The Legal Documents of Beta Testing

Beta testers are often asked to sign legal agreements as part of joining a company’s beta test. While it may be tempting to just sign the documents without reading them, it’s important that you understand what you’re agreeing to. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally violate the rules of the beta test later.

Companies take beta test secrecy and participation very seriously, so you should too. The two legal documents you’ll usually see as a beta tester are non-disclosure agreements and beta participant agreements. They may be given to you as a single document, or separately, but they do address two different aspects of being a beta tester.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The document you’ll come across most often as a beta tester is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA is a fairly standard business agreement that protects confidential information shared between two parties. Basically, the person signing it is promising not to tell anyone what they’ve learned about the company. In beta tests, the testers are promising not to talk about the products they’ve tested or share their experiences as a tester. This means not talking about the beta test on social media (even to express excitement or thank the company), not taking pictures of the product, and not showing beta products or documents to others. It can often mean you can’t talk about the beta test even after the test is over.

Beta Participant Agreements

The second document you may see as a beta tester is a beta participant agreement (BPA). A BPA is a beta-specific document that establishes the guidelines for being a beta tester. This is the document the company uses to communicate what you’ll be expected to do (or not do) during the test. By reading the BPA you’ll understand the time and energy commitment the company is expecting from you, as well as any additional guidelines they expect you to follow.

What’s included in this document will vary widely depending on the company and the product. The document will often outline things like the duration of the test, restrictions on copying or disassembling the beta product, your participation obligations throughout the beta test, as well as what you’re expected to do with the beta product after the test is over.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of these documents, here are a few concerns that commonly come up.

What happens if I violate an NDA?

By signing an NDA, you’ve agreed not to talk about the product you’re testing or your experiences as a tester. If you violate that agreement, you may be sharing very sensitive information that could seriously affect the company. At the very least, you’ll be removed from the beta test and blacklisted from future opportunities. The company may also take legal action against you, which could result in attorney fees, as well as fines. Many NDAs will outline the consequences of an NDA violation, which can be very serious.

Should I be nervous?

Most testers have nothing to worry about when signing these agreements. If you keep your beta activity a secret and follow the directions of the test, you’ll be fine. These documents are designed to help companies deal with any bad apples that can slip into the test.

I don’t remember signing anything!

Not all beta tests require you to sign legal documents. Many companies will run public beta tests where anyone can join and talk about their beta participation. Often times, these companies want their beta testers actively talking about their beta product to increase interest and sales. That is why it’s particularly important that you read the legal documents you sign at the beginning of every test, just so you know if you’re committing to maintaining confidentiality about your involvement.

Companies value their beta testers and what they contribute to the development of their product, and they’re looking for testers that value this relationship the same way. Understanding what you’re committing to at the beginning of the test will go a long way toward ensuring a fruitful relationship and a successful beta test.