Microsoft Terms Of Use – Implications Of The New Services Agreement

Microsoft restructured its services agreement a few days back. The new structure of Microsoft terms of use is in form of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) making it easier for people with no exposure to legal terms to understand how they can use Microsoft services without breaching any agreements and to understand how secure their content is with Microsoft.

Most of us will not have the time or the inclination to go through such a lengthy document. I had a chance to go through the new Microsoft services agreement and am presenting few interesting points that describe the new Microsoft terms of use.

Services Covered By The New Microsoft Services Agreement

This is the first and foremost question that appears in the restructured Microsoft Services Agreement. It explains that the services agreement between you and Microsoft covers the following:

  1. Hotmail;
  2. SkyDrive;
  3. Live Messenger;
  4. Photo Gallery;
  5. Movie Maker;
  6. Mail Desktop;
  7. Live Writer;
  8. Bing
  9. MSN
  10. Office.com

It also states that any other website that links back to the page containing this new FAQ style Microsoft terms of use are also covered by this services agreement.

How Do Users Enter Into Agreement With Microsoft

By selecting the check box against the TOC or simply by using one of the services listed above!

Accepting Or Rejecting Changes To Service Terms

In a question explaining Microsoft may update the service terms whenever they want, it is stated that users will be given an option to accept or reject the changes. In case the users choose not to accept the changes to service agreement, they should stop using the services covered by this agreement.

What is Microsoft Account

Explaining what is Microsoft account, the terms of service state that the user name and password given to users for accessing above mentioned Microsoft services along with some additional information – including phone number and some demographics – is collectively called the Microsoft Account.

Who Owns The Content? Who Accesses It And What Does Microsoft Do With It?

An important question, to which, the Microsoft service agreement states that except for content licensed explicitly – such as clip art and templates – for use with other types of content, Microsoft has nothing to do with your content. In other words, you are the owner of your content and you can do what you want. But you may not distribute things like clip art or Microsoft sounds.

Speaking about who can access the content, it is again up to you. It can be private content or content shared with others. Also, the service agreement states that you would be breaching the agreement if you upload content that infringes others’ copyright.

Microsoft may access your content for use, modification, saving, reproduction and extraction to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide you with better services. The line becomes blurred as the agreement employs use of “to the extent necessary” as then, the authority determining the “extent” would be Microsoft.  Further, Microsoft states that it may access portions of your content to determine spam and malware. It also states that when accessing your content, Microsoft will take care of your privacy.

Restrictions & Removal of Content

The question asking what type of content is not allowed explains that Microsoft reserves the right to reject content that is spam or does not comply with Microsoft Code Of Conduct. Depending upon the laws of your country, Microsoft may prohibit and remove content that is proved to be in contrast to those laws. Further, if Microsoft receives a copyright infringement complaint from third parties or local law enforcement agencies, it might remove your content without informing you.

Losing Access To Services & Data

The new Microsoft services agreement states that you need to sign into the services once at least in 270 days if the service is free. This is to confirm that you are still using the service. In case of no access to the service(s) for 270 days, users may lose access to the services in questions.

In case of paid services, if you fail to make payment on time, Microsoft reserves the right to terminate your account or some portions of the services you are using.

The service agreement says whether it is you or Microsoft disabling any account, all data associated with that account will be deleted and that Microsoft does not hold any obligation to return the content. Going by this, you should be making backup copies of content you are storing on the cloud. Otherwise too, it is a good decision to keep a latest backup copy of the content you store anywhere on the cloud.

There are some free and paid services that let you make backups of different types of data. For example, you can use Backupify to back up certain social networking sites. For mails, I would suggest auto-forward to some other address while you keep a copy in the Microsoft account.

Microsoft Collects User Data

The new Microsoft terms of use for the above mentioned services state that Microsoft will collect information related to you when you sign up for their services. Further, they may disclose such information, when necessary, to law enforcing agencies or to protect the rights of Microsoft.

If you live in the United States, you may be particularly interested in section 10 of the Microsoft services agreement that describes:

  1. Binding arbitration and
  2. Class Action Waiver

If you are interested, here is the full text of  Microsoft Terms of Use – The New Service Agreement.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN