I'm a sole developer, building a platform in which users can trade intellectual property. (Is it called IP? stuff like music, art etc.)

How would I go about mediating this without being sued left, right and center?

Would I need to hire a lawyer to write up a terms of service for me, or could I manually create rules that the users agree to follow? Would they be legally bound, as with a proper TOS?

  • "Would they be legally bound, as with a proper TOS?" - Just because a term appears in a Terms of Service for some definition of "proper" does not mean it is binding. It depends on the actual term and the jurisdiction. – Brandin Feb 14 '18 at 9:28
  • You need to hire a lawyer to do this. You shouldn't even remotely consider doing it yourself. What you are contemplating is considerably more complex legally than an ordinary website. And, honestly, even using existing templates even an ordinary TOS done well involves some pretty sophisticated legal drafting issues. – ohwilleke Mar 17 '18 at 2:42

You probably have to hire a lawyer, if you have to ask. But he might tell you to read the TOSes for a bunch of websites that are similar to the ones which you have in mind, and pay attention to the recurring themes (also the differences). Let's just assume that you have a TOS that you like, so does that solve your problem? Not entirely, because you also have to get users to agree to these terms, so legally (and technologically) speaking, how do you do that? What do you have to do to prove that a user has agreed to these terms. These are not questions that you can figure out from reading a TOS.

The lawyer will probably advise you about handling DMCA takedown and counter-notice (which would not be part of a TOS), also explain about due diligence requirements when it comes to copyright infringement and child pornography. I presume that you don't intend to distribute child porn, but your intentions don't limit what a miscreant user can do (though prior manual moderator approval could solve some problems, though creating others). There is really no way to keep from getting sued, but you could and should do things to keep from getting sued right and left, which the lawyer would tell you about (one hopes).

  • I read up on click/browse-wrap, regarding proving agreement of TOS – Tobi Feb 13 '18 at 14:41

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