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Have You Ever Read the WordPress.com Terms of Service?

Every website should have some kind of guidelines; WordPress.com is no exception. The WordPress.com Terms of Service for WordPress.com members aren’t all that long when compared to other Terms of Service such as iTunes. It starts with “The Gist” section and gives a good overview of what the terms cover and what WordPress is about.

The Terms of Service are broken down into 20 sections; each is not overly large and is worded in simple English.  There is a long note informing the reader that you can reuse these terms of service for your own use but to remember to change references from WordPress to refer to yourself or whoever is appropriate.

The first thing you need to know is that these are the terms of service for WordPress.com and WordPress.com users. If your site is hosted on WordPress.com, you must comply with these rules and legal policies. The do not apply to those with the self-hosted version of WordPress. Those people have to comply with the terms of service for their web host companies, which may or may not be similar.

By posting on a WordPress blog, you have agreed to adhere to these rules; so make it a point to get familiar with them.

The individual sections are:

1. Your WordPress.com Account and Site

This section is telling you that you are responsible for the content of your site and you are responsible for maintain the security of your site.

It says that you cannot intentionally mislead your audience and that you need to notify Automattic of any unauthorized use of your blog.

This section also states that Automattic holds no responsibility for any of you actions or omissions.

2. Responsibility of Contributors

This is a very important section to read. It is broken up into nine bullet points and a few paragraphs. Of all the sections, you need to read this one in its entirety.

This section lays out all the details about copyright rights and what is, or is not, appropriate to post. We are all getting comfortable (perhaps too much so) sharing other people’s content, but be careful what you repost and pay attention to who has the rights to anything you post; don’t get yourself in trouble.

3. Payment and Renewal

Of course, you must have the obligatory section about the root of all evil, money. If you are planning on simply using the free services, you might just skip this section; it is only two paragraphs. If you chose to subscribe to any of the WordPress features or to upgrade any existing paid services, you will want to read this section.

4. VIP Services

If you plan on using the Hosting or Support services, they have their own set Terms of Service, you should look those over and get familiar with them. The WordPress.com VIP program provides cloud hosting, high levels of support and training, and the equivalent of a self-hosted site features supported and backed by top notch WordPress experts and developers.

5. Firehose

This is a section that most personal users won’t have to worry about. WordPress Firehose is a developer level service, and, if you are going to make use of it, you will definitely need to read all three parts of this section, Fees; Payments, Permitted Use, and Restricted Use.

6. Responsibility of Website Visitors

When you are visiting a WordPress site, there may be some content or statements that may be inappropriate and/or harmful or some or all of the content has violated property rights. There is so much content on WordPress that they cannot monitor all of it. So, this section is basically absolving WordPress of any liability due to damages from any malicious software or hidden viruses contained in anything posted or linked to any WordPress blog.

7. Content Posted on Other Websites

Like me, you may be a bit surprised that this section even has to exist. This section says that Automattic has no control over non-WordPress sites that may be linked to a WordPress site. If there is a link to a website on a WordPress blog, do not make any assumptions as to whether it is a “clean” or trusted site just due to the fact that it is linked to a WordPress site. As with the entire internet, you click on links at your own risk.

8. Copyright Infringement and DMCA Policy

There may be times when you have seen your copyrighted work that has been republished on someone else’s site. If you do, the DMCA policy is the proper channel to use to rectify the situation. This is Automattic’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Policy, and, if you violate it, you may have access to your site terminated and no recourse for a refund.

9. Intellectual Property

In this section Automattic says, just because you have a WordPress service (paid for or not), you do NOT have rights to reproduce, repost or to use any logo or image from WordPress or any of the third party logos or graphics. If you don’t think you can use an image, don’t; and, if you think you can, check the permissions and ownership first. This is another issue where ignorance is not an excuse.

10. Advertisements

WordPress has to make money somehow, right? When you have a no-cost service of any kind, you should anticipate something will happen to help the company make money. If you’re not a subscriber to any of the paid services, and you haven’t paid for the ad-free upgrade, expect to see some ads on your blog; deal with it or pay the price!

11. Attribution

Even if you have a paid account, there is no way to remove the WordPress attributions such as the footer and toolbar.

12. Friends of WP.com Themes

If you use the “Friends of WP.com” partner theme, you are agreeing to the Friend of WP.com Terms of Service. Duh.

Okay, so maybe not duh. If their terms of service conflicts or adds more to the policies, you better read the fine print.

13. Domain Names

If you are registering a domain name or using or transferring a previously registered domain name, you are still subject to the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) Registration Rights and Responsibilities.

14. Changes

The powers that be at Automattic can change any portion of this agreement at any time, without notifying you. It is up to you to check these Terms of Service every so often because, when the terms change, you are agreeing to these new changes as well.

15. Termination

Automattic can terminate your account at any time for any reason. If you do decide to terminate your account or have your account deleted, all of the ownership and copyright permissions for any and all content still apply.

16. Disclaimer of Warranties

There are absolutely no warranties on WordPress. Even if you are using a paid account, Automattic cannot guarantee a 100% error free experience.

This is actually a nice addition, and fair. Too many companies claim 99.99% uptime, guarantees, and promises they cannot keep. Automattic claims that the world of the Internet isn’t a perfect, or even nearly perfect place. Things happen. Live with it or get over it.

17. Limitation of Liability

This is a section to let you know that Automattic holds zero liability for any corruption of data or any damages, incidental or consequential.

18. General Representation and Warranty

This section is simply stating that you will administer your account, not only in accordance will all of these regulations, but also with all local and federal laws and ordinances.

19. Indemnification

This whole section is only one sentence. You are agreeing to not try to hold Automattic, its contractors, and its licensors, and their respective directors, officers, employees and agents from any monetary losses (which include lawsuits) from the use of your site. Most commercial websites and web hosts have this policy, so it’s become a standard.

20. Miscellaneous

This section is all legal jargon, It sums up all of the loose ends that may not have been covered in the preceding terms. It starts with a statement saying that this agreement is the entire agreement between you and Automattic and can “only be changed by a signed written amendment signed by an authorized executive of Automattic, or by the posting by Automattic of a revised version”. Read and re-read this section; then you will have a vague idea of what this section is saying.

At the very end there is a change log that lists all of the changes to the Terms of Service since 2009. This section might not seem all too important, but I have a feeling this section is significant. This is the first time I have read an entire terms of service agreement and I feel like I should spend more time reading these because there is a lot of intricate conditions laid out in them.

It’s like a history lesson. As the web, web publishing, and social media has grown and evolved, and WordPress has grown with it all, things change. It’s nice to see a record of what came before and how we got here.

There you go. The WordPress.com Terms of Service explained in a nutshell. No more excuses!

One thought on “Have You Ever Read the WordPress.com Terms of Service?”

  1. I actually read the Terms of Service several times before deciding to move my main site (linked to my name) here – some of the TOS I found a bit difficult. I had a couple of test sites here with not much content on them before I moved, but before moving quite a pile of my own writing here I really needed to understand the property rights and what I could ad could not do.

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