Before we get into the changes, we want to emphasize a couple fundamentals that are not changing—things that are basic to how we do business and serve our customers:
1. Your data is yours
And it always will be. Our business is simply to provide you with a tool to collect, store, manage, and use your information for the benefit of your school, staff, faculty, and students. And should you choose to move on to a different system, we give you the tools to easily take all your data with you. We won't sell or otherwise traffic your information—our mission is to give you a safe, secure way to take care of it yourselves.
2. Pricing works the same way
We're not doing anything new or different here. You'll still pay a monthly base rate and per-student price, together with any extra file storage and SMS fees. These are all still plainly spelled out on our completely public pricing page. If we need to raise prices, we'll still give you 90 days' notice (we reserve the right to keep price drops a surprise!). And implementation, support, updates, etc., are all still included for free.
Okay. So what's new?
Well, for one, all the wording is gonna be different. For the most part, though, it's just a more precise way of saying the same things we were saying before.
That said, our current (soon-to-be-old) TOS had a few gray areas that we wanted to clarify:
Customers and users
First, we wanted to better distinguish between our customers and our users. Customers are the schools that do business with us (i.e., that send us payment every month). Users are the individuals authorized by those schools to make use of Populi—whether staff, faculty, students, or prospects.
Accordingly, we have now divided the Terms into two chief sections: the Customer Terms of Service (CTOS), and the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The CTOS defines the business relationship—what we provide with our service, the customer's responsibilities for use and payment, how to set up an account and terminate use, and so on. The AUP defines the rights and responsibilities of users in relation to Populi—rights to content and data, restrictions on use (no hacking or illegal stuff), general responsibilities, and dispute resolution.
Pricing and payment
The only novel element in our new Pricing and Payment section is a change in nomenclature: we're replacing "active student" with "billable student". The problem we would run into is that "active" has a few potential meanings. It could mean "a person with an active Student role" or "a Student who is an active user". Because our services' definition of "active" is somewhat different from that of our Terms, our customers sometimes assumed the wrong meaning.
So, for clarity's sake, we felt that the students we actually charge you for deserved a unique term, one that isn't used anywhere else in Populi: they are now called billable students. Everything else, however, remains the same: billable students are students enrolled in or auditing one or more courses for seven or more calendar days in a given month. Nothing sneaky, no sleight of hand here: we're just changing a word so everyone understands our pricing better.
User-generated content and data
As Populi has developed since the adoption of our Terms of Service some years back, user-generated content has assumed an even greater role than it has before. And given the swirl of concerns regarding copyrights, distribution, piracy, privacy, and so on, we needed to make sure we A) did a better job of defining user content, B) clarified your ownership and rights over it, and C) sought all the proper releases from you to make it available to you via our service. Again, nothing substantial is changing here: you can still use Populi to store, manage, and distribute (within the rights granted to you by any copyright holders) data, files, audio, video, documents, etc.—but now the legal fencing around this part of the service has received a fresh coat of paint and new hinges on the gates.
Our outgoing TOS implicitly assumed that any disputes between us and a user or customer would be handled via civil litigation. But the thing about litigation is that it's a very public, time-consuming, and expensive process that can prove incredibly destructive to entities with limited resources—not just us, but also our customers. Our incoming AUP specifies that disputes that come to that point will be handled in arbitration, which is private, less expensive, and swifter than dragging things into the courts. Of course, we hope it never gets to that point with any of our users or customers! But should things go south, we feel this is the best way to enter into a formal dispute both for you and for us.
- Your data is still yours
- We still take every reasonable measure to protect it and back it up (unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the absolute security of any information)
- You can volunteer personal information confident that we will never sell it or otherwise share it
- For purposes of customer service, system maintenance, diagnostics, usage patterns, and marketing (i.e. taglines like Now serving over 20,000 students!) we may use non-identifying aspects of your information in aggregate form
- We share some information with third-parties so they can perform services on our behalf (such as credit card processing)
It's pretty standard stuff, really, but now it's better-organized and explains our policy with greater clarity than before.
The heart of the matter
Think of this as an overhaul of the user interface of the TOS. Yes, some things have moved, some things look totally new, but the substance is the same.
Again, the new policies are slated to go in effect as of April 1, 2013. Before that time, we may make minor tweaks to some of the wording, but we don't anticipate anything major.
And, of course, we welcome your questions and comments.