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Draft Terms of Service
querki
jducoeur wrote in querki_project
I'm in the process of looking for a good lawyer to work on this stuff, but that's going to take a little while, and I do want to get a few more people into Alpha. And I do feel the need for at least *some* Terms of Service before that. Frankly, the legal CYA entirely aside, a good ToS can help make priorities clear and explicit, and help people understand what is considered okay.

So here's a first-draft ToS, looking for comment. It is explicitly not the final word on the subject -- I fully expect it to be taken apart by the lawyers and rebuilt more solidly. But I think it's getting to the point of adequately saying what I mean.

Draft Terms of Service for Querki
=================================

Welcome to Querki! These Terms of Service govern your access to and use of the service.
By using or accessing Querki and the Spaces, Things and Pages contained in it, you agree to
these Terms, which will be periodically updated as the service evolves. When these Terms are
updated, you will be notified the next time you log into Querki.

Querki is used to manage information ("Things" or "Pages"), which are contained in "Spaces".
Each Space has a single Owner, and may be shared with other Users as that Owner sees fit.
Responsibility for the management of a Space, or management of particular aspects of a Space,
may be delegated to other Users by its Owner. However, the Owner retains final control of,
and responsibility for, their Spaces.

Querki is a rapidly-evolving system, and the services provided by it may change from time
to time without notice to you.

### Intellectual Property

You retain ownership of the information that you enter into Spaces you own in Querki, and
may modify or delete that information as you see fit. Information entered into Spaces owned
by other Users is considered to be owned by them, and they may modify or delete it as they
choose.

All content of a Space or Thing is the responsibility of that Space's Owner. We may not
monitor or control the content of these Spaces or Things, and cannot take responsibility
for that content. Under no circumstances will Querki be liable for any content, including, but
not limited to, any errors or omissions in that content, or any loss or damage resulting
from use of that content.

### Public and Private Spaces

Spaces and Things in Querki may be designated as "Public" or "Private".

A Public Space or Thing is considered to be viewable by anyone with access to Querki,
including Web users who are not otherwise Users of Querki. This does not imply that all
of these people can modify your information, merely see it. Querki reserves the right to
display advertising on Public Spaces and Things, which may be targeted based on their
contents; such advertising may depend on the membership status of the Owner and reader,
as well as other factors.

A Private Space or Thing may only be viewed by those Users designated by the Space's Owner.
Querki will not resell or intentionally redistribute for profit the information contained
in Private Spaces or Things, and will not display advertisements on them.

Querki may limit the number of Private Spaces and Things that you own, depending on your
membership status and other factors.

### Privacy

Querki makes a good-faith effort to maintain the security and privacy of your personal
information, and of Spaces and Things which you have designated as Private. However,
Querki assumes no liability for disclosure of information designated as Private, and
is not intended for high-security applications.

You are responsible for protecting the password or other credentials that you use to
access Querki, and for any actions performed when using those credentials. We encourage
you to always use strong, difficult-to-guess passwords on Querki and other services,
especially on social networks and other services which may be used to log into Querki.

Querki will cooperate with properly executed subpoenas and warrants from law enforcement,
and assumes no responsibility for information that is disclosed as a result.

### Prohibited Content

While Querki does not monitor the content of Spaces and Things in it, we expect Users
to abide by some general rules of conduct. In particular, illegal and abusive content
or conduct are prohibited, including but not limited to the following:

* You may not use Querki to threaten or plan violence against others.
* You may not use Querki to deliberately harass or intimidate others. In particular,
you may not circumvent another person's attempts to remove you from a Space which
they own.
* You may not use Querki to impersonate others in a way that is intended to mislead
or deceive.
* You may not use Querki to violate copyright or trademark law. We will respond to
clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement, but do not assume
responsibility to police Querki against such infringements.
* You may not post obscene or pornographic materials in Querki.
* You may not engage in "handle squatting" -- that is, you may not claim a Querki Handle
for the sole purpose of denying its use by others, or for extorting others who wish
to use it.
* You may not use Querki for sending any sort of "spam" -- that is, you may not use the service
to send unsolicited emails. You should only send invitations to people who you know,
and who you have specific reason to believe will want those invitations. Repeatedly
sending invitations is considered to be spam, as is using Querki's invitation mechanism
for sending unsolicited commercial email. We specifically reserve the right to decide
what constitutes spam.

Violations of these rules may result in suspension or revocation of your account, and/or
suspension or deletion of your Spaces.

### Limitation of Liability

WE TRY TO KEEP QUERKI SECURE, BUG-FREE, AND RUNNING, BUT YOU USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.
WE PROVIDE THE SERVICE AS-IS, WITHOUT ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTEES. WE CAN NOT
GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL BE UP AT ANY GIVEN TIME, NOR THAT PRIVATE INFORMATION CANNOT
BE DISCLOSED.

TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE TOTAL LIABILITY OF QUERKI, FOR ANY CLAIMS UNDER
THESE TERMS, IS LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT YOU PAID US TO USE THE SERVICE. IN ALL CASES,
QUERKI WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE THAT IS NOT REASONABLY FORESEEABLE.

Opinions? Suggestions? I'm working on the machinery to display the ToS now, and hope to get them up in the next day or so...
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"You retain ownership of the information that you enter into Spaces you own in Querki, and
may modify or delete that information as you see fit. Information entered into Spaces owned
by other Users is considered to be owned by them, and they may modify or delete it as they
choose."

It took me a while to parse the above. In general, I recommend avoiding pronouns when striving for clarity. The "them" in the second sentence took a while to properly decode.

As to the actual content, I am not sure that this is entirely consistent with US notions of copyright. If I write something in a Space of yours, I'm pretty sure I still maintain copyright of that material. On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that the Space Owner should have the right to change the contents of the Space as he sees fit. It's just the use of the word "ownership" that seems off to me here.

"All content of a Space or Thing is the responsibility of that Space's Owner."

That seems reasonable at the sort of small scale that you're starting out at. I suspect that it will cause problems with certain attempts to create larger-scale uses of Querki down the line. On the other hand, by making it eplicit in the ToS, perhaps you have some chance of causing people to think about those issues before they actually result in lawsuits.

"Querki will cooperate with properly executed subpoenas and warrants from law enforcement,
and assumes no responsibility for information that is disclosed as a result."

This is a reasonable position to take. I commend to your attention a notion that many libraries and public web sites have adopted in recent years. In order to put a slight brake on invasive government requests with gag orders, they publically post (and, when appropriate, remove) signs saying things like "This institution has not secretly released any information to government or law enforcement authorities. Please watch for this sign to be removed."

"You may not post obscene or pornographic materials in Querki."

Huh. Now that you mention it, porn is inherently a subject that lends itself well to tagging, and to allowing multiple views into a collection based on those tags. Oh well.

(Deleted comment)
you may want to include that you reserve the right to require that a particular Space be "Private" if it is in the best interests of your company.

Interesting -- that concept had not even occurred to me, but you may be right. I'll chew on that -- thanks!

I vote we call it "Twerki."

Hah!

It took me a while to parse the above. In general, I recommend avoiding pronouns when striving for clarity. The "them" in the second sentence took a while to properly decode.

Okay, that makes sense.

It's just the use of the word "ownership" that seems off to me here.

Interesting point -- I may have to take this one up with a lawyer once I've got one retained. There are potentially conflicting definitions of "ownership" involved here.

That seems reasonable at the sort of small scale that you're starting out at. I suspect that it will cause problems with certain attempts to create larger-scale uses of Querki down the line. On the other hand, by making it eplicit in the ToS, perhaps you have some chance of causing people to think about those issues before they actually result in lawsuits.

Just so. And it's not just blowing smoke: Querki is going to be pretty serious about accountability. It's still nascent, but the plan is to give the owner both the responsibility to curate their Space properly, and the tools to do so. (Moderation is going to be an absolutely *central* mechanism in the long run, I believe, and not just for conversations.)

This is, I confess, rather an experiment -- I suspect that people aren't used to the notion of responsibility in their online presence. But I think that Querki kind of demands that if it's going to work well, so I want to be upfront about it.

This is a reasonable position to take. I commend to your attention a notion that many libraries and public web sites have adopted in recent years. In order to put a slight brake on invasive government requests with gag orders, they publically post (and, when appropriate, remove) signs saying things like "This institution has not secretly released any information to government or law enforcement authorities. Please watch for this sign to be removed."

I would *love* to know whether or not that actually works. One big problem in this arena is that it isn't even clear how the government's threats work, since even publicizing the letters is illegal. It's sadly plausible that they simply choose to interpret taking the sign down as illegal publication, and have the authority to make it stick.

I've thought about doing something like that, and it's yet possible that I might do so. But at the moment, I'm considering it to be premature. Right now, I'm just going to call a spade a spade: I don't intend to be intimidated by government fishing expeditions if I can at all avoid it, but if they dot their i's and cross their t's properly, I probably will not make a crusade of resisting them. (Especially if I have any reason to believe that they really do have probable cause. I am leery of the NSA et al abusing their powers, but have no doubt that there are some actual threats out there.)

Huh. Now that you mention it, porn is inherently a subject that lends itself well to tagging, and to allowing multiple views into a collection based on those tags. Oh well.

Yeah -- it's a topic that I *have* to be explicit about, given the first law of the Internet. (The first use of any new tech is porn.) I'd actually prefer *not* to make this rule, but my impression is that the ecosystem is going to require it: if nothing else, my impression is that the mainstream payment processors will demand it. And if I expect to be strong-armed into the limitation, I'd rather be upfront about that now, so people set their expectations appropriately.

That said, the wording is quite deliberate. I expect that explicit images and text will cross the line, but I am *not* nearly as sure about, eg, links to explicit material, and I will get cranky if PayPal tries to make a stink about, eg, people making an inventory of their personal DVD collection. I can't say with confidence where the distinction will eventually fall, but I *hope* that metadata doesn't prove to be a problem, and the wording above is intended that way...

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