The Bald-Faced Lie Everyone Tells: ‘I Agree To The Terms And Conditions’

The Register has an interesting article about the sheer absurdity of having to click “I Agree” to some legal document every time you install a piece of software, or sign up for a website. No one actually reads the document, and even if they did, they wouldn’t understand half of it — not unless they were lawyers, anyhow. Furthermore, it’s a giant drain on society: looking at the Adobe Flash license alone, and assuming it takes someone ten minutes to read it, the world has wasted over 50,000 working lifetimes of man-hours in just the past year. Clearly, this does not happen.

Adobe Flash license agreement checkbox

And yet, the farce continues. It’s reminiscent of other legal documents that most people just blindly initial in a few places and sign at the bottom: apartment leases, car rental agreements and credit card applications. The rationale being that some legal documents are boiler-plate: we know what a standard lease says and by signing it without reading it, all we’re saying is “we’ll play by the standard rules”. But while most leases are standard and the expectations widely known, the same doesn’t hold true for software. There’s no standard End-User License Agreement, or Terms and Conditions, and they could say anything.

For example, the Flash license doesn’t allow maintaining a copy of it, even in backups; since most backups are automatic, you’re violating the license without even knowing it. “That’s ok, Adobe isn’t gonna come after me for accidentally backing Flash up.” And that’s true — at least not until they have a reason to. But when they do, watch out: the whole point of the license agreement is to give the software maker leverage. If they for some reason do want to sue you, they can dig up so many infractions of their 3500-word license that you’ll have no choice but to capitulate. Because given enough rules, everyone will be guilty of breaking some of them, just due to sheer statistics.

From The Register

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