Microsoft Teams – 6 Things You Should Know About Its Terms

Microsoft Teams – 6 Things You Should Know About Its Terms 1920 2400 Stephens Scown
Image of phone using Microsoft Teams

Collaborative online platforms such as Microsoft Teams are becoming increasingly popular as the world embraces working from home. Whilst these platforms are a great tool, as with any other service, businesses should always check the small print to make sure the platform is right for them.

This article highlights some of the key points from the terms of the Microsoft Teams platform. It is not intended to put businesses off using Microsoft Teams; it’s to help users understand the commercial terms so that you can make sure the platform is right for you.

This article reflects the terms of use and privacy policy of Microsoft as detailed on their website 14th April 2020. Please note this is not legal advice.

1. Granting unintentional licences

Anything you upload to the platform can be used by Microsoft or any of its affiliated companies. By entering this agreement, you are granting a licence to your IP (and third party IP, so best check you have permission to do that).

It will surprise many but, where certain content is uploaded to a Microsoft platform the terms explicitly state that a licence is granted which allows both any third party you share the data with and Microsoft to copy, publicly display and even sub-licence it. In the case of Microsoft, they can use the content in connection with Microsoft Services.

In the case of third parties the terms provide an example that if, for example, you upload images to a publically available platform, members of the public can use those images to make prints or gifts.

This type of clause is relatively common in free online platforms.

Users should make sure that they are happy to grant this licence and that they are not, for example, breaching any confidentiality obligations, infringing third party IP by uploading it to the platform or even, derailing a patent application by way of prior disclosure.

The terms also indicate that a user uploading content to a Microsoft platform, such as Microsoft Teams, may inadvertently be granting a licence to anyone who it is shared with.

2. IP (and other) warranties

When posting content you must ensure that you stick to the criteria set out in the terms. Not least of these is a warranty that you have all the rights you need in order to upload content – if you upload content for which you do not have the necessary permissions, not only may you be committing a copyright infringement, you may also be in breach of your contract with Microsoft.

3. “Review, not monitor”

Microsoft reserves the right to review anything which is posted during the use of the platform. This right is exercised using the sole discretion of Microsoft, but offers no examples or explanation as to when content may be removed, or for what reason.

This ensures that the platform is not suitable for use where confidential information is to be shared. Doing so could well place you in breach of any confidentiality obligations but also damage any future non-disclosure agreements you may wish to enter into.

4. Change without notice

There are a number of documents which apply, including the subscription agreements and Online Services Terms. Users will need to navigate all of these to understand their engagement with Microsoft. The volume of terms which apply to this free service ensure that some effort will need to be put in to fully understand your obligations.

It is also worth noting that the terms can be changed at any time and without notice.

Users will therefore need to check the terms regularly to ensure they still work for them.

5. Data shared with affiliates

The Privacy Policy indicates that any data shared with Microsoft, through the use of one of its platforms, can be shared with any number of its affiliated companies.

There are also no reassurances about where data may be stored.

Businesses will need to remember that their GDPR and privacy obligations apply when using the platform. Do your agreements with data subjects permit the use of Teams? If you have told users you will store data in the EEA or that you will not share that data with third parties, you will need to change your terms with data subjects before using Teams.

6. Governing law

As with many of these platforms, where they are headquartered in the US, the governing law of their terms of use is that of the United States. Consequently any disputes which may arise, particularly where they pertain to copyright infringement, will be subject to the laws of the US.

About the author

Stephens Scown

An award-winning employee owned law firm passionate about the South West. Stephen Scown helps businesses and individuals to solve problems and seize opportunities.

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