There are millions of blogs online. Some have term and conditions of use while others do not. The question many bloggers should be asking is whether they need terms for their blog and, if so, whether such terms are binding on visitors to the site.
The conditions of use for a website often seem to be a mystery to most bloggers. Let’s resolve the mystery. The terms act as a contract between you, the blogger, and the visitors to your site. The terms are used to establish guidelines ranging from how visitors can use content to the court system where any legal dispute will be filed. Although tailored to the web, these terms really are no different than what you agree to when renting a car, buying insurance or entering into any other legal transaction.
Generally speaking, a contract can only be entered into by two parties if they both agree to it in an affirmative manner. For example, assume I am selling my used car, and you are interested in buying it. You must take the affirmative act of giving me money to show your acceptance of our contractual relationship. In turn, I must sign over the title to the car to evidence my acceptance of the terms.
Now consider a website where you make a purchase. At one point or another, you are usually required to check an “I Agree” box indicating you agree to the terms dictated by the website. In this scenario, your action is the equivalent of a signature on a contract.
This situation presents a problem for bloggers. A blog is a passive use website. Visitors can view the content without the need to check a box. Given this, the question is whether the terms of the blog are binding on the visitor. The trend in courts is to rule the visitor is not entering into a contract by just viewing the content.
So, what is a blogger to do? There are only two real options. The first is to require visitors to go through a check the box acceptance procedure before allowing them on the blog. This process will kill click-through rates, making it an unrealistic solution.
Going Without Terms
Starting a blog is incredibly easy these days. If you decide to let your voice be heard, make sure to protect yourself. Although the application of terms and conditions of use on a blog is a gray area, you are better off with them than without them.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.