Terms of use and commitments

I’ve resisted doing this ever since since I started blogging in 2002, but today I posted a terms of use document to this site.

One thing that’s prompted me to do this is the issue I had recently regarding unauthorized use of my content (successfully resolved) plus increasingly receiving trackbacks from some people who have absolutely no clear reason to trackback other than to gain some linkage. I’ve also been observing some of the reactions to Dell’s new blog by some of the, let’s say, more hysterical inhabitants of the blogosphere.

My terms of use set out in plain language what I expect visitors here to note and observe regarding their use of and participation in the site. The usual things are in there – about commenting, for instance, and others’ use of my content.

But terms of use don’t just apply to visitors – they are equally applicable to the author/owner of a blog. Me in this case. So I’ve also included a 10-point commitment statement that explains what I will do in this blog to also live up to the terms of use.

It’s version 1.0 and if you have any comments about it, I’d very much welcome your opinions. Thanks.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Adam

    Seems fair. Although now I’m paranoid that my leaving a comment will be viewed with suspicion of spamming or linking superfluously.
    Ah, to be neurotic.

  2. The Alpha Mind

    Neville’s Terms of Use…

    Neville Hobson has added a “Terms of Use” page to his blog.  Alas, it will probably be something we’ll all need to do.  Neville has modelled a pretty good way to do it.  His Terms page also includes his own commitments, such as tha…

  3. Dominic Jones

    Hi Neville,

    I feel your pain, but this is not going to help. I didn’t read your terms and no one else is going to either.

    I think the rule here is that if you can’t handle people stealing your content, don’t blog.

    Alternatively, password protect it and charge a fee. Of course, you have to have something valuable to offer to do that.

    The fact that people are stealing your stuff might indicate that it has value.

    Good luck.

  4. neville

    Appreciate your opinion, Dominic, thanks, but you’re missing the point entirely of why I’ve done this.

    Purely publishing some terms and conditions is not going to stop somone from stealing or scraping my content. To do that would probably require some other means (maybe something like cloaking, for instance). Even then, I doubt the determined content thief would be deterred.

    So why did I do this? Well, primarily so that I have something up here that sets out how I would like to see people behaving here and which no one can ever say that they did not know what any terms of use were. It also makes clear what I’m committed to in publishing this site. There’s a prominent link to the terms at the top right of the sidebar which most visitors will notice (although obviously not you!).

    It also makes clear my position regarding commenting and trackbacks. I think that’s becoming more important when you increasingly see time-wasting discussion going on in some blogs that are nothing to do with the posts but all to do with what’s allowed and what isn’t.

    Clearly I don’t expect these terms of use to suddenly change behaviours. I’d also add that I have not so far experienced any major issues about commenting. But at least there’s some clarity about it that wasn’t here before.

  5. Tom Keefe

    I understand why you’ve added the Terms of Use, and I don’t have any suggestions, other than to consider defining some of the jargon (run splogs–new one to me).

    I try to be sensitive to posting trackbacks when I comment on someone’s post–for just the reason you cite. I don’t wnat people to think that I’m just spiking traffic.

    However, I don’t think that it would be a violation of your Terms of Service to point out that I recently referenced your post regarding the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

  6. neville

    Good points, Tom, thanks. I have a couple of clarifications I want to make myself so all added to my to-do list for a version 1.1 update in a few days.

    Re referencing a post, that’s absolutely fine and, indeed, clearly encouraged. No issues with that at all. The CC license would cover it. You did what every reasonable blogger does – provided attribution to the source.

    By the way, I loved your terrific audio comment in today’s FIR!

  7. Todd Defren

    Sounds reasonable to me, and I consider you pretty forward-thinking for doing this (among all your other great work, of course). A Terms-of-Use statement like this may become more prevalent in the not too distant future. Nice.

  8. Allan Jenkins

    Neville, I think the terms of service are a good idea; I’ve been considering it for some time myself.

    Last year, I saw a blog TOS — no idea where, but it was through Amy Gahran’s site — that had a clause about all comments becoming the exclusive property of the site owner. This was aimed at keeping a commenter from making a claim on any revenues produced by the site.

  9. neville

    Thanks, Todd. I think you’re right in that ToU will very likely become more common on blogs.

    Allan, I think your blogging code of ethics is really half of a terms of use statement. The focus is on your commitments (my commitment statement is similar to that) so all you’d need to do is add the other 50% relating to visitors.

    Re comments, that’s a good point (but isn’t that getting into a murky legal area?). I’m not sure I’d want to say that anything anyone says here becomes my property. Doesn’t seem to fit in the spirit of open source, Creative Commons, etc.

    Plus I’m thinking of potential issues such as someone saying something libellous and I get sued becuase I’ve said that the words are my property and so I then have the complete responsibility for what anyone says (and maybe any blogger does anyway). I guess to have a ToU statement that is iron-clad, I’d need to talk to a lawyer. But that’s getting into serious areas which I don’t think I need to do.

    I might change my mind, though, after the first cease-and-desist letter :)

  10. Allan Jenkins

    Hi Neville, I should have mentioned the blogger was an attorney (though a US one).

    He also explained why he had written the clauses as he had. I only wish I could find it again.

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