Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part Two

In Part One of this series, we covered the first two provisions in a common hosting terms of service agreement. Now we’re going to move on to a more complicated facet of this agreement, the Prohibited Use of Service and Products provision. These provisions may vary, based on individual hosting company’s rules, but this should provide you with a general guideline on what these terms mean and how they affect you as a customer.

3. Prohibited Uses of Services and Products

In addition to the other requirements of these Terms of Service, Customer may only use the Services and Products in a manner that, in the Company’s sole judgment, is consistent with the purposes of such Services and Products. If Customer is unsure of whether any contemplated use or action is permitted, please contact the Company as provided above. By way of example, and not limitation, uses described below of the Services and Products are expressly prohibited.

This is usually the opening paragraph for this provision. This section gives the customer the basic facts about prohibited uses and may outline the action that the hosting company will take if the terms are broken. This particular terms of service agreement allows the hosting company to make individual judgments on their customer’s actions. This is a very open ended agreement, in favor of the company, so if you come across a host with this type of provision, make sure that you are absolutely clear on what you can and cannot do with your site.

Now, let’s move on the actual prohibited uses.

3.1. General

3.1.1. Pornography and pornographic related merchandising are prohibited under all the Company’s services. This includes sites that include links to pornographic content elsewhere. Further examples of unacceptable content or links include pirated software, “hacker” programs, archives of “Warez Sites”, game rooms or MUDs, IRC Bots, Egg Drop programs, any kind of illegal software or shareware. In addition, sites offering online gambling, casino functionality, sportsbook betting (including offshore), and internet lotteries are prohibited.

This section specifies that the hosting company will not tolerate adult content or sites with pornography. It also goes a step further by forbidding customers from linking to sites that contain porn. Also included are “warez” sites, which typically refers to illegal versions of software.

In addition, you will not be able to offer any type of online gambling on your site, but this section does not forbid you from linking to these types of sites.

3.1.2. Violations of the rights of any Person protected by copyright, trade secret, patent or other intellectual property or similar laws or regulations, including, but not limited to, the installation or distribution of “pirated” or other software products that are not appropriately licensed for use by Customer.

This is a provision that will protect the hosting company in the event that you post content that violates intellectual property laws. In the event that you do break these laws, the company will have recourse by removing your site, and as stated in the previous provisions, you have already indemnified them from any legal recourse resulting from actions on your part that break intellectual property laws. In short, if you post content that is not yours, you will be held personally responsible, you will have your site removed and the hosting company will not have any liability for your actions. This section includes not only the written word, but software applications.

3.1.3. Actions that restrict or inhibit any Person, whether a customer of Company or otherwise, in its use or enjoyment of any of the Company’s Services or Products.

This is a more difficult provision for many people to understand. In fact, each hosting company might intrepret this differently. In most cases, in a shared hosting situation where several sites are sharing the same resources, if your site is using too many of these resources, it may result in other sites on the same server experiencing difficulties. This provision gives the hosting company the right to remove your site if this happens.

3.2. System and Network3.2.1. Introduction of malicious programs into the Company’s network or server (e.g., viruses and worms).

This is a pretty straightforward provision, but in the event that your server is attacked by a hacker, you could run into problems. If your hosting company has this provision and you have been the victim of a hacker attack in the past, you may want to consult them on your options. You should not be held responsible if a third-party inserts malicious code or a virus into your site, but for the company’s own safety, they have to have this provision to protect their interests.

3.2.2. Effecting security breaches or disruptions of Internet communication. Security breaches include, but are not limited to, accessing data of which Customer is not an intended recipient or logging into a server or account that Customer is not expressly authorized to access. For purposes of this Section 3.2.2., “disruption” includes, but is not limited to, port scans, flood pings, packet spoofing and forged routing information.

3.2.3. Executing any form of network monitoring which will intercept data not intended for the Customer’s server.

3.2.4. Circumventing user authentication or security of any host, network or account.

3.2.5. Interfering with or denying service to any user other than Customer’s host (for example, denial of service attack).

3.2.6. Using any program/script/command, or sending messages of any kind, designed to interfere with, or to disable, a user’s terminal session, via any means, locally or via the Internet.

3.2.7. Creating an “active” full time connection on a Company-provided account by using artificial means involving software, programming or any other method.

Once again, these provisions are pretty simple. You are not allowed to access any accounts that are not your own, nor are you allowed to set up bots to send pings, port scans or other malicious activity on the server. Most site owners will not need to worry about this provision but the hosting company needs to insert these rules to protect their customers and their company.

3.2.8. Any attempt to circumvent or alter monitoring, bandwidth tracking or utilization reporting, or other actions which have the effect of complicating the normal operational procedures of the Company, including but not limited to altering, removing or in any way modifying or tampering with Company created log files.

This is a little more complicated and could be an area of concern for some webmasters. Under this agreement, you will not be allowed to modify the logs files that are created on your server. If you have a statistic program that does modify or edit these files, you will need to find a different way to analyze your traffic. This is an area where a well-meaning site owner could get into trouble with this particular provision.

3.2.9. Any action which the Company determines, in its own judgment, will reflect poorly on the Company or negatively impact its operations.

3.2.10. Any action which the Company deems to be an unacceptable use of resources, business practice or otherwise unacceptable to the Company.

These two provisions are sweeping in scope and give the hosting company a lot of room for legal maneuvering. Basically, if they feel that your site makes their company look badly, or if they feel that your site is using too many resources, they reserve the right to immediately remove your site from their server.

Our next article will continue this section on prohibited uses.

Related Posts:
03/13/2006 Web Hosting Information Podcast
Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part Three
Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part One
Hosting Industry Daily Briefing for 03/14/2006
Benefits of Understanding HTML

Posted on 03/3/06 3:40 AM

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