You’re not going to love this answer, but it’s a resounding NO–you can’t copy and paste Terms and Conditions.
You can’t copy and paste Privacy Policies, either.
I know it’s tempting. They all have the same stuff in them, don’t they?
Who cares if you just “borrow” someone else’s website policies as long as you change the pertinent information to reflect your website’s name and URL?
The short answer is: the law cares.
It’s not only a copyright issue to copy and paste policies or any other type of contract verbatim (which is usually indicated within those very same documents that are being copied and pasted, by the way)…
But it could also damage your brand.
**And just before we get into how it damages your brand:
Everything I share is legal education and information. It’s not business, financial, or legal advice, and it doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship between us.
Please chat with an attorney in your area to make sure you’re protecting your business.**
Why you shouldn’t “borrow” someone else’s website policies (or contracts) as your own
Okay, picture this:
You have a fancy event to dress up for, so you borrow your bestie’s beautiful Louboutin shoes that are a size too small. (Those red soles just call to you, you know?)
But half an hour into the evening, you realize this isn’t going to end well for your poor, swollen, pinched feet.
That’s basically what it’s like when you do a quick Google search for free legal templates or “borrow” your legal documents from someone else.
It’s not going to end well for you or your business because those terms don’t fit quite right.
Copyright law protects original works of authorship upon creation–no registration required. (Although you can register for copyright rights, but that’s a deeper dive for another blog post.)
You’ll often see a copyright symbol that looks like this: ©
It’s really just to put people on notice that something is your Intellectual Property, but it doesn’t have to be included in order for your original work of authorship to be protected under copyright law.
The policy or document you’re considering borrowing is covered under law as Intellectual Property, and the owner is within their rights to legally pursue you for infringement if you copy their work.
Another issue with copying someone else’s policies is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It’s the FTC’s job to hold businesses to their promises.
So if you leave something in your policies that could be considered misleading because it doesn’t apply to your business but rather to the business you copied it from, you could land in hot water with the FTC.
Basically, you could be found guilty of false marketing/advertising.
So what happens if the terms don’t actually apply to your business?
You won’t be able to enforce the terms of your contract if a legal issue arises.
In other words–you won’t be protected. It’s basically the equivalent of having no contract at all.
Seriously, you may as well leave the policies off your website at that point.
(And you know an attorney means business if they say something like that.)
One more question to ask yourself is–do you understand what’s in the policy you’re copying if it’s not yours?
And does it even apply to your industry?!
An important aspect of any contract is that you’re able to explain the terms and conditions to your clients/customers.
If you can’t, who knows what you’re asking them to sign?
OR what rights you’re unwittingly signing away yourself.
“Sharing” templates is another no-go
Okay, so you get it now.
You can’t copy and paste someone else’s documents.
But what about splitting the cost of a purchased template with a business buddy instead?
That initially can feel a lot more honest. You’re putting effort into customizing your own template, you’re just making the most of it by sharing it with someone else who can also customize it for their brand.
The catch with that:
Chances are the policies from where the template was purchased say you can’t.
Good contracts have Intellectual Property clauses baked right in, so you’d be violating the agreement you made when you bought said template.
And then, you’ve opened yourself (and your business buddy) up to lawsuits.
The bottom line: it’s not worth your brand to copy and paste Terms and Conditions
Or any other kind of legal document/contract.
I seriously can’t stress this enough:
Just don’t do it.
You have way better options to choose from.
Case in point– you can head over to the legal shop and grab your own customizable template made specifically for your industry and feel good about making the smart move for your brand.