Last year, a friend asked me if I could draft a Terms of Service agreement for a mobile-app he was building. We figured that a semester of contracts was better than nothing, so I agreed. Naturally, I looked at similar applications’ TOS agreements for “guidance” (to copy). Better than nothing? Sure. But foolproof? Definitely not.
Ben Bator, co-founder of Texts From Last Night, writes about a similar experience on his blog. It’s a great read for entrepreneurs and the lawyers who help them, and the potential consequences of not proofreading:
This article about James Erwin, Reddit and Warner Bros reminded me that the @TFLN TOS is by far the best thing I have ever copy & pasted.
It almost wasn’t.
The TOS we borrowed from another content site had one glaring issue. In that document, there was one word that described that, instead of reserving the rights to our content, we only reserved the rights to display the content. This meant that someone, if we chose to post those them, could lift everything from us without violating our terms.
Luckily, a real lawyer caught the mistake before it was too late. When we got our television development deal, it took multiple calls to convince our producers that we hacked together our terms enough to be sufficient.
Creating anything, especially content is hard. Creating something worthwhile is just plain difficult. Getting people to read/see/listen to even brilliant stuff is so hard that people die before anyone notices it. Sometimes you’re lucky, so make sure to take some precautions so that when people do find your work, you’ll own the rights to it. Even if you take the damn thing to the grave.