When accessing a site, you are often asked to agree to the terms. The access might be to get into the site in general or within a specific area such as a forum. As a site owner, the idea of having site terms might make you roll your eyes, but they are actually very important. Let's take a look.
What are these terms used for? They give a site owner the ability to tailor and define the relationship with the end user. So what? Well, this is important because you can nail down issues that are critical to any problems that might arise later because of an annoying visitor, and you know they are out there. For instance, you might have a site with a forum. If so, you will want to include a prohibition against making racial attacks and so on.
In general, the terms for your site should cover a description of the services you provide, a statement of ownership for all the intellectual property on the site, what parts of said property users can access, linking restrictions and prohibitions against certain actions such as violating laws, hacking the site and so on. You will also want to include provisions regarding jurisdiction in an effort to make sure any dispute that arises must be heard in a court near you instead of across the country.
Then there is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As a site owner, you are liable for any copyright violations on your site. This is true even if a user posts the material in question. The way to avoid this is to pursue the safe harbor provisions of the Act. Your terms need to incorporate the necessary language to this effect. Without it, you could end up fighting off legal proceedings constantly.