It’s a Saturday evening, I’m in Dusseldorf airport, on my way home from a truly exceptional startup event. A great day on top of yet another great week nerding along. Life is good. Except it isn’t. I am in despair.
Three times in the last week, entrepreneurs told me that they were waiting for legal opinions before launching.
- One wants to use the logos of the brands he sells on his web-store, but is afraid of what the brands will say
- The second has a super slick sign up process, but having the user tick a ToS acceptance, totally wrecks the process, and with it the product
- The third stores user data, and wants to be sure that he complies with the data protection legislation
Let’s start with Terms of Service. You want users to sign off on them. You trick them into ticking a little obscure box, in front of 56 pages of mumbo jumbo. You ask the lawyer to make a ToS that is watertight. The lawyer sends you a bill for ten thousand. Everyone who comes along signs up, and all is good. Except it isn’t. If you break the law, then whatever you write won’t help — and, if you don’t seriously screw up, it doesn’t matter – most judges are actually pretty reasonable. So its close to a waste of time, and of course it’s catastrophic if it breaks the product.
Writing mumbo jumbo never absolves you from behaving decently and actually, it shouldn’t. So, why not figure a different point in the process to tell the customer what you want to say and explain your policies.
Can you imagine you had to sign something every time you walked into a store in the shopping mall?
Next, you have an e-commerce store. You want to put the logo of the products you sell on the welcome page to the site. Ask Adidas? No. Just put them there. Show respect for their brand… sell the Adidas clothes. Assume they are happy. But, don’t ask a lawyer. He’ll tell you you are probably ok, but there is a risk that the brand may possibly be able to perhaps sue you for something he can’t quite put his finger on now. Except they won’t. First they won’t notice — and when they do, what is going to happen? They will write to you. Four choices
- write back asking for some money for all the lead generation you are doing for them
- apologise and take their logo off
- ignore them
- writing back telling them what you think of them, as per The Pirate Bay
Two things are for sure — even if you took option d, you’ll have time to react and you won’t be going to prison.
Finally, what about user data. It’s simple. Figure what everyone else does. Ask your mentors what they do. Read the internetz, figure what Paypal do. Just do what everyone else does.
So, get on with it. Please create a great product that folk love, behave in a way that you and your employees can genuinely defend, and use your money on customer service not lawyers.
In fact, to steal a trademark’d phrase : Just Do It