Free Sample Acceptable Use Policy Template

Organizations and companies which rely on internal and external networks, websites, and internet access need a good balance between cyber safety and productivity. An acceptable use policy (AUP) outlines what end users can or cannot do. It helps protect and guide all involved stakeholders.

In this day and age, all online businesses and websites should invest in an acceptable use policy. It encourages a culture of risk management. Once signed, an AUP is an agreement among creators and users to help protect the online and technology assets of the organization.

What is an acceptable use policy (AUP)?

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), sometimes called a Fair Use Policy, is a set of rules that defines what may or may not be done with the assets and data within a website, network, or service. It is created by the owner, creator or administrator to guide end-users, subcontractors, and agents.

AUPs are typically used by schools and universities, corporations, businesses, internet and hosting service providers, and website owners. Online platforms and applications require users to sign the policy before granting access to any information database, online shop, or other networks. By requiring an explicit agreement, AUPs ensure that end users are explicitly aware of their rights and responsibilities.

In online businesses and websites, an AUP defines how data can be used, what assets cannot be utilized, as well as the general guidelines of behavior. For example, an AUP can cover online activities such as blog comment features to prohibit hate speech and libelous remarks.

Acceptable use policies include a general overview of the scope, the general rationale of the policy, privileges, prohibitions, responsibilities, and possible sanctions.

Why you need an acceptable use policy

Why you need an acceptable use policy

An acceptable use policy helps reduce risk when it comes to online safety, decreased productivity, and damage to both the company and the users. Any company that makes use of internet access, e-mail, and other web-based services and applications need an AUP for the safety of all stakeholders. As such, online businesses and websites have a definite need for an acceptable use policy.

Ensure the safety of the users

One of the main reasons why an acceptable use policy is important is to ensure the safety of users. A standard AUP clearly outlines prohibitions and rights.

For online businesses and websites, an AUP can deter illegal or offensive behavior that can endanger users and damage the reputation of the organization. Fraudulent practices, such as the sale of counterfeit goods or solicitations for pyramid schemes, can be defined as prohibited practices in an online marketplace. Websites may outline guidelines for behavior in commenting on blog posts and posting in online fora.

Protect the online business from any legal action

As a typical example, acceptable use policies protect companies from certain lawsuits made by its customers whose account may have been terminated for misuse of online company resources or abuse of privileged information. The signing of the agreement is proof that the customer agreed to the possible consequence of termination.

In case of any legal proceedings or cybercrimes associated with the online business or website, the acceptable use policy shows that the company has done reasonable measures to protect the interests of the different users.

Bolster the organization’s reputation

For any business primarily engaging with customers online, it’s important to show due diligence when it comes to cyber safety and security. Having an acceptable use policy gives users and partners the confidence to interact with the online platform and the entire business.

Enhance ease of use and productivity

Finally, an acceptable use policy also highlights the rights and privileges of users when it comes to websites, networks, and other services. It guides end users and customers on acceptable practices.

People can be prone to abusing provided technology by taking advantage of resources for personal gain, unless otherwise explicitly specified. AUPs help facilitate more positive engagement with online businesses and websites.

What to include in an acceptable use policy?

What to include in an acceptable use policy

An acceptable use policy needs to be clear and comprehensive in defining the acceptable and unacceptable practices on the online business or website. At the same time, it must be brief enough so that end-users would be able to conveniently and comfortably read it within a short time.

There are essential parts of an AUP that can be found across different applications. A standard acceptable use policy includes an introduction, definition of terms, policy statement, acceptable uses, unacceptable uses, violations, and sanctions. The AUP should touch on rights, responsibilities, privileges, and restrictions.

Schools that provide internet access and other technological assets to their students, such as Brown University, have their own acceptable use policies which can provide an example. Guidelines for creating an education-related AUP, such as this one released by the Kentucky Department of Education, usually include provisions for parental consent and teacher supervision on top of the essential elements.

Scope and general rationale

At the beginning of any Acceptable Use Policy, it’s important to stress the general rationale behind the policy. Getting users to understand the function of the policy may facilitate better compliance and cooperation.

Any AUP is designed to foster a more responsible approach to online business and website use. AUPs help balance user safety and productivity.

Rights and responsibilities of the user

Standard AUPs can define the rights and responsibilities of the user, especially when it comes to ensuring their own safety and interests. Online businesses cannot be expected to account for all possible internet threats.

Acceptable uses

Several clauses can be dedicated to acceptable uses. Online marketplaces can be used to buy and sell goods; company websites can be used to facilitate price quotations and bookings.

Prohibited uses

The proper use of internet searches, downloads, browsing, and commenting may be covered under the section for prohibited services.

Most standard AUPs include prohibitions against illegal, harmful and offensive use or content. Outright illicit practices such as fraudulent schemes, phishing, abusive or hate-related content, the introduction of viruses, infringement of copyright and intellectual property rights, and invasion of privacy are all typically prohibited. Libel and slander, accessing systems without permission, usage exceeding privacy allocations, extracting marketing lists, and sending unsolicited spam are also part of most AUPs.

Privacy standards

With the amount of personal information online, users need the assurance of tight privacy standards. That means including provisions for privacy and responsible data use in an AUP.

Security violations or network abuse are essential parts of an AUP. The policy can define what types of data matter and why. For companies working with social security networks and other relevant identifying information, it’s critical to be specific about the access and use of sensitive data.

Sanctions

Finally, an AUP should outline the possible consequences and violations following a breach of the policy.

Sample free acceptable use policy template

This generic acceptable use policy template will help you see how everything we talked about so far comes together to form a legal agreement. Keep in mind that this is just an example acceptable use policy template and does not cover many of the important topics.

Generic acceptable use policy template

Please read this acceptable use policy ("policy", “AUP”) carefully before using [website] website (“website”, "service") operated by [name] ("us", 'we", "our").

Services provided by us may only be used for lawful purposes. You agree to comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations in connection with your use of the services. Any material or conduct that in our judgment violates this policy in any manner may result in suspension or termination of the services or removal of the user’s account with or without notice.

Prohibited use

You may not use the services to publish content or engage in activity that is illegal under applicable law, that is harmful to others, or that would subject us to liability, including, without limitation, in connection with any of the following, each of which is prohibited under this AUP:

  • Phishing or engaging in identity theft
  • Distributing computer viruses, worms, trojan horses or other malicious code
  • Distributing pornography or adult related content or offering any escort services
  • Promoting or facilitating violence or terrorist activities
  • Infringing the intellectual property or other proprietary rights of others

Enforcement

Your services may be suspended or terminated with or without notice upon any violation of this policy. Any violations may result in the immediate suspension or termination of your account.

Reporting violations

To report a violation of this policy, please contact us.

We reserve the right to change this policy at any given time, of which you will be promptly updated. If you want to make sure that you are up to date with the latest changes, we advise you to frequently visit this page.

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Use our professional acceptable use policy generator to create an attorney-drafted policy tailored specifically for you and how you run and operate your website or mobile app.

Conclusion

In short, an acceptable use policy is a must for online businesses. It helps guide end-users in maintaining responsible and risk-averse behavior online. The increase in safety bolsters the reputation of the online business and aids in the efficient conduct of business.