Terms of Service - Business Use?

I am brand new to this forum, and also new to disroot.

It is possible that this topic has been explored or discussed in another thread.

This looks like a great project, with a lot of promise and potential.

But I have very grave concerns over the section of the terms of service that effectively prohibits the use of disroot e-mail for business purposes.

The complete text of the section is as follows:


  1. Using disroot services for commercial activities
    Disroot is a non-profit organization providing services for individuals on “pay as you wish” basis. Because of this structure we see using Disroot services for commercial operations as abuse of the service and it will be treated as such.

    Trading any Disroot services with a third party is prohibited.
    Using email for purposes such as “no-reply” type of accounts for your business will be blocked without a warning once such activity is detected
    Using Disroot services for financial gain, including but not limited to trading or managing sales, is not tolerated. Accounts created for the purpose of generating profits will be subject to termination upon inquiry.
    Sending bulk emails, including but not limited to marketing and advertising, for business purposes, will be treated as spam and blocked upon discovery without any prior notice.
    Using Disroot services for any other commercial activity will be examined per case and the decision on terminating such accounts will be based upon communication with the account holder and the type of the activities in question.


Simply put, the restrictions are way, way too broad, and the last paragraph of this section basically says that any type of business use can be unilaterally declared to be unacceptable, on a case-by-case basis, using subjective criteria that are not explained in any meaningful way, without any type of appeals process, and with the final decision to terminate an account being made by project leaders or organizers who may not even be required to disclose their real identity.

This particular section of the terms of service is so broad and vague that it is essentially meaningless, and it gives the project leadership a breathtaking degree of discretion, with little or no accountability.

Suppose, for example, that I am an attorney or a psychotherapist, and I wish to use a disroot e-mail account to communicate with my clients.

Would this be permitted?

My clients are paying for my services, and especially in the case of an attorney, I might actually be billing the client by the hour for the time it takes me to read their e-mail messages and compose a response.

So does that mean I am using disroot for “generating profits?”

If disroot can only be used for personal communication, such as sending a happy birthday message to my brother, and I have to have some other e-mail account for anything that is business-related, then the service is useless.

What if use my disroot e-mail account to communicate with a college professor about a course I am taking? I paid tuition for the course. Does that make it business or commercial use?

What if I send an e-mail to the accounting office of the university to raise a question about my tuition bill? Is that a business matter that is prohibited?

I don’t think I can get on board with this service under the current terms and conditions.

Burton

Hi,
Thanks for asking the question. I hope I will manage to answer to the best of my abilities.

Disroot is non-protif foundation. That means all our work is done currently on volounteer basis. We all need to keep our dayjob in order to put food on our tables, and running Disroot is something we do as an extra pretty much unpaid job (as ou can see on the Donate | Disroot three of our volounteers since recently get monthly fee of 130euro each).
In the past we used to have many situations where entire companies decided to cut their IT costs of buying email servers (caldnars, contacts, project boards etc) or staff to maintain them and just make use of our free job. We have had entire online services such as forums, shops, websites etc using our service as their no-reply type of emails producing lots of data traffic while, again cutting their costs abusing our free labour.

This is when we decided that we do not want to support that because it is hard as is to keep everything running. We noticed more and more people started abusing the service and so we added the point to our TOS. We did word the point in the way we did for two main reasons:

  1. Make it broad so that we do not have to specify every possible scenario and keep editing TOS adding yet another patch because some clever abusers found a loophole.
  2. Make it personal. Your interpretation of “case-by-case” is false. I can understand where it is coming from but it is not what we meant. Disroot, is not your normal service provider. We are not here to screw your or find a way to tax you with extra payments, micro transaction or sell your data to the highest bidder. It’s the contrary. We have actually no incetive to market and promote our product (its why do dont) nor we need to fight for users. There is no VC funding here here we need to provide numbers in order to get paid nor we fight for world domination closing everyone into our “Disroot silo”. We are just bunch of people trying to provide services to others (good old internet as it used to be). So our case-by-case aproach is not to give us unlimited power without any accaountibility but to look at each case seperately like human to human, discuss it understand eachother and make a decission. For example:
    Your attorney work is questionable here. You run a business, use our services and our labour for free to conduct commercial activity. You use it so that your customers can communicate with you to arrange payments, send bills, setup sessions, contact you about inquiries, you may use our cloud to keep an agenda etc (pretty much run your entire IT side of operations). This we do view as commercial activity since your account sole existance is to be your communication tool. Just like you need to pay for your business phone or secratary etc in your company, we think you should do the same for things like emails, cloud, file storage, project management and so on. Sure you can find volounteeers to do that for you for free, but those poeple should have possibility to delcine, which is what this point in TOS is about.
    But perhaps there is another aspect to your activity (most of your cases are pro-bono or your work is something we stad behind and would like to support) in which case we may (upon consultation with the team, and you) decide to allow or find a working solution that suits both sides, does not create conflict of interest (for example paying for such service to be done within disroot and thus demand better support, extra priviledges etc).

Your other examples is just normal way of using email as communication tool (you made online purchase, you signed up for a course, you mailed accountant of the uni etc) and there is nothing violating Terms of Service there.

We do restrict the right to close account wihtout warning strictly in abuse type of situation. For example “no-reply”. Imagine a forum using our email as a no-reply notification. If we were to find out, we are not going to bother looking for the contact person behind such forum or company just like we do not contact spammers. We see it as abuse and we act upon it. All other cases (just like pretty much anything going on here), is person to person related, and before we do any action, we contact the user to inform about things, ask details and if we were to decide activity is breaking the TOS, we give enough time for the user to find a new home. We arent here to be pain in the butt nor be the abuser ourself, and we understand if people find it weird or unjust too. But we made this decission and want to be open about it. To also make it clear. We aren’t hunting for people breaking this point of TOS. Believe me we have much better and more important things to do. Many people (like you just did) simply send us email asking if this is violating or not, before or aftert they made the account.

For some perspective. I personally run (or more like try to run as I am not succesfful but thats other story) couple of business projects. For those, even though I run disroot, paid from my own pocket for the first servers to make it happen, I run websites, calendars, emails, contacts and all IT infrastructure for those projects on seperate servers for which I pay monthly bills from my own pocket. I do that because otherwise I would violate my own TOS and would use for example email of my company to conduct business.

2 Likes