Should we read TOS? (and other legal stuff...)

Recently I’ve noticed just how many sites have Terms Of Service that are usually quite lengthy and it’s usually just easier to go and find some other site that just has a copyright notice.

Unfortunantly, there isn’t another, and with all the cool stuff that’s happening there (and other places) it’s crippling my use of the internet to be weighted down with all that reading.

Questions (about TOS and others):

  • Are we, or should we, read these TOS? Is that even expected of the average user?
  • If not, what (legally) can these sites put in their TOS?
  • Are these TOS/EULA even legally enforcable in the first place?
  • Would a program that analyzes different versions of licenses and shows the changes be legal?
  • Would it be legal to create a “license repository” that offered human-readable explanations of different licenses?On that license repository idea:
    We’d have to have a disclaimer saying that this isn’t professional legal help (unless we actually got some lawers involved, which is unlikely), and there’d be a lot of other complications, but it might be a cool thing (maybe?).

I’ve also thought about how licenses are usually built up, and I think that companies should maybe change this to have a human readable summary that says something like
Here are the TOS for this software/website/whatever. This is a human-readable summary of this legal code(link to legal code here). You need only to read this summary to agree to the legal code, and we certify that the two are same in intent. If you have specific questions about the legality of a certain action, please read the full legal code.

(human-readable summary would go here)
After all, most license agreements can be summed up by most anyone by saying “They just don’t want you to copy the software or hack into it.” I think that the GNU licenses are great (although long) because so many things use them and you just have to look and say “Hey, it’s GPL 2.0! I’ve read that.” (Happily continues…)

There would be other things to this idea, too; but that’s just the basics.

Any help or comments are much appreciated.

you lost me but i never read those except if i want to make sure i do everythin right

Whoops, sorry about that. I must have absorbed some of that legalese. :wink:

Yeah, I wouldn’t really read them either, but you don’t know what they say is okay or not until you’ve read it.

Also, they also sometimes put things in there that aren’t so great. Example: I hear that if you install WoW Blizzard can scan your hard drive for pirated software (of course, I’m not accusing anyone, but still, I don’t like anybody scanning my hard drive…).

I read them, especially if the web site I’m signing up for will be hosting anything of my creation, be it artwork or writing. I want to be sure that they will not suddenly be selling my stuff without royalties, or something equally bad.

Often the terms will have headings over each section, which allows you have some idea of whether each section is important to you or not.

Sometimes these readings have proved to be very valuable: at one time I had considered posting artwork at the popular DeviantArt site, but upon close inspection of the TOS I discovered that they reserve a fair assortment of rights to your uploaded artwork. I didn’t click “I Accept.” I clicked the back button on the browser and never returned.

Hmm. Well, the impression I got was that they wanted you to read the complete license. :confused: If I could just skim over it, it would sure take less time. Especially with the disclaimers that are almost always typed in uppercase.

I always read them nowerdays, especially when there is any involvement of my personal details or money, T&C, TOS, Provacy policy, you name it…

1.Yes you should, It’s not against the law to not read it, but you will be legally held against it, so its better than being screwed over. The average user probabily doesnt read it, it is expected though.
3.Yes… Some are a bit fiddely, legistration of other countries can change what is legal or not. Generally, If you agree to do something, which is ‘within reason’ and you break that, it’s going to be inforced by anyone…
4.Such a program would be legal, but problematic. Resulting in lawsuits for the creator and so on. No single legal caluse is identicle, it’s way to easy for such a program to mistake a clause for somthing else and so on… It would probabily put you in a worse situation than reading the first sentance of each cluase.
5.That is fine, but companies have to have a very detail version so people cant complain it to be missleading, which is what any down to earth /summerised version will incounter. Infact… Many companies offer ‘down to earth’ version along side the proper one.

Again it’s likly to be missleading and cause you complications. like no_4 it’ll probabily get you in lawsuite by people saying “well thse guys told me this type of clause ment this… I didnt think there was anymore to it”

I got banned from a site once for posting a link to a download. The reason in the notice i got was “major tos violation”. so i guess it does pay to read them.

Sorry, but I think this has an easy answer. Read them.

Same as reading anything you sign, read something before you say “I have read and I accept”. It’s just common sense.

Most TOS’s are not enforcable by law.

Laws over-ride any contract with any company (in my country at least, and i would assume most others). there are certain things which can be stated and certain which can’t.

for example here, anyone has the right to contact ny company they want who holds information on them, and ask to view that information, and edit it. i.e. change addresses and such.

in the internet this is a bit stranger, as the laws applicable are generally not those of any particular country, and information cannot be protected easily, or realistically.


Lukus: In #2 I was just wondering exactly what they could and couldn’t tell you to do - to what extent they could put stuff in. Just a wild example, I wouldn’t want to get a reminder email from some site saying “Have you been remembering to stand on your head while balancing bananas on your feet?”

STELLA: Good point.

IanC: Yeah, that’s probably what it’s going to come down to - I’ll just have to grit my teeth and plan for a day sometime soon when I’ll read as many of these TOS as I can.

Still, I think it would be common sense for these websites to realize that their users don’t want to read a short book’s-worth of TOS before using their site…

Alltaken: Yes, that’s why I asked about whether they’re legally enforcable or not. I’ve heard about articles talking about how EULAs aren’t enforcable - I’m guessing it’s because they didn’t think clicking “yes” or “no” was legally binding, but I don’t know.

Anyway, thanks for the help everyone. I guess I’m just going to have to read them. (sigh)

Anyone have any comments on my idea about the human-readable/legal talk license? Personally, I think it’d be a great time saver for people, and maybe if enough people like it we could email companies and get their thoughts on it - just a far-fetched idea…