Free Sample Disclaimer Template
You may have seen signs such as “All rights reserved” or “Use at your own risk” around. These are some of the most common disclaimers which are meant to protect you as well its owner. Even in the digital space, the use of disclaimers is now equally, if not more, important. If you have a website or blog, protect yourself legally by using a disclaimer.
What is a disclaimer?
A disclaimer is a statement that aims to limit an entity’s legal liability and/or protect its services, information, and property. Usually, a disclaimer implies a situation that involves some degree of uncertainty, waiver, or risk. Thus, it should address the aspects of a website that may expose readers to risk, and consequently, open the website’s owner to legal liability.
The length and complexity of a disclaimer depend on the needs of your website or blog, but it is typically a paragraph long.
How is disclaimer different from terms and conditions?
Why you need a disclaimer
A disclaimer may not always be required by law, but to mitigate risks, you should seriously consider using one. Regardless of your background or industry, adding a disclaimer to your website is a good idea for the following reasons:
It protects your rights
A disclaimer protects your rights over your intellectual property against infringement by other people. Assuming that your work is literary or artistic in nature, a disclaimer can contain a claim of ownership over the copyright of your content. A disclaimer may dissuade others from using your content without your permission.
Other forms of intellectual property will be fully protected only upon registration as per law. If your intellectual property consists of a technical solution to a problem, you should file for a patent. On the other hand, if you want to claim ownership over words, phrases, symbols, and designs that identify your goods or services, it is better to register a trademark.
It limits your liabilities
Since it serves as both a warning and a way to mitigate risks, a disclaimer protects you from liability. Anyone who reads your disclaimer should understand the risks involved in using your website or acting upon the information in it.
It clarifies your obligations to your readers.
A disclaimer notifies your readers of your qualifications or background, as well as delimits the scope of your obligations to them. This is especially useful when you are advising in an area that is not necessarily within your expertise.
It disclaims third party liability
There may be instances when third parties can interact with your customers or clients through your website or blog, thus exposing you to liability from their actions or statements.
Your website or social media account, for instance, may allow comments or advertisements from other parties. In these cases, a disclaimer will protect you from incurring liability from the actions of those who comment or advertise in your website or page.
It protects the organization or company to which you belong
If you belong to an organization or company, your website or blog can be easily linked to them, which may be damaging to both you and the organization or company. In this case, a disclaimer can clarify that your opinions are solely your own, and it does not reflect the views of those of the organization or company.
It is vital for you to note that a disclaimer will not completely protect you from liability. For example, you may still be held liable if a person is injured because of your negligence or if you failed to do something required by law. Nonetheless, writing and putting a disclaimer on your website is still worthwhile to best protect you and your business.
What to include in a disclaimer?
While there are templates of disclaimers available on the internet, it is still best if you create a disclaimer tailored to your own website. Here are some things to remember when writing a disclaimer:
Identify the rights you want to protect
As mentioned earlier, a disclaimer helps protect your ownership over your intellectual property. A disclaimer that states your ownership over your work dissuades theft of such work, and at the same time, protects you from accusations that such work was copied or stolen.
Identify areas where you might be subject to liability
You are exposing yourself to legal liability, whether it is through selling goods or services or publishing information in a website. For instance, someone could get hurt when using your product, or someone could misconstrue information posted on your website.
When making a disclaimer, try to think of the possible scenarios that could expose you to legal liability. A disclaimer should contain all areas of potential risk that you can identify.
Here are some points that your disclaimer may contain:
Inform your readers that your content is merely an opinion
Over the past few years, there has been a steady growth in litigation over online content, and most of these suits are grounded on defamation. Protect yourself from criminal charges by making the readers of your website or blog aware that its content is merely an opinion and not fact.
Warn your readers against potential mistakes on your website
You should also consider including a disclaimer over the accuracy of the information on your website. Otherwise, errors in the information you publish, even if unintentional, could expose yourself to legal liability.
Inform your readers that your content is not professional advice
When publishing information, professionals usually add a disclaimer to say that their content is only informational and cannot be construed as professional advice. After all, this kind of advice can be given only after a personal consultation with a professional. This means that readers who act on the information in the website do so at their own risk.
Disclaim third-party actions or content
If your business entails dealing with third parties, aside from your customers or clients, you may want to consider limiting your liability for the actions or errors of such third parties.
When you are using websites or social media platforms, this form of disclaimer is also useful. Website or social media accounts may have features that enable comments, user submissions, advertisements, or any form of third-party content.
Here are several types of disclaimers that may be useful for your website, along with actual disclaimers used by organizations and companies to serve as examples:
Third-party or affiliate disclaimer
A “third-party” or “affiliate” disclaimer addresses third-party contractors and limits your legal liability that may arise from their actions or omissions. This is useful when there are others who advertise on your website, users who comment on your site, or third-party contractors involved in your business.
Smith Brothers Insurance has the following disclaimer on its website:
Generic blog disclaimer
For your blog, a disclaimer should state that the content is merely an opinion, for informational purposes only, as well as to disclaim all possible errors or omissions.
Guavarose, a blogging site, has the following disclaimer:
A disclaimer for fitness websites or blogs should notify readers of the possible risks of using the website’s contents, and to act upon the information at their own risk. Besides, it should also warn readers that it does not replace professional advice from their physician or health care provider.
Jillian Michaels, a fitness coach, has the following disclaimer for her website:
A medical disclaimer should state that such information posted is merely for educational purposes. It should advise that readers consult a physician or other health care provider for their personal concerns.
For medical content, WebMD has the following disclaimer:
A disclaimer of a site offering legal advice should make it clear that the contents of such website are for information purposes only. It should be clear to the readers that there is no attorney-client relationship established.
DLA Piper has the following disclaimer:
Where to display a disclaimer?
Again, this depends on the content of your website or blog. These are some of the ways that websites and blogs display their disclaimers:
1. Browsewrap method
Browsewrap is a small hyperlink at the bottom of the web page that redirects the user to another page with your disclaimer. Most websites and applications use a browsewrap method to display their disclaimer, terms and conditions and other policies.
2. Clickwrap method
As opposed to the browsewrap method, clickwrap method is characterized by a checkbox. Your website will require your reader to check or toggle an “I agree” checkbox to proceed with your website. Your website can also provide an increased notice of the reader’s obligations by adding the phrase “By clicking the following button, you agree to such and such“
3. Making it a part of terms and conditions
Before proceeding with your website, your clients or customers have to accept your terms and conditions. By making your disclaimer already part of it, you are ensuring that the said disclaimer is part of an enforceable contract.
Regardless of where you decide to place your disclaimer, take note of the case of Specht v. Netscape. In this case, the court said:
Reasonably conspicuous notice of the existence of contract terms and unambiguous manifestation of assent to those terms by consumers are essential if electronic bargaining is to have integrity and credibility.
In short, such notice must be easily seen by your readers.
Although the crux of Specht v. Netscape was due to the terms and conditions of the product, the same principles should be applied to disclaimers to give it legal effect.
The bottom line is: treat a disclaimer as you would a contract. This ensures that your disclaimer will be respected by the court in case of a lawsuit.
How to enforce a disclaimer?
A disclaimer is not necessarily enforceable. Enforceability depends on the nature of the disclaimer as well as the laws of the individual state in which you operate.
You can make your disclaimer legally binding by making sure of two things: the terms of your disclaimer are fair and your customers or clients can review them.
Make sure that your terms are fair
To make a disclaimer legally binding, you must ensure that its terms are fair to your clients or customers. As mentioned earlier, there are some things that a disclaimer cannot shield you from. For one, you cannot disclaim liability for negligence or include terms that are contrary to law. You must also make sure that there are no vague terms that might mislead your clients or customers.
Make your client or customer aware of your disclaimer
Your disclaimer should be placed where it is easily seen by your readers. To better protect yourself, it is best if there is some acknowledgment from your readers before they proceed with your website or blog.
Sample free disclaimer template
This generic disclaimer 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 disclaimer template and does not cover many of the important topics.
Generic disclaimer template
Please read this disclaimer ("disclaimer") carefully before using [website] website (“website”, "service") operated by [name] ("us", 'we", "our").
The content displayed on the website is the intellectual property of the [name]. You may not reuse, republish, or reprint such content without our written consent.
All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information on this website, you do so at your own risk.
While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.
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.
Businesses or websites without a disclaimer are vulnerable to all sorts of lawsuits. While a disclaimer will not guarantee that you won't get sued, a properly written disclaimer is a good way to protect yourself from different claims of liability in the event of a legal action taken against you or your business.
- May 9, 2019