Something that most people don't take the time to read thoroughly is the AdSense Terms of Service. This document is one that publishers are asked to read when they sign up and before they begin using AdSense, and one that all publishers are required to adhere to if they accept the terms.
And of course, you are required to accept these terms in order to sign up. But have you really read them, and if so, did you understand what you were agreeing to?
On this page we'll attempt to point out areas in the Terms of Service document that publisher's really need to pay attention to, and to understand. The entire document is important so it pays to read it, but the areas we've selected to highlight here are those that we've realized that most publisher's who don't really read the documents carefully have missed, or even forgotten if they did see.
These are things that can have a large impact on your Adsense Account.
Before we begin I want to point out that I am not a lawyer, nor a representative of Google or Adsense, so what you read here are only my own understanding of these legal terms. Having a background that requires me to read and understand terms of service on numerous sites gives me a little understanding about this document, but for many sales sites where I've been required to agree to terms I have taken the time to print them off and pay for a consultation with my lawyer.
I suggest that if you have any concern over the Terms of Service then paying for an hour of your lawyer's time is worth the cost for clarification, and will ease any concerns you have.
The AdSense Terms of Service (Found Here)
One of the first things you'll see when you read the terms is this statement:
PLEASE READ VERY CAREFULLY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND THE FAQ BEFORE REGISTERING FOR THE GOOGLE ADSENSE ONLINE PROGRAM.
It seems pretty simple right? It is, in a manner of speaking. Make sure that you do "read very carefully" when reading the terms. Don't just skim over it. I know a document full of "legalese" is difficult for ordinary people to read...and mostly pretty dry (ie: boring) stuff. But this is important for YOU to understand. Adsense already knows what this document says, and you'll need to make sure you understand it too.
Section 1 - Program Participation
Participation in the Program is subject to Google’s prior approval and Your continued compliance with the Program Policies
This statement essentially says that Google gets to say whether or not you get accepted into the program, and that you must continue to comply with the Adsense Program Policies...even on a new site that you create after you are accepted. Any site must meet these policy standards. If you fail to do that, then Adsense isn't required to retain you as a publisher.
Google reserves the right to refuse participation to any applicant or participant at any time in its sole discretion.
This means that Google doesn't have to accept anybody into the program if they don't want to - even if your site meets the policy standards. They can simply say "no thanks" and they aren't required to give you any reason at all. In general, they do give some sort of reason to most publishers, but at their discretion they can deny any person or business an AdSense account without reason.
By enrolling in the Program, You represent that You are at least 18 years of age
That shouldn't need any explanation, but there are many people who say they've read the Terms of Service, yet had no idea that you are required to be 18 years of age to use AdSense. One of the reasons that many sites restrict the age of a user is due to the fact that in the US (where AdSense is located) minors (those under 18) are not able to sign a legal agreement that is valid.
For the avoidance of doubt, any reference in this Agreement or the Program Policies to an individual “Web page”, “Web site”, “Web site page” or the like that is part of the Property will also mean feeds and media players distributed through such Web site.
This simply says that as far as AdSense is concerned when they refer to web page or website, they also mean this will include feeds, media players, etc. So if the Terms of Service or Program Policies say a "web page can't ask people to click the ads" they also mean you can't have that on your feed or in any media player.
Multiple accounts held by the same individual or entity are subject to immediate termination unless expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail).
This is a big one - many people seem to either miss this altogether, or ignore it totally. It means that if you have more than one AdSense account and they find out that you have multiple accounts, they can disable the account without any notice to you at all.
There are instances where a person can have more than one account - a publisher may have a personal adsense account as well as a business adsense account if they own a business.
Section 3 - Communications Solely With Google
You agree to direct to Google, and not to any advertiser, any communication regarding any Ad(s) or Link(s) displayed in connection with Your Property(ies).
We've had questions about this statement as it does seem a little confusing. This refers specifically to ads and advertisers served through AdSense. It means that if you have some question or complaint about an Advertiser or Ad, you are to direct your queries to AdSense, not to the advertiser. You may not contact the advertiser directly under any circumstances.
It does not refer to any other advertising network you may use on your website, and it does not mean that an advertiser may not approach you to advertise on your website directly.
Section 4 - Parties' Responsibilities
You are solely responsible for the Property(ies), including all content and materials, maintenance and operation thereof, the proper implementation of Google's specifications, and adherence to the terms of this Agreement, including compliance with the Program Policies.
If you read the entire document you'll note that where they refer to "properties" they mean your website, blog, feed, etc. (wherever you display adsense ads).
What this says is that you (the publisher) are responsible for everything on your site/blog. That includes anything you display on your website, any content you write, any picture or video you post - you are responsible for this. It also says that you are responsible to ensure that your site meets all the policies and follows the Terms of Service.
Google is not responsible for anything related to Your Property(ies), including without limitation the receipt of queries from end users of Your Property(ies) or the transmission of data between Your Property(ies) and Google. In addition, Google shall not be obligated to provide notice to You in the event that any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button is not being displayed properly to, or Referral Event is not being completed properly by, end users of the Property(ies).
This basically says (again) you are responsible to ensure that everything on your site works right, and follows the rules.
In particular, it says that Google (Adsense) is NOT responsible for letting you know when you aren't displaying ads properly, or when users aren't properly clicking through on an ad. Yeah, it says that. It appears to mean they don't really have to let you know if you've got invalid clicks happening and that it's your responsibility to keep track of this sort of stuff.
I wish it didn't say that, but it does. That being said, AdSense will sometimes send a warning when your site is accruing a lot of invalid clicks. That warning notice means you need to do something about it - fairly quickly. They may also send out a notice when your ad display is not in compliance with policy, giving you 3 days to fix it. If you get one of those...fix it ASAP.
Section 5 - Prohibited Uses
You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to:
(i) directly or indirectly generate queries, Referral Events, or impressions of or clicks on any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button (including without limitation by clicking on “play” for any video Ad)
That means you can't ask people to click your ads (directly or indirectly); it means that you can't post a notice on your website for people to visit the advertisers, or click ads, or support you by checking out the great deals in the ads. It means you can't use arrows to point at the ads, or highlight the ads in any way.
(ii) edit, modify, filter, truncate or change the order of the information contained in any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button, or remove, obscure or minimize any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button in any way without authorization from Google;
This means you can't change the adcode that comes out of your adsense account in any way, whether it's code for an ad unit, a link unit, search box, etc. It means that you can't "minify" the adsense code, or manually change anything in the code. The code must be posted to your site exactly the same as it was when it came out of your ad code box when you generated it.
It means you can't have any of your content covering any part of the AdSense ad, you can't have the ads minimized, and you can't hide the ads in any way.
(v) display any Ad(s), Link(s), or Referral Button(s) on any Web page or any Web site that contains any pornographic, hate-related, violent, or illegal content;
The statement above seems pretty specific, and fairly easy to understand. But what constitutes illegal content? Or how violent is "violent content"? You can find the answers for that in the AdSense Program Policies, Webmaster Guidelines and get further explanations from the Inside AdSense Blog.
(viii) act in any way that violates any Program Policies posted on the Google Web Site
That's pretty plain. If you plan on doing something you better make sure what you want to do will not violate AdSense Program Policies.
(x) create a new account to use the Program after Google has terminated this Agreement with You as a result of your breach of this Agreement
Here's another one most people don't want to read. If your AdSense account has been disabled, or you have had a previous AdSense account that was disabled then you may not create (sign up for) a new AdSense Account. Yes, it really does say that. If your account is disabled and your appeal has failed, then you won't be able to use AdSense again. Ever.
Simply by applying for a new account after your account is disabled is a breach of contract because it violates the terms of this agreement, which you agreed to previously.
You acknowledge that any attempted participation or violation of any of the foregoing is a material breach of this Agreement and that we may pursue any and all applicable legal and equitable remedies against You, including an immediate suspension of Your account or termination of this Agreement, and the pursuit of all available civil or criminal remedies.
This means you realize that trying to get another account (attempted participation) or any violation of these Terms is violating this agreement between you and AdSense. It also says that they can immediately terminate your account, and even worse, if they wanted to they could file a lawsuit against you or even have you charged - maybe with fraud. It applies not only to the snippets we posted here, but everything contained in Section 5 of the AdSense Terms of Agreement (so I'm sure you'll really want to read those).
Section 6 - Termination and Cancellation
Google may at any time, in its sole discretion, terminate all or part of the Program, terminate this Agreement, or suspend or terminate the participation of any Property in all or part of the Program for any reason. In addition, Google reserves the right to terminate without notice any account that has not generated a sufficient number of valid clicks on Ads or Referral Buttons or valid impressions of Ads (in each case as measured by Google) for a period of two (2) months or more.
Ah - this is where they tell you that they can terminate or cancel your AdSense account at any time for any reason. "Any reason" basically means whatever reason they choose. If they want to, they can simply tell you that they no longer have any interest in having your website as part of their publisher's network with no more explanation than that.
It would be like telling your paperboy one night that you no longer want the paper delivered. You don't have to tell him why, you can just tell him you don't want it anymore.
This also says that if your site hasn't generated a reasonable number of valid impressions and clicks in a period of two years, they can cancel your AdSense account. From what I understand, if this has happened at all, it's a very miniscule number of times.
Section 8 - No Guarantee
Google makes no guarantee regarding the level of impressions of Ads or clicks on any Ad or Referral Button, the timing of delivery of such impressions and/or clicks, the completion of Referral Events, or the amount of any payment to be made to You under this Agreement.
We often see people in the forums saying they thought the minimum click payment was 5 cents, but nowhere does the agreement list any minimum click payment. In fact, the agreement says just the opposite - AdSense makes no guarantee at all with respect to payment amounts.
Section 11 - Payment
If You have elected to receive Search Results, this payment will be offset by fees applicable to Search Results. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing (including by electronic mail), payments to You shall be sent by Google within approximately thirty (30) days after the end of each calendar month that Ads or Referral Buttons are running on Your Property or that Ads are running on Search Results Pages if Your earned balance is $100 or more.
The above paragraph also tells you when you'll get paid "approximately 30 days after the end of each calendar month if your earnings are $100 or more in that month". (So $100 in earnings for the month of September would be paid at the end of October)
In the event the Agreement is terminated, Google shall pay Your earned balance to You within approximately ninety (90) days after the end of the calendar month in which the Agreement is terminated by You (following Google's receipt of Your written request, including by email, to terminate the Agreement) or by Google. In no event, however, shall Google make payments for any earned balance less than $10.
If you decide to cancel your AdSense account for whatever reason, AdSense will pay you the balance in your Account, even if it's under $100, but it must be over $10. This payment would be issued 90 days after the end of the month in which you cancel the account, so if you cancel your account in September, about 90 days after the end of September they'd issue your final payment.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Google shall not be liable for any payment based on:
(a) any amounts which result from invalid queries, invalid Referral Events, or invalid clicks or impressions on Ads generated by any person, bot, automated program or similar device, as reasonably determined by Google, including without limitation through any clicks or impressions
(i) originating from Your IP addresses or computers under Your control,
(ii) solicited by payment of money, false representation, or request for end users to click on Ads, or
(iii) solicited by payment of money, false representation, or any illegal or otherwise invalid request for end users to complete Referral Events;
This says that if any of the earnings in your account were earned by any of the above methods, AdSense is not required to pay you for those. So any clicks deemed invalid won't be paid.
(d) clicks co-mingled with a significant number of invalid clicks described in (a) above, or as a result of any breach of this Agreement by You for any applicable pay period.
AdSense also may not pay you even for valid clicks if there are a lot of invalid clicks mixed in with the valid ones. That statement is one that most people may not even be aware of, and is probably why so many wonder why they don't get paid for valid clicks when their accounts are disabled. In some cases, that non-payment of valid clicks (if any) could be due to the fact that there are just too many invalid clicks and AdSense has chosen (as stated in these terms) not to issue payment at all.
Google reserves the right to withhold payment or charge back Your account due to any of the foregoing or any breach of this Agreement by You, pending Google's reasonable investigation of any of the foregoing or any breach of this Agreement by You, or in the event that an advertiser whose Ads are displayed in connection with Your Property(ies) defaults on payment for such Ads to Google. In addition, if You are past due on any payment to Google in connection with any Google program (including without limitation the Google AdWords program), Google reserves the right to withhold payment until all outstanding payments have been made or to offset amounts owed to You in connection with the Program by amounts owed by You to Google.
Another statement that says if you breach this agreement in any way, AdSense can take back the earnings from your account.
It also says that if an advertiser whose ads appeared on your website defaults in their adwords payments, you won't be able to collect those earnings. I don't believe that has happened very often.
Payment shall be calculated solely based on records maintained by Google. No other measurements or statistics of any kind shall be accepted by Google or have any effect under this Agreement.
What this says is basically that AdSense will only issue payments based on what the reports indicate in your AdSense account, regardless of what any other third party (ie: Statcounter) statistics might say. So if statcounter happens to show 12 clicks on AdSense ads and your AdSense account shows 8, you'll receive payments on the 8 clicks recorded on AdSense and not on 12 clicks, no matter what. AdSense indicates in this statement that it doesn't matter what other statistics are showing, they are only responsible to pay based on those stats that AdSense has shown in your AdSense account.
Section 13 - Representations and Warranties
You represent and warrant that (a) all of the information provided by You to Google to enroll in the Program is correct and current;
In the above statement, you are agreeing that all information you used in your Adsense application is true, correct and up-to-date. It means that when you sign up for AdSense, you've given your correct name and address, and that you haven't signed up using a false name, or someone else's name or address.
In addition, to the extent that Your Site is a media player
(1) You represent and warrant that You have a valid license to use and distribute such media player (including all content therein, including without limitation any Ads or Ad Units) for the purposes of this Agreement and the Program; and
(2) You shall ensure that any media player(s) that constitute the Site shall comply with the terms and conditions set forth herein. You further represent and warrant that each Property and any material displayed therein:
(i) comply with all applicable laws, statutes, ordinances, and regulations;(ii) do not breach and have not breached any duty toward or rights of any person or entity including, without limitation, rights of intellectual property, publicity or privacy, or rights or duties under consumer protection, product liability, tort, or contract theories; and(iii) are not pornographic, hate-related or otherwise violent in content.
The statement above says that you guarantee that if you are distributing contents (ie: photos, movies, music, software, wallpaper, etc.) that you have the licenses or authorization to do so, and that the contents of your site are not illegal, do not infringe on anyone's copyright and are not pornography, hate-related or violent.
Even before you get started with AdSense you are telling them that you agree not to post this type of content on your website, so be very certain when you agree to the Terms of Service that your site does NOT do any of that listed above.
Section 17 - Miscellaneous
The relationship between Google and You is not one of a legal partnership relationship, but is one of independent contractors.
The statement above is the very last line of the Terms of Service. What it says is that you are considered an independent contractor, not an employee. So getting approved for an AdSense account does not give you any relationship such as employer/employee with AdSense, nor are you considered in a partnership with AdSense, it simply means that you are providing a service to AdSense as a contractor.
Please note that the excerpts posted in bolded blue have been taken directly from the AdSense Terms of Service, which you can find in it's entirely on the AdSense Site. It is up to each publisher to ensure that they have read and understand the complete Terms of Service before agreeing to them. This page contains only small selections from the Terms of Service so you must visit the page on AdSense to read all of the sections, and all of the information contained within those sections.