New York Business Lawyers

Social Media Law’s Naked Site of the Month–Chatroulette Has a Six Line Terms of Service Agreement

by / Saturday, 20 March 2010 / Published in Headline, Industry News, Technology & eCommerce

Chatroulette Has a Weak Terms of Service AgreementIf the headline does not grab you, despite the regular appearance of naked users on the site, consider the following.

While those of us who use Chatroulette probably won’t admit it, if the NYT is waxing journalistic on it, you all probably have at least peeked. The tweet size recap is that it’s on the vanguard of social media, as part cultural spectacle, part flavor of the moment, and part window into a future of byte size webcam conversations. Imagine a venture capital speed dating forum, or a rapid fire language learning exchange, or a “fill in the blank”, based on the same technology/approach.

Yet, the very raw randomness that makes the site a spectacle also can lead to an ocean of “horribles”. All manner of mayhem could occur (infringement, criminal activity, so on, etc…Just see any other social media site’s litigation rap sheet to get a sense). These usually prompt site operators to have very dense and draconian terms of service agreements as their first line of defense.

Of course I am fascinated by the agreements that oversee the Chatroulette user relationship. And for a little legal fun (which is not an oxymoron), compare the Chatroulette terms of service agreement with say Facebook to see how much is MISSING.

1. You have to be at least 16 years old to use our service
2. Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service.
3. Please use “Report inappropriate video” link to notify us about inappropriate content and we will take necessary steps.
4. Everything supplied by the user you are connected with is not property of Chatroulette, and therefore Chatroulette is not responsible for what you will find.
5. By using Chatroulette you agree to our Terms of Service.
6. Enjoy our service ;)
No language on copyright (or a DMCA equivalent, no language on disclaimer of liabilities, or forum selection (this site was crested and presumably runs in Moscow), etc. It will be interesting to see if the site morphs into a more commercial venture with an actual profit model and whether that will trigger a legal metamorphosis as well. Certainly the “Everything supplied by the user you are connected with is not property of Chatroulette, and therefore Chatroulette is not responsible for what you will find” clause makes me wince with fear that it’s too flimsy to survive a real legal challenge.

The biggest question is whether or not a cultural phenomenon like this can support a culture of contractual responsibility.

And if the legal comparison does not strike you as fun, you could always see one of them most charming vids of a piano man improv god serenading the other side of the Chatroulette webcam box in this video.

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