Hi fellow indie hackers! Lawyer here.
I see many questions about Terms of Service (ToS) on the forum. Based on those questions, here are a few things about ToS that you should all know.
Quick note: In this post, when I say product, I mean any kind of app, membership area, website content, or whatever you offer is.
Terms of Service are an agreement between you and your user. It sets the terms and conditions of the use of your product.
So, you have a website and a user lands on it. They roam around, have a look at your product, and sign up. They pay for using the product.
When signing up (or using it without signing up), you want to set certain conditions about the use of the product. That’s where ToS come handy.
With the ToS you tell the user: “Hey user, I’m glad you are signing up, but you need to accept these terms and conditions. I can’t let you use my product if you don’t accept my terms. Take it or leave it.”
If you don’t offer a product that requires signing up (you offer a free product, website content, etc) you may want to set the terms and conditions for using your website.
You tell the user: “Hey, if you keep using this website/free product, it means you accept to use it according to the terms I set. This is my website and I want my users here to behave in the way I want. If you stay here it means that you accept my terms.”
This is non-negotiable.
Yes, ToS are non-negotiable. You just give the users the choice between accepting and leaving. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot offer different terms to some of the users.
Enterprise-tier clients usually require a custom agreement. They will want to negotiate certain parts of the agreement with you. They’ll have lots of money to spend, so you’ll be willing to negotiate, too.
But for the clients that pay anything from a few dollars to whatever is below the Enterprise-tier level, you offer non-negotiable ToS on signing up or right before checkout.
It depends. There is no straightforward answer.
ToS are not obligatory by the law. You won’t be punished if you don’t have one in place.
But, operating your project without ToS means that your users use your product without a written contract in place.
If your users pay for your product, though, you may need to have some written statements regarding the transaction. In such a case, ToS are a convenient way to make such statements.
Everything may go well without ToS, though, but you may also have legal headaches in the future.
It depends on your product. Here are a few examples to give an idea:
Again, it depends on your product, but you should at least have:
It is in your best interest to have them as soon as you put anything on the internet.
It is highly recommendable to have them as soon as you ask for money for the product. You may be obliged to have it at this point, depending on the product.
It is a must to have them as soon as things get serious. At this point it is nice to get to have them tailored to your business.
There are 3 ways people get ToS: