May 13, 2011

Agreed or Disagreed?


To quote from one of my many informative friends: “The biggest lie ever? I Agree”.

Oh yes, I agree. Admit to it. Everyone at least once has encountered a piece of software, which prompts you to “read” the privacy policy and terms & conditions, then agree to it. Apple requires you to agree to one of them every time they make a small change. Only the paranoid lawyers will read 60 pages of legal crap, which no one understands, to download an app. Apple is just the start, there are websites, email services, twitter, Facebook and every other possible online and offline service ever created in the history of mankind, who do the exact same thing. I will guarantee that even the ancient Greeks had some form of long legal contract to sign, which no one read.

Why do all these companies make them so long? Why do they make them incomprehensible? Why, why, why? The simple, blatant answer is,

They know you will never read it.

You knew that already, and if you did not, I recommend that you evolve, or at least attempt to crawl out of the dark, grubby hole you appear to have been spending the entirety of your life in. It would greatly benefit you.

Moving back on to the topic of reading, it is a well known fact that one must read any contract presented to you before signing, just to see whether the person, who wrote the contract, is not taking advantage of your laziness; however, with terms & conditions (T&C) online, you are doing the exact opposite. You are clicking “I Agree” (basically a virtual signature) and getting on with it, hoping, no, expecting that everything will be ok.

At this point, I would like to clarify the difference between the terms & conditions and the privacy policy. The Privacy policy is the agreement between you and the service about what info they can gather from you and share, while the terms & conditions is the agreement about everything else, to put it simply.

Here is an example, a very interesting one too. Most Apple savvy or non-tech savvy people use iTunes. The reliable, easy to use, iPod friendly, iTunes. We all know it, some love it, and some hate it, but we all use it. Steve Jobs argued against streaming services, like European Spotify (which those pesky Americans cannot use*. Hehe) by saying people wanted to own their music. Well, if you read the iTunes T&C, you will find out that you only own a license to listen to that music on up to 5 registered computers and unlimited iPods. You do not own the music or video file.

Its almost like saying I have bought a book, a physical one (I cannot believe I actually have to specify what type of book!), and I only own a license to read the book, even though its in my possession in my house taking up space, like on a computer. If I loose the book, then I have to buy a new one, even though I already own a license to read the same book.

Of course, this does not happen. One owns the book, and the ink inside it. Although the actual text is copyrighted, it is still yours. Why does this have to be any different with music, if I dare ask, Why am I not allowed to play a rented movie on an “uncertified” projector? Why am I not allowed to OWN a piece of music?

And I am not finished there. EBooks. Have you ever read Amazons T&C for eBooks? Same story, all over again.

Oh, and one more thing. TwitPic. If you read their privacy policy, they reserve the right to sell on your personal pictures on to companies. WHAT?

As you can see, I am very passionate about this topic. If you do not agree to their T&Cs or Privacy Policies, then you may not use the service. Companies are holding us at ransom! There is a very limited way of changing these rules. You will never be able to do it unless you have a huge legal team and millions of pounds/dollars/euros/drachma, etc.

I, being a new blogger, do not have a legal team, and looking at the Creative Commons link down below easily solves any issues relating to copyright, in simple language. Since however, that solves not all problems, there is an email address, in big letters, at the top of the blog, so I am easily reachable.

To conclude this 841-word post, I would like to say to all companies, that we want to know what we are agreeing to. Take the example of Creative Commons, they provide a human readable format of all the legal junk, written by evil lawyers to trick us. It should be law to provide a human readable format for all T&Cs and Privacy Policies, and I think that this will one day, in the far future, be the case, after all chaos and disorder has broken loose and destroyed our cherished digital realm.

*To my American fan base: I’m just pocking a bit of fun! You get all the new things first there, so we are allowed one new thing here.