Terms of Service need to drop the l33t speak

Now that Instagram has cleared up some of their more confusing wording and alleviated a lot of their users’ concerns, this whole saga has demonstrated two points:

  1. Companies such as Instagram need to start using clear and concise points to avoid losing users.
  2. Users don’t even know what rights they have in the current TOS.

Tumblr has a fantastic TOS, not necessarily in terms of the rights of the company vs user, but that they include a brief Tl;dr at the end of each major section summarising (in plain English) what it means, in case it was too confusing.

Here’s an example of Tumblr’s content licensing.

Subscriber Content License to Tumblr:

When you transfer Subscriber Content to Tumblr through the Services, you give Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), and create derivative works of (including, without limitation, by Reblogging, as defined below), such Subscriber Content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating the Services in accordance with their functionality, improving the Services, and allowing Tumblr to develop new Services. The reference in this license to “derivative works” is not intended to give Tumblr itself a right to make substantive editorial changes or derivations, but does enable Tumblr Subscribers to redistribute Subscriber Content from one Tumblr blog to another in a manner that allows Subscribers to, e.g., add their own text or other Content before or after your Subscriber Content (“Reblogging”).

And here’s their brief summary posted directly after:

When you upload your creations to Tumblr, you grant us a license to make that content available in the ways you’d expect from using our services (for example, via your blog, RSS, the Tumblr Dashboard, etc.). We never want to do anything with your content that surprises you.

Something else worth noting: Countless Tumblr blogs have gone on to spawn books, films, albums, brands, and more. We’re thrilled to offer our support as a platform for our creators, and we’d never claim to be entitled to royalties or reimbursement for the success of what you’ve created. It’s your work, and we’re proud to be a part (however small) of what you accomplish.

Sometimes the legal speak can’t be avoided but having a nice explanation detailing how this relates to the user is great.

However, it doesn’t matter how clear and concise or easy to understand a TOS is if the user doesn’t read it. The Instagram revolt merely highlighted that poor communication from a company and the lack of understanding by the user can create a mountain out of a molehill.