What should be in your Community Terms?

** disclaimer** this is not a fool proof list and needs to be customized by a legal professional before any program is started.  The following are some guidelines to start with.

Legal considerations are one of the commonly cited reasons to not undertake a community adventure… so I thought I would start off directly.  Depending on the program you decide to implement… there are specific considerations for each tool below.  Overall there are several key components needed for an overall community.  The first and most basic is a terms of service/terms of use for the site.  This document should outline the following key items:

Who can use the site and to what extent.  Can anyone view the site, but only some people can participate?  What do you have to do to participate?  What limitations are there on who can participate (ie do they have to be a customer?).

  1. What is the purpose of the site and the acceptable uses.
  2. What are not acceptable activities and uses and how you will enforce them
  3. Who owns the content created (Intellectual Property considerations).
  4. Limiting the liability for policing all of the content on the site (use at your own risk)

In addition, you can add additional restrictions as people enhance their participation that ensures you keep the bases covered.  For example, you might want to ask for specific agreements before allowing a community member to participate in a closed beta test of new products.

Of course… your legal person will add a ton of mostly incomprehensible legal language to it… but you get the idea!

You can see examples of these documents on most any community.  Two I am familiar with are eBay and thwack documents.