TL; DR Legal

TL; DR aims to crowdsource “software licenses in plain English,” a library of colloquial translations of the dense legalese that governs popular Web sites. I’ve been wanting a site like this for years and daydreamed about building it many times, so I’m glad that Kevin Wang went ahead and made it a reality.

However, some of the translations are discouragingly off-the-mark. For example, TL; DR’s current take on the Dropbox terms of service sounds quite dire:

Dropbox and Third Parties that they work with are allowed to access, scan, store and duplicate content that you put on the service.

When I first read that, I was quite alarmed. But a closer look at the actual language reveals that that interpretation may not be so clear cut.

When you use our Services, you provide us with things like your files, content, email messages, contacts and so on (‘Your Stuff’). Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don’t give us any rights to Your Stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Services.

We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it when you ask us to. Our Services also provide you with features like photo thumbnails, document previews, email organization, easy sorting, editing, sharing and searching. These and other features may require our systems to access, store and scan Your Stuff. You give us permission to do those things, and this permission extends to trusted third parties we work with.

Whether the translation is accurate or not is a matter of legal opinion, I suppose. The fact that TL; DR provides a simplified take on it is somewhat helpful, but it hardly seems definitive. The challenge for TL; DR is to build a community and ecosystem that put level-headed interpretations forward. Here’s to hoping they get the chance. Visit


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