of others – right to use search? License? Of Yours – patentability search, costs to patent, timing (need for speed), choice of attorney
    Busines entity

    2.1 C corp, S Corp, Non-Profit, LLC or a sole proprietorship? 2.2 State of choice – tax rates, business-friendly?, favorable laws, anonymity rules, costs, benefits, risks
    Basic Agreements

    3.1 Terms of Service – Do it at the start for big dividends in the future. Don't "borrow" some inapplicable TOS, get an attorney to customize for YOUR site. 3.2 EULA - "browser wrap", "click wrap", “shrink wrap” - which do you need? Again, don't "borrow" one, get one customized for YOU. 3.3 Vendor Agreements – web designer, host, credit, fulfillment, returns, royalties, etc. 3.4 Privacy - Every site needs a privacy policy, especially medical information sites, lead generation sites, investigative sites, etc. 3.5 DMCA policy - Do you need? If you allow third party postings, you need this. 3.6 Employee Agreements? Do you have employees - if yes, you need this. With patent clause?, work for hire clause? secrecy clause? non-compete? State restrictions? - some like Cal. are very restrictive. 3.7 Host? 3.8 Webmaster? 3.9 Graphic designer?

    4.1 Quicken software or CPA? 4.2 QuickBooks? 4.3 TurboTax? H&R Block? 4.4 Need a CPA? 4.5 Taxes - Have an EIN? You can get that for free. 4.6 What state fees and filings are needed? 4.7 Backup your accounting.
    What Registrar & Host – GoDaddy? Bluehost? JustHost?

    5.1. Services offered - JustHost currently sets the standard in value, although heavily advertised GoDaddy is currently the most popular 5.2. Price - The prices are so cheap they are almost not an issue. How long are you locked into a set price? Is it just a promo price? Volume discounts? Different prices for different packages so you can fit your needs? 3. Reliability - What is their uptime percentage - should be 99% or more. Linux (most reliable) or Microsoft based servers? 4. Experience - How long have they been around? How many sites do they currently host? What type of tech sup

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

  6. Are You Planning on Opening a New E-Commerce Website?

    There is much you need to know as you begin your new business. I suggest you do not attempt to write your own legal policies. This is not where your training and background lie, and though you are probably as smart as an attorney, you do not have their experience.

    Below is a checklist for legal issues I use for new e-commerce clients.

    1. Business Model – Is your idea viable as a web based business?

    2. Business entity - Are you going to be a C corp, a sub-S, an LLC or a sole proprietorship?

    3. Terms of Service - This is your contract with your visitors and is the most important item for any e-commerce site. A little work here brings big dividends in the future.

    4. Privacy Policy - Every e-commerce site needs a privacy policy!

    5. FTC guidelines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidelines apply to e-commerce sites.

    6. Domain Name issues? Is your name available. Can you create a Trademark?

    7. Trademark - Do you have a brand name free from conflict? Should you start with just common law rights? Should you register the mark, and when?

    8. Copyright - If it is on the web, it already belongs to somebody. Did you buy a license for the images you are using?

    9. Do you need a DMCA policy?

    10. Web Site security issues?

    11. Do you need and have an EIN? You can get that for free.

    12. Do you need an arbitration clause?

    13. Do you have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.

    14. Do you know the difference between a "browser wrap" and a "click wrap" and which do you need?

    15. Are you abiding by the Child's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)rules?

    When I discuss this list with clients other issues arise. Finally, I always discuss with my clients their need for good accounting services. An accountant's advice as you start up can save you many dollars in tax that you might not save if you wait to speak to an accountant until your first tax return is due.

    I hope this list will give you pause to think about those issues for which you might need to seek professional advice.

    You may want to discuss your situation with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo offer a free phone consultation.

    This post is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice specific to you. This general information is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney client relationship is not established by this post.

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