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Changing Online Terms of Use: How Detailed Must Notice Be?

Blue change button

In “Changing Online Terms of Use? Be Sure to Give Notice First!“, I explained that if you are going to change a website’s terms of use, you first need to provide notice that the terms have been changed and explain how they have been changed. This post – based on a Quora question and my answer – discusses how detailed the notice must be.

Unfortunately, there are no definitive rules regarding the level of detail that the notice must contain. I have two guidelines that I like to follow.

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Best Practices in Drafting Software Contracts

Logo of the American Law Institute, which published a treatis about drafting software contractsOn May 19, the American Law Institute approved the Proposed Final Draft of the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts. The 305-page document presents best practices that should be taken into account when drafting software contracts.

Implications of the Principles for Drafting Software Contracts

Here are some implications of the Principles that I find most interesting: (more…)

Changing Online Terms of Use? Be Sure to Give Notice First!

First page from the Douglas case, which discusses changes to terms of use

Let’s assume that you have a website with great content. When users sign up, they eagerly click the “I agree” button to accept your standard terms of use. In those terms, you give yourself the right to make future changes to the terms of use via the following provision:

“We may change these terms of use at any time by revising them on our website. You agree to be bound by any such revisions. Therefore, you should review these terms periodically. If you do not agree with any revision, you must stop using our website.”

Changes to Terms of Use Require Notice

This approach is routine on the web and, until recently, was considered by many to have precisely the effect that was intended. In 2007, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which has jurisdiction over federal cases in the Western U.S.) stated that website owners must do more than just change terms of use online if they want the changes to take effect for existing users.

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