Can I just copy a site's privacy policy and terms of service and do a global search & replace for the name? They all pretty much say the same thing anyways.

2 Answers 2


They all pretty much say the same thing anyways.

That's a bad legal error to make on two counts:

1) All written material on a website (or really anywhere, be it a book, magazine, App, etc.) is copyrighted from the moment of creation. Read I have a question about copyright. What should I read before I ask it? You could be liable for copyright infringement if someone finds you have copied their work.

2) Privacy policies and terms of services for websites, businesses and governmental entities are more than likely drafted by lawyers, paid to cover all the bases in terms of privacy, liability and as such are legally water-tight (as much as possible) to protect both the entity and the user, like you. They are individually written for each entity because the legal devil is in the details of each service or business, and each and all liabilities must be addressed.

"...all pretty much say the same thing" isn't correct. They don't all say exactly the same thing. (Caveat: unless they're generated by a service, see below).

If you copy and paste, you run the risk of being liable for what you excluded or otherwise didn't consider in your policies, as those policies are now your legal documents, and are contracts for use of your service. See What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid? . (As well as being liable for copyright infringement).

Google will show you all kinds of services such as https://termsfeed.com/terms-service/generator/ These are useful for personal sites where your liability is nil and privacy is mostly moot if you don't collect data on visitors or allow them to contribute to the site. Such services require you to sign away liability to use their policies.

But if you're running a real business with real money and user content, you have real liability, so get a lawyer.

  • I wouldn't be as unequivocal. For example, law firms that have tried to assert copyrights in their demand letters have not prevailed. In the area of law, expression of an idea may have to have a certain form in order to have a particular precedent established legal effect, and the need not to protect the idea may trump the protection for its expression. This might even be justified on the "lack of creative content" even though that justification doesn't really square with the case law in other areas. It would be almost unprecedented to sue for infringement of TOS/privacy policy language.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 20, 2017 at 20:38
  • 1
    True, and I doubt anyone would ever sue over a copied TOS unless there was an ulterior motive. I answered in a by-the-book fashion; I think if I would have answered in a "maybe" fashion, that maybe copying a TOS would be copyright infringement, I would get comments protesting that. It can be a gray area. Apr 21, 2017 at 16:27
  • My city's website has many pages that were likely copied from elsewhere. When they did the search and replace for the city name, they missed a few instances. That said, the wrong city name is a rare city name, so perhaps they purchased templates from a vendor that provides such things to cities. Sep 13, 2023 at 14:09

No. As literary works they have copyright protection.

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