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Drafting a new TOS
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Drafting a new TOS
Topic Owner: br. scot
Topic: Writing a new Terms of Service Document
Maximum Posts: 255
Greatest Hits: Top 10 posts in this topic
I'm not happy with the current Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) which were put together in a hurry and don't accurately reflect what the site is. So, I would like to gather information on what people think should be in the TOS.

What I would like people to do is look at TOS/AUP from other sites they use, and find ideas that we need to include.

The main emphasis needs to be on the fact that people use at-will and by the permissions of the owners. Users are guests of those who provide for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the site, not because they have a right to be here.

We need to cover copyright issues--(1) if you write it, you continue to own it but give the site license to display it. (2) if you post it, you are responsible for making sure that no one else owns it, don't go posting things you don't have permission to use.

We need to cover behavioral issues--what can, and will happen to people at a very high level: we can ask you to leave, we can delete your account, we can blacklist you, we can block your IP address from accessing the server, we can deduct download quota and/or promotion points and we can discuss your behavior within the community.

We need to discuss how the site is funded. What rights and privileges those who donate to the site can expect. The fact that we depend on advertising revenue so ad blocking software is discouraged (or forbidden?). We need to spell out how the owners/webmasters work together to keep the site up. And, what the differences between the owners and the webmasters is.

We need to discuss the staff, what kinds of access they have. What their duties, responsibilities and accountabilities are.

We need to discuss "special" levels (chibi, blacklisted, detention) so they are clear.

We need to build a good definition of the site, the community focus, the gift culture, the accountability of the users to the community (no toleration of trolls!). The nature of the community as one that tries to bring users into community first and resorts to expulsion only after other means have failed.

We need to discuss religious/ethinc/racial/sexual-orientation/gender toleration and equality.

We need to discuss our value on expression, and the limits of it--including our expectation that expression be open and accessible to the entire community (why 1337 is bad, why spelling and grammar are important).

This topic is a place to draft sections of the TOS and make proposals. This is not a place to vote. The TOS will be voted on by the webmasters with advice and consent from the staff first, and community second.

After the new TOS is approved by the webmasters it will be published for the entire community to see. After some time it will be implemented and all users will have to agree to the new terms or delete their accounts.

Let's start by thinking of things I've not included in the list above. Once we've got a good list working then we'll begin to draft the actual language of the TOS.
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I would like to see a clause that states if you have a concern with the operation of the site, you agree to raise it on this site and not externally. We should solve our issues as a community, not as factions scattered around the Internet.

What this would mean is that running to your livejournal community to whine that we are mistreating you, instead of taking it through the senate/other channels would be a violation of the TOS and could result in your account being deleted.

You are free write negative things about us in your journal, but by doing so you willfully cut yourself off from the community and therefor we reserve the right to remove you from the community. We will provide a forum for voicing your complaints--opting out is opting all the way out.

Also, we'll need to discuss the senate, it's roles and limitations clearly in the TOS. e.g. The senate cannot hear cases about the webmasters or owners.
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I don't necessarily like the idea of people being "cut off" if they write negative things about us off-site -- especially if it's in the context of a diary, journal or personal website.

Posting negative things on other community/message board sites is a little more grey area for me. Personally, I think it should be the responsibility of those sites' owners to deal with it -- as long as it's not libelous/slanderous/calumniatory. I know that I don't want to see people bringing their off-site dirty laundry onto; I can't imagine other webmasters wanting their sites filled with our dirty laundry.

However, I do agree that stirring up detrimental drama off-site (or on-site) should lead to removal from the site.
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We absolutely need a "PG-13" clause too.

Along the same lines, as above, "drama" from other communities is not welcome here. If you've got a problem with another community, leave it there. Don't drag us into it.
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Okay, this is the code of conduct on the Wizards of the Coast boards (a very large set of boards run by the company that makes D&D and Magic the Gathering):

WotC CoC

These are forum rules I wrote for another set of boards that I also moderate on:

RetroJunk Rules

Are we looking for something along the lines of those two links?
Retro Junk: Where your childhood never grew up.
Roleplay Online: Any system, any character, any time.
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Good stuff in all of those. I especially like the 'You can make this a better place' blurb in the WoTC link and the "DISCIPLINARY ACTION EVASION" section in the SCMB link.
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"Global Ignore" (no one can see your posts but you, the staff/webmasters and people who put you on their friends list) needs to be a punishment option. Last step before blacklist, I think. I'd need to write it, but its not that much code.
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has some good ideas
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The Neopets TOS has some good bits. I especially like:

11. You Are A Guest.
Remember, this is a free website and we reserve the right to prohibit the use of the site to any user at any time. Be a good guest.

Their terms on user submitted items is much too strict for our use. Their policy on linking to the site is too harsh also.
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I was just reading the magic: the gathering online code of conduct and I really like some of their things. specifically:
# Do not disrupt the chat rooms by posting multiple messages within a short time span, spamming, prolonging off topic posts, using ALL CAPS or any other means of disruption.

Do not harass, bully, threaten, or cause discomfort for other players.

I'd also like to see something about what the consequences are if you harass/flame/threaten/whatever staff members. one of my staff was recently flamed and he didn't know what to do about it because there's currently nothing (that we could find anyway).

oh, also, things like the promotion and encouragement of illegal activities, self harm (I can't think of the word I want but I'm thinking of things like cutting and eating disorders), and suicide shouldn't be allowed.
I'm loving myself sick at the moment, and I'm making you sick too. ;D
In Sony's TOS,
they include something along those lines Pluto.

You agree not to do any of the following while on The Station or in any SOE Communication Feature:

1. transmit any message, information, data, text, software or graphic files, or other materials ("Content") that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, that may be invasive of another's right of privacy or publicity, hateful, racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;

which covers, in their wording, harm to self or others.

They also cover an assortment or copyright and authoring terms that might be useful here.
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One at a time people!
Looks good to me, Scot.
A few thoughts:

Is it necessary to distinguish between explicit and implicit parental permission? Which do we require? Will we still have a cutoff at age 13?

All users are required to provide accurate personal information including full name, age (over or under 18) and a working email address.
I think we need to point out in this area that the information in question is not made public (except email, at user discretion). Or at least a (see section Security/Staff/Whatever below).

What about a simplified version of the TOS or a summary that's easy to skim and easy for kids to understand? It might tempt people not to read the official version--but really, a lot of younger members aren't going to want to try to understand that, even if is pretty light on the legalese.
Not enough music and too much math,
on a long circuitous path, just along for the ride
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The age is set at 18 for legal issues.

I think a simplified TOS/AUP will be necessary. I'm trying to keep this simple, but it is long and boring. The really simple version is "Play nice or leave, you are a guest in our house, behave like it."

How about:

All users are required to provide accurate personal information including full name, age (over or under 18) and a working email address. This information will be kept private. Users may optionally make their email address public. Any accounts suspected of providing false or misleading information may be restricted, disabled or removed at the discretion of the webmasters. Normally accounts will be restricted until accurate information is obtained. It is the sole determination of the webmasters and their appointed staff to determine if the information is valid or not. ?
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What I mean about the ages is:
Are we keeping the rule that you must be over 13 to join? (Or am I getting my communities confused?)

Privacy: That works.
Not enough music and too much math,
on a long circuitous path, just along for the ride
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I think that spells it out nicely. That's just the type of thing I would copy and paste in response to the "why do I have to give you my name?" emails.
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don't worry, it's all confidential
It might be wise to add something about having only one account somewhere in there.
I propose using Fanfiction Rating's "T" level as the standard for site content. Need to verify that we comply with their TOS though.

IF not, perhaps we can use our ICRA PICS. I haven't received our PICS yet though. The XML version is too difficult for people to understand.
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What do y'all think of a clause like this:

Users are not permitted to harass, stalk, bully or abuse any other user via any third party systems. Substantiated claims of harassment may result in the offending users account being deleted or permanently disabled.

I'm concerned with someone being sunshine-and-light here then a major pain in the butt on AIM.
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i like the clause. i've known too many staff and non-staff users who have been verbally abused by other users. and sexually harassed. and just harassed harassed.
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don't worry, it's all confidential
Yeah, we can't control what they do off-site, but we can kick them off our site for it.
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Terms of Service for [Draft Version 2007-04-17a]

Document Description
This is the official and authoritative document describing the terms of service (TOS) and acceptable use policy (AUP) of (also known as "grep sailormoon *"), when any other document or policy on contradicts this document, this is the correct and official source of information. Other official documents and lists of frequently asked questions (FAQs) may clarify and extend the rules outlined here as long as they do not contradict what is defined here.

Description of Service ("the site" or "the community") is a not-for-profit website that strives to foster a positive community based around the anime series "SailorMoon" and anime culture in general. The website has a rich history spanning its long existence, which began in 1998. The current incarnation of the website seeks to stand in continuity with the traditions of the community as it continues to move forward and find new ways of serving the community through various interactive online communication methods.
Terms of Service

The webmasters of ("the webmasters") are the final authority for all disputes and conflicts and reserve all rights not otherwise explicitly outlined in this document.

Any use of the site constitutes acceptance of this terms of service (TOS) and agreement to follow the acceptable use policy (AUP). If you do not agree to be bound by these TOS and AUP in their entirety (as applicable by local law), discontinue using the site immediately.

Users of the site are guests of the webmasters and allowed to use the site only by the permission of the webmasters. Anyone who agrees to these TOS and AUP is permitted to use the site unless they have previously been informed otherwise or are in violation of these terms of service. Anyone who does not agree to these TOS and AUP is expressly forbidden from accessing the site. Use of the site is not coerced or forced upon anyone, anyone may leave at any time by setting their account to be deleted or simply remaining inactive. Any violation of these terms of service results in instant revocation of permission to use the site, unless the webmasters specify otherwise, even if the revocation is not explicitly communicated. Users who are in violation of the terms of service and have had their accounts restricted, disabled or deleted may petition the webmasters once to request permission to use the site.

Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed to grant any or confer any third-party rights or benefits.

To contribute to the community and access many parts of the community, people are required to register for accounts. Each individual is only allowed only one (1) account at a time. Users are not allowed to share accounts, except in the case of parents or legal guardians who may, but are not required to, share an account with their children, dependents or wards.

All users are required to provide accurate personal information including full name, age (specified as either over or under 18, exact age is not required) and a working email address. This information will be kept private. Users may optionally make their email address public. Any accounts suspected of providing false or misleading information may be restricted, disabled or removed at the discretion of the webmasters. In normal circumstances, accounts will be restricted until accurate information is obtained. It is the sole determination of the webmasters and their appointed staff to determine if the information is valid or not. Users are required to keep the information accurate, including using the available systems to update email addresses if they change.

All users under the age of 18 must have parental permission to use the site. The parent(s) and the user must all agree to be bound by these TOS and AUP.

The webmasters reserve the right to sole right to change the terms of service at any time and the users agree to be bound by any such modification or revision when they are published. The webmasters will attempt to place any modifications to the terms of service in a publicly accessible location for not less than seven (7) days before the change is made. The webmasters of will also make reasonable efforts to allow for users to comment on the proposed changes.

If any part of this agreement is found to be unenforceable in a jurisdiction, the rest of the agreement will remain in force.

These Terms of Service will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Texas, without giving effect to its conflict of laws provisions or your actual state or country of residence. Any claims, legal proceeding or litigation arising in connection with the Service will be brought solely in Collin County, Texas, and you consent to the jurisdiction of such courts.

Each user uses at her or his sole risk. is provided on an "as is" and "as available" basis. assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, timeliness, availability, retention, mis-delivery or deletion of any content submitted by users, user personalization settings or account status information. Scheduled and emergency maintenance may disrupt the service at any time without notice to the users. Each user is responsible for damage to her or his own computer system that results from anything downloaded from expressly disclaims all warranties of any kind, including but not limited to fitness for any purpose, suitability, or non-infringement. does not, and cannot control the actions of any user or third party. We reserve the right to report any suspicious or obviously criminal activity to appropriate law enforcement.
Acceptable Use Policy

Expression, its freedom and limits
The freedom of expression is necessary for any community to thrive. Everyone should be able to express their ideas, concerns and joys, discuss topics and simply engage in conversation. Without expression, there is not a community. Expression consists of many forms of communication and includes graphic files, sound files, text, data, motion picture videos and software.

The freedom of expression must be limited to protect the community. A large number of members of the community are children. The community is constituted by people of many different ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations and ages and by both sexes. The community is enriched by, and even depends on, this radical diversity. Any expression that is designed to harass, threaten or intimidate anyone because of any of these criterion is strictly forbidden, this includes, but is not limited to:
Hate content directed at any ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Content inappropriate to young children, such as vulgarities, conversations of a sexual nature and graphic violence. (We aim for the T standards)
Content that is sexist or otherwise gender-inequitable
Content that is illegal in the United States and Texas such as libel and slander
Content that is threatening, harmful, abusive or intended to intimidate
Any information on constructing/creating or using weapons, controlled substances, software designed to bypass security systems or committing any crime
Any invasion of another users right to privacy, such as distributing information given in confidence
Any defamation, harassment or bullying of another user
Hypertext links or URLs or instructions to locate any of the above listed types of content

Some topics are too inflammatory to be discussed via online media without descending into unproductive arguments. These conversations do not foster a positive community and may not be engaged in without permission from the webmasters. Unless the webmasters opt to create specific areas for these following topics, they shall be forbidden. If specific areas are created for these conversations, the conversation must be restricted to these areas and may not take place in other parts of the site. These topics include, but are not limited to:
Religion, including proselytising or attempting to prove/disprove the existence of a God/Gods
Kantian Rationalism
National Socialism
Homosexuality and transgender issues

Equally as important as the freedom of expression is the freedom to understand what has been expressed. Users are encouraged to communicate as clearly as possible, using standard (academic and mainstream colloquial) forms of the language they are communicating in. Using "net-speak" or other non-standard forms are discouraged since they contribute to miscommunication. Many of the members of the community are not native English speakers and extremely colloquial language or tortured grammar isolate them from the conversation. Similarly, many users require assistive technologies such as screen readers, non-standard forms of language are unintelligible for these tools and result in the users who depend on these tools being isolated from the community.

Spelling errors and typographic errors and grammar errors happen to even the most careful writers and are understood, but users should try to avoid common mistakes. Most modern web browsers have spell-check features that will catch simple spelling errors and users are encouraged to use them where possible. Users who are not native English speakers are encouraged to participate in the community to the best of their ability. Native English speakers with normal faculties who routinely refuse to facilitate clear communication may be removed from the community.

Unless clearly marked, English is the appropriate language for use on the site. Areas will be available for other languages as the staff is able to provide them.

Users are not permitted to harass, stalk, bully or abuse any other user via any third party systems. Substantiated claims of harassment may result in the offending users account being deleted or permanently disabled.

Any community depends on all the members of the community working together to solve problems. If a user is violating the TOS or AUP and the webmasters or staff have not been made aware of the issue, users are encouraged to help their community and report the issue through proper channels.

No community is perfect and people simply disagree on many issues. A community works together to solve the issues openly and in conversation. Some user related issues must remain private, but issues with how the community is run should be discussed openly. If a user has a genuine concern with the operation of the site then they are encouraged raise the concern on the site, in approved topics set aside for this purpose. Users who routinely opt to make disparaging remarks about the webmasters, the staff or the community at large outside the site need to consider if they really want to be part of the community at all and may be asked to leave if they continue to be apostate.

Copyright Concerns
Any content submitted by a user is owned by the submitter (or their parents, if they are under the age of 18). Users are exclusively responsible for ensuring that they are the rightful copyright owner before submitting any content to the site. By submitting any content the user (or their parents, if they are under the age of 18) is granting a perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, redistribute, archive and publish the submitted content.

Unless otherwise specified, work created by staff members for while acting in an official capacity are considered works-for-hire and the copyrights belong to the webmasters. This includes, but is not limited to user documentation, graphics and software. Content submitted by staff members when not acting in an official capacity is treated the same as content submitted by normal users. is not responsible for ensuring that the user submitting the content is in fact owned by the submitter. We will make a reasonable effort to identify content that is clearly owned by someone other than the submitter and proactively remove it. If a copyright claim is made concerning content submitted by a user, the burden of proof rests on the party bringing the claim. We will provide reasonable access to information to facilitate the claim being properly researched (who submitted the content and when, if possible). Please provide a description of the copyrighted work, with full URL (if available) where the work is visible; your address, telephone number and email address; the digital or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner’s interest and a statement by you, made under the penalty of pergury that the above information in your Notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf. If the claim can be validated we will remove the unauthorized content within 48 hours of definitive proof being provided.

Users are not allowed to link directly to copyrighted materials hosted on other sites unless that site has proper license to publish and distribute the content. This includes, but is not limited to, videos or movies on sites like or Google Videos. User may link directly to their own works, or other works that are properly licensed, hosted on these sites.

The owners of are the individuals who own the copyright to all content on the site that is not owned by users or third-parties. They also own the DNS domain name. The owners reserve a final veto over all decisions concerning the site and reserve the right to shut the site down.

The webmasters of are the owners and other individuals that pay for hosting. The webmasters work together, as their expertise allow, to ensure the stability and growth of the community. Decisions are normally made in conversation with the other webmasters. Where necessary, a simple majority vote is required for decision making. Under normal circumstances informal consent by one other webmaster is sufficient for operative decisions. In urgent situations any webmaster may make decisions in isolation.

The staff of are non-paid volunteers who have been given authority to act, in specified and limited ways, on behalf of the webmasters. There are many different staff positions and responsibilities. Very few staff members have access to private user data, and all of these have undergone a vetting process.

All registered users agree to allow the webmasters and staff members to contact them via private messaging mechanisms built into the site, and, in rare cases, via email or (if the user provides optional instant message system information) third party instant messaging systems. If the user contacts any staff member via email or a third party instant messaging system the user is granting that staff member permission to continue communicating with them via this mechanism until they specifically request the mechanism no longer be used.

Special Levels and Account Deletion
Some access levels exist for disciplinary or system-maintenance purposes. These include a level for accounts that are going to be deleted soon ("Delete Scheduled") a level for permanent revocation of access to the site for disciplinary reasons ("Blacklisted") and a level for temporary disciplinary actions ("Detention"). Users who are scheduled to be deleted may request their accounts be restored, at the discretion of the webmasters. Accounts that are scheduled for deletion for disciplinary reasons will not be restored. The process to delete accounts runs once a week. Once accounts are deleted there is no way to restore them.

Security Concerns
Users who violate rules of the site not directly addressed in the terms of service (such as in the FAQs or specific topic guidelines) may be disciplined by a variety of means, as the situation warrants, including but not limited to:
Public reprimand
Deduction of promotion points
Revocation of download quota
Reduction in level
Account deletion
Permanent revocation of access

Any attempts to bypass disciplinary decisions will result in the user being permanently and irrevocably forbidden to access the site.

To keep hosting costs in line with the site budget, some areas of the site have download quotas associated with them. This includes the image galleries and lists of files to download. Users are allocated additional quota monthly and are free to use as much of their quota as they want.

[We recognize users who have participated in the community for long periods of time by giving them promotion points. These points can be used by the users to increase access levels]

Users, once they have achieved appropriate levels, can create conversation topics, teams and other services. These user created items may be deleted, transfered to another user or locked if they become problematic.

To facilitate communication between the webmasters, staff and the community the site has a user senate comprised of users who have been selected to act as representatives of the community. The senate helps resolve disputes between users and the staff. The senate can adjust user punishments if they determine the staff acted unfairly. The senate cannot ever hear cases concerning decisions made directly by the webmasters. The webmasters can veto any decision made by the senate.

Bypassing, or attempting to bypass the security systems of the site will result in instant and unequivocal revocation of all access to the site and may result in legal action including criminal complaints and civil proceedings depending on the severity of the incident.

All transactions to the site are logged. These logs are retained and archived. These logs contain user identification, Internet protocol (IP) address, date and time information and many other data elements. Any and all log information will be turned over to the appropriate law enforcement in the case of security breech.

Site Funding
The site is funded primarily by advertising. Users are strongly encouraged to disable any ad blocking software, if possible, to support the community.

Donations to offset the cost of hosting are accepted. Those who donate are given access to a special team and a private conversation area and their support is indicated with a special icon ("badge") by their username on some screens. Two levels of donors exist to distinguish those who have recently/routinely donated from those who have donated in the past.

Users are not permitted to sell, auction, trade or offer-for-hire any goods or services. [need to read other TOS’s for ideas here]

Users are not permitted to post advertising hosted by services such as, but not limited to, Google AdSense or Doubleclick.

This document is copyright 2007 by Scot Bontrager for exclusive use on All rights reserved. If you wish to reuse this for your site, please contact scot at for permission and instructions on how to properly modify this to suit your needs.
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3000 words. There are a few small sections to fill in [in brackets] and I'm tired of looking at it. Start commenting in ernest and we'll get this thing kicked out ASAP.
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What about users linking to contests: such as "blingo" which is by publisher's clearing house using google, and is fairly legit; and other 'spread the word to 50 people and win a free iPod' less-legit/borderline scammy things?
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"Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, Mr. Creedy, there is an idea... and ideas ARE bulletproof!
nate: Are you going to include a clause to say "if you discover a flaw and abuse it and don't report it you get banned" sort of thing?

me: yeah we need that too.
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Cloudburst thought this would be useful:

Here is MySpace's section on selling in their ToS:

Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to:

2) advertising to, or solicitation of, any Member to buy or sell any products or services through the MySpace Services. You may not transmit any chain letters or junk email to other Members. It is also a violation of these rules to use any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to contact, advertise to, solicit, or sell to any Member without their prior explicit consent. In order to protect our Members from such advertising or solicitation, reserves the right to restrict the number of emails which a Member may send to other Members in any 24-hour period to a number which deems appropriate in its sole discretion. If you breach this Agreement and send unsolicited bulk email, instant messages or other unsolicited communications of any kind through the MySpace Services, you acknowledge that you will have caused substantial harm to, but that the amount of such harm would be extremely difficult to ascertain. As a reasonable estimation of such harm, you agree to pay $50 for each such unsolicited email or other unsolicited communication you send through the MySpace Services;

This may also be good to add to the section talking about users only having one account:

Password. When you sign up to become a Member, you will also be asked to choose a password. You are entirely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password. You agree not to use the account, username, or password of another Member at any time or to disclose your password to any third party. You agree to notify immediately if you suspect any unauthorized use of your account or access to your password. You are solely responsible for any and all use of your account.
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One at a time people!
There should also be something in there about how if you choose to buy/sell/trade/whatever with another member off-site, that is your own problem and will not be punishable/mediated on this site.

(Meaning that if a member, say, buys a bunch of stuff from me on my online store but doesn't pay and gives me bad feedback and all that, it isn't punishable here unless it is verifiable as a case of harassment.)

sentences that need editing:

" The webmasters reserve the right to sole right to change the terms of service at any time and the users agree to be bound by any such modification or revision when they are published. " first sentence, paragraph 9 of description of service

"If a user has a genuine concern with the operation of the site then they are encouraged raise the concern on the site, in approved topics set aside for this purpose." sentence 4, paragraph 9 of expression etc.

" Unless otherwise specified, work created by staff members for while acting in an official capacity are considered works-for-hire and the copyrights belong to the webmasters." first sentence, paragraph 2 of copyright concerns

whee nitpicking. those are all I caught.
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don't worry, it's all confidential
Need to make explicit that we can remove any content at any time for any reason. WE CAN DELETE YOUR POSTS EVEN THOUGH YOU OWN THEM--we have no obligation to use the license you've given us to publish them at this time, but may do so in the future.
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