Wouldn’t it be nice if terms of service agreements were written in plain English
Do you ever wonder what you are agreeing to when you just click the ‘agree’ button on all of the terms of service agreements on social networks or web services? I normally don’t. I just agree and move on, but what if you were signing away the rights to your images, photos, and content? As an artist this is a scary thought. It’s hard to tell what your signing up for these days unless you want to read a 30 page document. “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the internet or so say the organizers of a new site call ToS;DR. Not the catchiest name, but the name is inspired by the internet acronym TL;DR which means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. The site is still pretty new so you might not find the social network or web service you’re looking for. ToS;DR is a crowd sourced site that takes the lengthy terms of service agreements on websites and breaks then down into a convenient bulleted list. The best part is they write in plain english removing the legal jargon. The site doesn’t claim to give legal advice and says “we express our opinion with no guarantee and we do not endorse any service in any way.” Their work is funded by non-profits and individual donations. The information gets released as free software and open data.
ToS;DR assigns sites a class based on a point system. Each service gets a series of badges, either Good, Mediocre, Alert, or Informative; depending on how fair they are compared to other services. When they tally all the points, each service gets assigned a class.
Class A – The best terms of services: they treat you fairly, respect your rights and will not abuse your data.
Class B – The terms of services are fair towards the user but they could be improved.
Class C – The terms of service are okay but some issues need your consideration.
Class D – The terms of service are very uneven or there are some important issues that need your attention.
Class E – The terms of service raise very serious concerns.
No Class Yet – We haven’t sufficiently reviewed the terms yet.
Here’s a good example of a service that has been graded, its called Twitpic. As of Aug 25, 2012 TwitPic was given a Class E, which means the service has very serious concerns. Twitpic is a website that allows users to easily post pictures to the Twitter service. Which in their 1,561 word terms of service TL;DR has found that; “Your content is for Twitpic and their partners”, “Deleted images are not really deleted”, “You indemnify Twitpic from any claim related to your content”, and “Twitpic takes credit for your content.” WOW! After learning this as an artist I personally don’t think I will use this service. I’m not saying that Twitpic will use my drawings for anything, but they could and would have every legal right to. Take one of your favorite services and see what kind of class it is assigned by ToS;DR.
ToS;DR has reminded me that when I click the “I have read and agree to the Terms” button I should not assume my art is safe. So take a minute and use ToS;DR to make sure that your art work stays yours.