Why waste a lot of time for no reason, right?
Those terms and conditions on a similar business’ website looks like they should be okay… Their business is fairly similar to yours…. Why not just copy and paste them, and change the business name?
There are a few good reasons why this is not a clever idea.
#Inspo is okay, flat out copying is not
If you search other similar business websites to assess which kinds of topics to cover or to see the level of detail of the conditions, that is generally okay. This is sensible in fact. You should regularly research what your colleagues and competitors are including in their business conditions. They might have dealt with an issue in your industry that you have not yet experienced (but are highly likely to soon!). Reading and research are important due diligence to keep on top of business trends.
Getting this kind of research or inspiration from other various sites this is okay, however bulk copying and pasting could be a breach of copyright and that’s not okay.
If you copy and paste text from a website and claim it as your own, it is likely to be a breach of intellectual property rights of the website owner. Copyright is a kind of intellectual property which attaches to written content (like this lil’ article I am writing to you right now… #meta).
If you copy content from other websites without any attempt to refine, redesign, and re-work for your business, it’s likely to be spotted.
Imagine the person who you have copied was to publicly call you out on it! More than just embarrassment and having to get write your own terms anyway…. You now have public shame that might be up on social media forever…
If you copy from competitors or colleagues or friends, it could come back to bite your reputation and credibility as a business owner and as a professional.
Your values and integrity
Mindlessly copying content is the cheat’s way out.
Think about your values as a business owner… if you don’t let your clients get away with cutting corners or not putting in the work, why would you take the slacker’s way?
Acting with integrity can often be a reward in itself, bringing you to the attention of like-minded clients and collaborators.
At Checklist Legal, we work with clients who share our values of Simplicity, Creativity, and Serious Fun. These values guide us in what we do and we try to always live up to those values.
As legal professionals, we also have to stick to specific rules of conduct and ethical standards. We meet these requirements and make it clear to our clients that we always act with integrity. If our clients know we don’t divulge other work, they can rest assured we won’t breach their confidence either.
What are your business values?
Do you want to be the business owner who copies content blindly? Do you want to repost ideas that aren’t your own under your brand and ‘hope’ no one finds out…? Do you think it’s okay because ‘everyone else’ is doing it…?
You might not have written out your values on paper, but even if you haven’t written them out, the way you act and how you conduct your business demonstrates the values that you hold.
Make sure your business practices match up to your business values.
Promising something you can’t deliver… I said I’d do what??
Just like exercise equipment or a subscription to a fitness app…. Having business terms *there* isn’t what matters.
You need to actively engage with your business terms, understand them, update them, talk about them with your customers. You have to pick the weights up and use them for them to have any effect!
Copying any old terms and conditions for your business isn’t going to protect your business as strongly as up-to-date, carefully thought out terms and conditions would.
And, in some instances, copy/paste Ts & Cs might actually do your business more harm than good!
If you copy and paste your way to business terms and conditions, you might end up with some very random conditions that don’t even apply to your business.
If you don’t have the practices and processes in place to actually do the things that you say you’ll do in your business terms, you are breaking your promise to your customers and collaborators.
If an issue crops up, you could breach your own contract terms or business policies! Clients might ask you to do something it is set out in your business terms and conditions but you didn’t know about them because you didn’t bother to read… you just copied and pasted without reviewing or getting advice!
Having the wrong terms is worse than no terms in many ways because you’re making promises to your customers and clients which you might have no intention of keeping!
This can lead to reputation problems, bad reviews, complaints, wasted time, and even formal disputes that can get expensive! Far more expensive than getting help with your own terms and conditions from a business advisor or legal professional in the first place!
Solid business terms and conditions are like having an extra employee that knows their stuff!
When you do the work to get clear, current terms and conditions for your business, you can end up with documents that you’re really proud to show to clients.
A website is like having an extra employee, especially for small businesses! A website is like that happy employee that’s working around the clock to promote your business to new customers.
But imagine you had an employee that wasn’t able to tell your customers what your standard business rules are… that would be like having an employee that doesn’t tell a potential client what your service inclusions are
Having a business without business terms means your website isn’t working as hard as what it could at protecting you and helping your business run smoothly.
Should you DIY terms and conditions?
Every business needs to prioritise spending and make sure they get a good return on their investment. There is no rule that says all business documents must be drafted by a lawyer. It is possible for you to create your own business terms and conditions. It might take you a little longer to get them right, and you might miss a few things, but if you are absolutely strapped for cash, you can try to DIY your terms and conditions.
If you are going to look around the web for inspiration, put in the time to actually step through the details and understand your obligations. There is so much helpful content available on complying with legal obligations online. There are lots of workshops and webinars you could go to or just search and read.
Of course, we would always recommend at least getting a steer in the right direction from a trained business or legal advisor to make sure you aren’t missing key issues or exposing yourself to risks you can avoid.
Ready to talk about stepping up your business terms and conditions?
FYI only… reading stats for this post…