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© 2009-2020 Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law

Constructive Notice Makes Sense – Here’s Why

Logo for Quora, where Dana Shultz answered a question about constructive noticeThis post is about a legal concept, constructive notice.

Its origin is a Quora answer that I provided. Please see If nobody reads the Terms of Service then how can they legally be acceptable as a disclaimer? (more…)

Here’s an Arbitration Provision I Like!

Second Life logo

I’m not a big fan of mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts: Although arbitration is likely to proceed more quickly than litigation (other than small-claims cases), it is not necessarily less expensive. However, I recently saw an arbitration clause that I like quite a bit.

Linden Research, Inc., developer of the Second Life multi-user online service, includes the following in its Terms of Service (emphasis added):

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Which Protections Should be Included in Online Terms of Use?

Knight's armor with shield and mace

This post is based on my response to a LawPivot question from an entrepreneur who wanted to know which protective provisions should be included in his website’s terms of use.

The provisions that bear most closely on protecting website owners include those pertaining to:

  • Disclaimer of warranties made by the owner
  • Limitations on the extent of the owner’s liability
  • Users’ warranties, especially as concerns any information that they may post
  • Users’ acceptable behavior policies, which set the stage for . . .
  • The owner’s right, in its sole discretion, to terminate use privileges
  • Users’ obligation to indemnify the website owner against liabilities that result from user activities
  • A requirement that any lawsuit related to the website be brought at a venue that is convenient for the owner
  • An arbitration provision as a way to avoid litigation (though I am not a big fan of arbitration because it can be expensive and precludes small-claims court, which can be relatively quick and inexpensive)

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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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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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