Ever since I could write I have been asked to append my signature to so many countless documents I have lost count. From the Post Office Savings Bank’s little green book when I was a kid to my current lease agreement. With the advent of computers things were supposed to have become simpler and to a certain extent they have. Instead of rushing through contracts looking for the dotted lines all one has to do is to find the “Agree” button or the “Yes” checkbox when agreeing to End User License Agreements (EULA). What is not exactly simple or clear is what you are agreeing to.
To be honestI have never bothered to read any EULA or Terms and Conditions. (Who reads that dross anyway!). I simply agree to them and happily join the service or continue to use the software. For all I care the software could be in exchange for my head or my baby second cousin but I doubt the creators of the software would exact such bizarre requirements. Software developers and service providers are partly to blame for this lethargy. For so long now they have implemented a take it or leave it approach. For example until you check the Yes checkbox button in Office you will not be able to install it since the install button would be greyed out until you agree. This is true for most software, Internet Service Providers, Free email service providers, Facebook, Google, Amazon Web Service, Yahoo, Windows, Rapidshare, uTorrent…. It is their way or the highway.
If you were to protest yours would be the lone voice. The truth is nobody cares and why should they? But with the rise of cloud services and privacy breaches eyebrows are now beginning to rise. One of the problems of Terms and Conditions is that they are written in convoluted long winded legal speak that is not intended for use mere mortals. Lawyers are so expensive it would be ridiculous to hire one just so you can join Facebook. It would be easier if EULAs and Terms and conditions followed a set guidelines. At the moment however everyone have their own terms and conditions and some companies like Microsoft have several versions for different services. The result is a Hydra like problem.
The truth is I suspect that the service providers secretly hope we do not read them and that is why some ridiculous clauses have persisted. The Apple ITunes license prohibits you from using the software to making “missiles, nuclear or biological weapons.” I am sure some lawyer could come up with a rational explanation as to why this clause exists in the terms and conditions of a Music player. But missiles really? Moreover if you did not know it by now: you do not own your copy of Windows or Office. Both are the property of Microsoft who have granted you the temporary rights to use them.
Here are some of crazy agreements you might already have made translated into plain speak:
- You cannot tell anyone that you do not like Microsoft or MacAfee just keep you opinions to yourself.
- Most of your free software has the right to take away your computer usage data because you agreed to it.
- You cannot launch a class action suit against Sony because you agreed not to.
- Google is allowed to view and post your credit card number, username and password and all your personal and banking data. ( This has been modified a little in recent years)
- If you have installed Windows Original Equipment Manufacturer edition on a custom built machine you are a pirate even if you bought the license and if you bought a machine with OEM edition of Windows you have to buy a new copy of Windows in order to reinstall.
- You are only allowed to make one back up copy of your software and so by extension using cloud storage services (with their multiple copies) is a violation of your EULA.
- The terms and conditions can change at any time and it is your sole responsibility to find the changes otherwise agreeing to the current copy implies you agree to all future changes.
- You have agreed not to sue Microsoft before a judge or magistrate.
- Like the GPL the Windows 8 license does not guarantee that Windows 8 is fit for any particular purpose yet you are required to pay $375 to hire it.
- Facebook reserves the right to auction off your personal data to the highest bidder.
- Google reserves the right to read your emails and in fact every time you use web based Gmail your emails are scanned and relevant ads displayed.
- With most Internet Service providers you agree not to use file sharing services.
- Back in 2008 everything you did using Google Chrome belonged to Google no matter what website or service you were using.
- If you are on the US sanctions list as promulgated in the Zimbabwe Economic Recovery Act you are not allowed to use ITunes.
The truth is most people simply stopped caring a long time ago. When presented with this evidence of abuse of trust and power by big corporations like Internet Service Providers, Google, Facebook and Microsoft most people simply shrug and say, “Whatever!” Whatever that means I do not know.