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Terms of Service or Terms of Use – Definition

Terms of Service (TOS) or Terms of Use Definition

Terms of Service (TOS) are often found on software service or web-based based product. It is a phrase that contains rules and regulations that purchasers are expected to abide by when they buy the products. TOS are terms and conditions stipulating the usage of a software or website. The providers of software services or web-based products often attack TOS to their products to avoid misuse or liability resulting from the product. TOS is also called Terms of use (TOU), it is a form of disclaimer that providers attach to their products, especially website-based products.

A Little More on What are Terms of Service

The terms and conditions stipulated in a TOS or TOU are legally binding, that is, any client that purchases a product with TOS attached on it must abide by the stated rules in order to use or enjoy the product/service. Companies that provide software for websites, browsers for users, e-commerce companies, social media firms, and some other companies use TOS for legal purposes.

However, if a user is seriously harmed by TOS and has evidence for this harn a suit or arbitration case can be filed against the provider. Also, if the provider breaches the terms or alters the agreements of TOU, the user can also take to the court of law.

There is specific content that a TOS contains, these include;

  • Definition of keywords and phrases that are in the product which may sound ambiguous to the user.
  • Clear terms stating how a product is expected to be used and misused.
  • The rights and responsibilities of users.
  • Acceptable actions and conducts of users when accessing the product.
  • How payment for the product can be made (if there is any payment plan, it should be stated)
  • Privacy policy of the product
  • Provisions on dispute resolution and legal rights of users in cases of breach of terms by the provider
  • Legal liability for damages incurred by users, among other terms as the provider deem them fit.

Professionals strive to increase public awareness on the terms of service documents and issues around them. There are many issues that ensued between users and providers regarding terms of service, these issues were publicized by a documentary in 2013. The policies and practises of companies that attach TOS to their products are considered. Also, the policies of these companies in the treatment of user’s rights and policies are treated. 54 professional critics reviewed terms of service and they score each clause in each terms of service document depending on the context of the services it applies to.

How these companies handle and use users’ data, disclosure of users’ data, amendment of terms, closing users’ accounts, how users pay fines, and other cogent issues are discussed and rated.

Continuous attempts to improve public awareness on terms of service exist and this happen through several initiatives and the clarification of differences in terms used by different service providers. The terms of service differ from one company to another depending on the types of services they offer. These terms are also subject to change which varies from service to service. Professionals as well as critics aim to increase public awareness on major areas such as;

  • Transparency of terms of service and accountability of practises
  • Copyright licensing on user content
  • Termination of the service by user
  • Availability of previous terms and changes in terms
  • Notification and changes prior to changes in terms
  • Third-party requests for personal data
  • Policy on information transfer, among others.

Academic Research on Terms of Service Agreement

Academic Research on Terms of Use

The biggest lie on the internet: Ignoring the privacy policies and terms of service policies of social networking services, Obar, J. A., & Oeldorf-Hirsch, A. (2018). Information, Communication & Society, 1-20.

Advantage ISP: Terms of service as media law, Braman, S., & Roberts, S. (2003). New Media & Society, 5(3), 422-448.

Terms of service, Life, S. (2007).

Reality and perception of copyright terms of service for online content creation, Fiesler, C., Lampe, C., & Bruckman, A. S. (2016, February). In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 1450-1461). ACM.

An Empirical Study of Predispute Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Social Media Terms of Service Agreements, Rustad, M. L., Buckingham, R., D’Angelo, D., & Durlacher, K. (2011). UALR L. Rev., 34, 643.

Terms of service and job retention among academic staff in Makerere University, Amutuhaire, T. (2010). (Doctoral dissertation, Makerere University).

Privacy policies, terms of service, and FTC enforcement: Broadening unfairness regulation for a new era, Hans, G. S. (2012). Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev., 19, 163.

Policy-carrying data: A privacy abstraction for attaching terms of service to mobile data, Saroiu, S., Wolman, A., & Agarwal, S. (2015, February). In Proceedings of the 16th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications (pp. 129-134). ACM.

Online Terms of Service: A Shield for First Amendment Scrutiny of Government Action, Fradette, J. E. (2013). Notre Dame L. Rev., 89, 947.

Terms of service, ethics, and bias: Tapping the social web for cscw research, Fisher, D., Mcdonald, D. W., Brooks, A. L., & Churchill, E. F. (2010). Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Panel discussion.

Effect of cloud computing systems in terms of service quality of knowledge management systems, Rezaei, H., Karimi, B., & Hosseini, S. J. (2016). Lecture Notes on Software Engineering, 4(1), 73.

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