Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

A Generic Terms of Service for a Website

It seems that almost twice a month now I receive an email regarding a generic terms of service for a website, sometimes also referred to as a model or boilerplate terms and conditions of use. Before I offer you my links to legal sites and samples, please be advised of the following:

  • I am not a lawyer
  • I have never formally studied law
  • I am Not a Lawyer
  • Nothing I suggest should be construed as legal advice
  • I am NOT a Lawyer
  • Consult a qualified and licensed attorney for all issues legal
  • I am NOT a Lawyer
  • Before addressing me with any claims of liability, please refer to my terms of service

Okay, now that we’ve got that legal ugliness out of the way, let’s answer Paul Musgrave’s question as best I can; keeping in mind my limited legal knowledge. Mr. Musgrave writes:

Following the discussion at Josh’s site about target=”_blank” tags, I went ahead and started pruning them from my site; thanks for changing my mind on this! I have another question, maybe one that you could answer: Is there a good guide to drafting site usage / copyright pages anywhere?

Geek Speak

I believe Paul is referring to a discussion on Josh Claybourn’s website generated by my review of Musgrave’s mother’s campaign website, where as a qualified, trained, certified and experienced computer programmer and website developer I strongly suggested for reasons of usability and accessibility, that the hyperlinks on the Cheryl Musgrave website be rendered soas not to open a new browser window when clicked.

Bravo! Always glad to add another usability convert to our ranks. If you’re comfortable working from the command line in *nix, then you might be able to make site-wide changes in one fell swoop after reading my article “Global replace using find & xarg


As per Paul’s request for drafting a website user agreement, and speaking as a computer programmer and web developer with absolutely no legal training whatsoever, I found it hard to find any cut-n-paste to your website samples. This was in large part because so many sites offer a Terms of Service page that search engine queries were quickly polluted with actual, often copyrighted Terms of Use instead of sample User Agreements that I could modify and use without fear of violating a website’s Terms and Conditions. What I did find were many BBS and newgroups that basically offered one of three opinions:

  1. Hire an attorney
  2. Buy a stock agreement either online or from a book of legal boilerplates
  3. Get permission and copy your web host’s TOS, modifying it to taste

Please note, the above opinions are not my own. They reflect a summation of opinions found a websites such as WebHosting Talk, Webmaster World and news.google.com.

Law-Related Resources:

For those of you who want to pursue this information further, here are some links to law-related websites that might supply you with the information and/or documents you need for your municipality and/or situation. Then again, they might not … I am merely listing them (in no particular order), not necessarily endorsing them.

As for an off-the-shelf, boilerplate, sample, model terms of service agreement, I could only find one. Please note it is rendered as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. Whether or not it is enforceable is a matter for a trained and licensed attorney, of which I’m not.

Hope this helps, and sorry for all the disclaimers.


  1. I’m not a layer either Dean (i.e. check your at the top again).

  2. We first set up a legal page on our church site so that we could have all of the legal information for the Bible verses that we were displaying on the site. Since the verses came from Bible Gateway, and we use different translations at times, I felt that it was warranted. During this, I decided to draft up a very short list of terms of use for the content on the site, but I am in no way a lawyer. I did take Computer Ethics in school, so I know that without some kind of statement about where content came from and what people can do with it, that you can get into a heap of trouble. Thanks Dean for reminding me to look at the legal statements again and clean up any loose ends.

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  5. So then are you a lawyer?

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