Why do terms of service and privacy policies need to exist?
[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]e’ve all clicked through these boring legal documents that seem to be an ever-present barrier to fun. However, just because no one actually reads them doesn’t mean that they aren’t vitally important for your mobile game. Here’s why:
There are a few key reasons to have a Terms of Service for your website or mobile app.
Defining the business relationship:
Yes, games are fun. But if you are putting a product out there in the world, you are entering into a business relationship with the user. Just like any business relationship, getting it in writing is necessary so there is no confusion as to the boundaries and terms of that relationship.
For instance, if your app uses virtual currency, is there a value to it outside of the game? Can a customer get a refund if they have an issue with the virtual money? What happens if something erases their profile? All of these questions should be answered in the Terms of Service, to avoid any uncertainty going forward.
Other issues, like User Generated Content and how a person acts in-game should be addressed in order to give the app creator the power to terminate accounts and take other action against infringers.
Protection from copyright claims:
In order to get protection under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the service provider must list their agent that receives copyright complaints. This is usually done in the Terms of Service, along with a description of what information must be provided in the DMCA takedown notice.
Never underestimate the power of a user to do something dumb. For those that, for whatever reason, rely on the mobile app or game for some important purpose, it is important that the Terms of Service limit any liability. As a basic example, suppose that a person pays $1.99 for an alarm clock app. The alarm fails to work properly and the person misses an opportunity that could have gained them a lot of income. Regardless of whether such a lawsuit has any merit, by agreeing to not hold the app creator liable, they are essentially giving up their right to sue over these damages.
When the app creator is a sole proprietor, limiting liability by contract is very important to protect their personal assets from a lawsuit.
It’s the law:
In addition to this, the EU and many U.S. states have data privacy laws that must be followed. An attorney should be consulted prior to taking any personal information from users.
Again, it defines the relationship with the user: