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What is the duration of a terms of service "contract" with a website?

San Francisco, CA |

Is there a way to opt out after you have agreed to the terms of service of a website? Assuming they have no clause for duration nor conditions for revoking it, are you obligated to abide by the terms for your lifetime after having used the service once and deleting the account?

Also: assuming it's not too broad and you really plan on infringing on some specific terms that don't impact the constitutional rights. You really want to (legally) mess with a website's terms after unsubscribing, but obviously those "terms" won't allow you if you agreed to them even just once. How can you opt out of those terms, do they even expire?

Attorney Answers 5


This is a great question, and one I have not had before. I can tell you that when I write a TOS, I don't put a term certain in the TOS.

However, I will tell you that everytime you do visit the website, your obligations under the TOS will probably continue. On the other hand, I can't think of a term that would continue, once you have deleted your account.

There could be some continuing obligations on your part concerning some warranties, limitations of liability or indemnity, even after you deleted your account - that that is probably pretty rare.

If you have a specific question about a specific scenario, you may want to discuss your situation with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo, including myself, 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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If the TOS is too broad, it will be invalid. Likewise, if it impacts your Constitutional right to free speech. I wouldn't worry much about it myself.

I am an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of California. Unless we have both signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not my client, and my discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.

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Keep in mind that with many, if not most, websites, if you do not agree to terms of service, you will not be permitted to use the site.

This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship and is just my opinion based upon the limited facts presented.

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Each set of TOS is unique.

That said, it typically is the case that so long as one continues using the website, the TOS continue to apply.

This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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Most website Terms of Service are concerned with specific discrete acts that the user might do while accessing the website, like gaining unauthorized access, or a user's conduct while posting information to the site. Very few typical concerns with public use of websites are ongoing in nature.

Some things that website operators may try to do that would push the boundaries might include trying assert that any content that you post to the site is a automatically always a copyright held by the site operator, or that the user is prohibited from criticising the site or its operator. Both of these examples are of dubious enforceability.

More within reason might be an obligation to keep confidential some secret information obtained from the website, but this would be an unusual circumstance. And, obviously, the original site content is subject to copyright and the license terms for it will apply to any persistent copies of the website that a user may have made (e.g. in a browser cache) or screenshots), regardless of whether the user continues to use the site or not.

At the end of the analysis, though, it is necessary to look at the specific conduct that the site operator is seeking to prohibit or require on an ongoing basis. If the requirement seems unreasonable, it probably is.

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