New Legal Resource Business Model

I’m considering a new approach to earning money from published legal terms online. In particular, I’m thinking of trying this with “SaaS Passport”, my nascent stab at standard legal terms for software as a service.

As essential background, companies usually paper SaaS sales with a combination of a sales order and a separate document containing legal terms. The sales order can be presented online as a checkout page for self-serve customers. It can also be written up as a document with signature blocks for customers sold more traditionally. In sum, a SaaS order is a sales order that links to a set of legal terms.

The model, in barest outline:

Publish the legal terms for free on the open web. Write all the various alternatives and optional provisions into those terms using plain-English instructions for conditionality, e.g. “The following applies only if the sales order includes XXX: …”. That way there is just one canonical “document” per version, and all template logic gets handled by readers. Grant a public license to copy and share that document, but not to modify it.

Sell:

  • access to a wizard for generating sales orders that work with the published terms, leveraging all the alternative and optional provisions appropriately (≈API reference for software)
  • access to a guide to the terms and wizard, including a fully annotated copy of the legal terms (≈manual for software)
  • downloads of Word copies of the legal terms, a convenience
  • access to a private discussion forum
  • access to drafts of new versions, so you can review and feedback on new versions before they’re released
  • permission to modify the published legal terms

The main thrust would be that most businesspeople and especially tech-savvy businesspeople can and should negotiate the vast majority of their own SaaS deals without direct lawyer help. I would optimize the wizard so that folks who just need terms to offer now can speed through the options and put something together, falling back on the guide if and when a potential customer asks for concessions.

I’m thinking an up-front fee for an annual subscription, to cover versions released during that year.

If you were launching a new indie SaaS project today, would you prefer something like this to hiring a lawyer? Would you be comfortable sending out sales orders that incorporate terms either on saaspassport.com or clearly copied from it?