Insanity of User License Agreements: We All Just Click- I Agree, But Many Don’t Know, Understand– What They ‘Agree-To’…

Let’s be honest, no one really reads the ‘End User Licensing Agreements’ (EULA) or ‘Terms and Conditions’ (T&C) when you are downloading software, apps, accessing  websites… typically you just scroll down and click– ‘I Accept’.

According to Mikko Hyppönen; the biggest lie on the Internet is– I have read and agree to the EULA… To prove the point, a company conducted an experiment– they buried a ‘herod clause’ in the EULA, which said that if you agree to these terms– you shall assign your first-born child to this company for the duration of eternity’.. six people clicked– ‘I Agree’…

So they either didn’t read the EULA  or they  want to get rid of their first-born…  Most people just skim over the EULA verbiage and deal with the consequences of blindly signing with– I Agree…

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However it’s important to note that when a company presents you with its terms and conditions prior to an installation, your click on the ‘I Agree’ box is just as binding as signing your name on the bottom of a paper contract… According to Andrew Alleyne; you are accepting a set of legal terms and conditions, and by clicking the ‘I Accept’ button you are entering into a contract…

According to Omri Ben-Shahar; it’s a century-old practice of having ‘informed consent’ as underpinning of modern business practices… when the user is presented with an EULA or T&C they are warned… and the company can absolve itself of legal responsibility for any issues that might arise… hence by failing to read and understand the terms of an agreement the user can sustain serious liabilities, if something goes wrong…

In the article Clicking ‘I Accept’ is Same as Signing Contract by Drew Hasselback writes: There are disclosures everywhere from the apocalyptic warnings about possible side effects that run on pharmaceutical ads to oxymoronic warnings on consumer products, such as; when a peanut butter label warns you the jar may contain nuts… According to Barry Sookman; many of these contracts hold-up in court, even though most people don’t reads them, it’s basic contract law… The court says there are two types of online agreements:

(1) ‘clickwrap’ agreement is a type of contract that is widely used with software licenses and online transactions in which a user must agree to terms and conditions prior to using the product or service. The format and content of clickwrap agreements vary by vendor… However, most of clickwrap agreements require consent of end users by clicking– ‘OK’, ‘I Accept’ or ‘I Agree’ button on a pop-up window or a dialog box, and 

(2) ‘browsewrap’ agreements, where the online terms are posted on the bottom of the webpage. The hallmark of a browsewrap agreement is that a user can use the site or services ‘without visiting the page hosting the… agreement or even knowing that such a webpage exists… Because the user is not required to express their assent as a condition of proceeding, enforceability of the latter types of agreements depend on whether a user has actual or constructive notice…

In the article EULA Dangerous Terms by Annalee Newitz writes: Millions of people are clicking ‘I Agree’ buttons that purport to bind them to agreements that they never read and that often run contrary to federal and state laws. These dubious ‘contracts’ are, in theory, one-on-one agreements between manufacturers/vendor and each of their customers. Yet because almost every computer user in the world is subjected to the same take-it-or-leave-it terms at one time or another, EULAs are more like legal mandates than consumer choices…

They are in effect changing laws without going through any kind of legislative process. And the results are dangerous for consumers and innovators alike… It’s time that consumers understood what happens when they click ‘I Agree’… They may be inviting vendors to snoop on their computers, or allowing companies to prevent them from publicly criticizing the product they’ve bought. They also click away their right to customize or even repair the devices they purchased… According to Agustín Reyna; no matter what you call them, it’s a contract…

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The ‘common sense’ advice is simple: always read any user agreement before signing it… According to Joanne Lezemore; it’s really important for people to ‘understand’ all the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line… While all user contracts are subject to the unfair terms in most contract regulations, this doesn’t mean you can challenge a clause just because you– didn’t know it was there, or you think it’s unfair…

If it’s clearly written you are bounded by it… Most often online shoppers click the ‘T&C box’ to confirm they have read it, but in many cases they have not actually done so… Don’t assume that these users agreements are all like– each company has its own version and each website is different… hence make sure you read it, understand it, and you know exactly what you are agreeing to…

In the article It Pays To Read License Agreements by Larry Magid writes: OK, let’s be honest; you don’t read EULAs: How do I know? Because hardly anyone does. When you download and install software, you are usually in a hurry to take advantage of whatever it offers, and the EULA is just one more thing to spend time on, and you are not just talking about a couple of minutes– some of these ‘End User License Agreements’ are 2,550 words, or longer (that’s seven printed pages)…

Many EULAs can be very deceptive, e.g.; when you take time to read them, you will begin to realize that you have probably given the company permission to install other unintended software or apps… that collects certain non-personally identifiable information about your Internet behavior… And according to many agreements, it will probably includes; URL addresses, web log data, search information you conducted on the Internet, online ads visited…

OK, so what’s the harm in collecting non-personally identifiable information? After all it’s done all the time… But there is a big difference between collecting non-personal information about what visitors are doing on your own site… and tracking– URL addresses of Web pages you view, web log information about Web sites that you visite… According to Parry Aftab; most EULAs do hold-up in court as long as they are reasonably clear… The courts have said that when you click on something that says– ‘I Agree’ then its legal consent… But there are exceptions, e.g.;  when agreement is incomprehensible, unclear, vague… then it may be unenforceable…

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However, the fact that a EULA might not be legally enforceable is of little solace because it’s being enforced on you whether you like it or not. Once the program is installed on your computer or smartphone, the damage is already being done and it doesn’t even matter if the contract that you agreed to is invalid… Simply by using your computer, you’re upholding your part of that contract by giving-up your information…

Although the courts have ruled on the legality of EULAs, there are still many grey areas… In the mean time, it’s ‘user beware’… A click of the mouse, like a stroke of a pen, can get you into a heap of trouble: Be careful, be aware, and read those EULAs…