I want to copy a Terms & Conditions agreement from a competitors site & swap out their name for mine. A few entrepreneurs I know have also done it but I wanted to make sure there aren't any implications. If you can take a template from Scribd.com or legalstoc.com I assume you can also copy one from another site?
Just to clarify in case there is any doubt: Yes, outright copying a legal document is illegal. And wrong. You will almost certainly not get sued and all that. But that is besides the point. If you make your living from software, then you make your living from rights granted to you by copyright and intellectual property laws. So do respect other peoples copyright as you would want your own respected.
Having said that, there are plenty of good templates to work from which are licensed to you free of charge or for cheap. There are already helpful answers with sources of freely licensed templates in this discussion. I would like to additionally mention Automattic's Terms of Service for Wordpress.com. This ToS is in plain, understandable English, and it is pretty comprehensive. Creative Commons has a overview of the license under which you can modify and reuse Automattic's document here.
Edit: Yasmine, you could open a new question, more to the effect of "My new site does X , Y and Z in the market for Q, what should I think of with regards to Terms of Service etc". Without specifics of your business we can't really guide you, and the guidance you can get for free on this site can go a long way towards keeping your legal bills down.
This issue comes up from time to time and attracts a great deal of misunderstanding (some of which is expressed in answers / comments already provided).
I will make some basic points and cite blog posts that discuss those points in detail:
I think we've all done that before. It's hard to ask a lawyer whether it's legal because lawyers want you to pay them to make those documents.
Typically lawyers tell you that copying is a mistake because you might have different specific scenarios you need to cover. And yes, copyright is copyright, and in the US copyright holds even if you don't write something like "Copyright 1999" on it.
At the same time I've never heard of someone getting sued over that kind of duplication.
Yasmine, you -probably- won't get sued, but it leaves you open to your competitor pointing out that you copied a part of their site. Why load a gun and hand it to your competitor?
Instead, either buy one from legalzoom or check out Gene Landy's IT/Digital Legal Companion and use a better T&C.
If so, I think a lot of lawyers would be in jail! ;-) I think we've all seen boilerplate agreements reused from who knows what source.
Of course, you should understand what terms & conditions you are signing up for from the copied document - and if you have council, having them review a complete document (vs. writing up one from scratch) is a more cost effective route.
Any lawyer will advise you against doing such a thing because of the reasons Jason listed. It is technically infringing on their copyrighted material.
What normally happens is people "borrow" the terms they like from various T&C's and reword them for their own use. I would advise against outright copying since that does violate copyright laws.
Most of the standard T&C's are so generic that you can go to a place like http://www.nolo.com and buy a boiler plate one. That way at least you have a solid base to build on.
Doug G - that is one of the most ridiculous statements to make. Most success is attributed to good decisions, knowledge, hard work, network, timing, and luck. If you can add competitive advantage to the mix you may have a sustainable business model.
Regarding getting sued for finding and using T&C is not likely. However, do not use a direct competitor and do not use verbatim. Change it up a bit. You can follow suggestions to use templates and samples. Or you can see what other non-competitor companies are using and build from that.
"Behind every success there is a crime".
Consider this the first step towards success.