The lawyers take over

c: | f: /

There’s a time for words, and there’s a time when they get in the way. Such as when trying to do something legitimate, only to find terms and conditions stand in your path.

Just went to download a free app for the iPod and, after the rigmarole of getting it to recognise my Apple ID, I was informed that Apple’s Terms and Conditions had changed and that I had to read and agree to them before proceeding.

The terms page popped up with the usual shouty header block in all caps, about the software being supplied as-is without any implied warranty and if you download anything and a nuclear winter ensues it’s not Apple’s fault, blah blah.

I scrolled down a few lines past that bit and found where the terms took on the usual numbered list of clauses and sub-clauses, privacy policy, yahde yahde. Then scrolled a bit further to the bottom of the relatively short page, thinking “hey, not so bad: quite succinct”.

Then I stopped, for at the bottom of the screen was the following text:

Page 1 of 65

What? Sixty-five pages of conditions? Are they kidding? I had the option to step through them all one by one or click the Agree button. Naturally, with time being a precious commodity and holding utter contempt for lawyers, I lied and clicked Agree. A further box popped up asking if I’d understood the agreement and agree to be bound by it. I lied again, and got my free app (which was shit, btw).

But then I reflected: was it free? What terrors lurked on page thirty-eight that, in my haste to have a life, I giddily skipped? Have I just agreed to watch all twelve hours of Lord of the Rings in one sitting? To eat the first born child of every Russian? To lease my house to Apple Inc.?

Seriously, has anybody other than the overpaid lawyers who thought it necessary to draft 65 pages of incontrovertible waffle ever read the agreement, let alone understood it all such that clicking the Agree button becomes a truthful and meaningful statement?

I doubt it, and therefore propose the following buttons be coded into the next iOS release under the (probably lengthier) agreement:

  1. Agree
  2. Disagree
  3. Ambivalent
  4. Agree to disagree
  5. Disagree, but don’t care
  6. TL;DR

At least if they capture which button was pressed, they’d have a more accurate understanding of what it means for their customers to be on the sharp end of the terms.

Better yet, since a picture paints a thousand words, why not just draw the agreement? Images that spring to mind are the cat carrying buckets, or the goatse.cx hello.jpg. Though the cat is a great image, the latter is perhaps more appropriate given that the point of an agreement is to grease you up ready for sodomy by the corporations.

Gimme your thoughts

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