Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finessed by the fine print

Over a post-game beer a few nights ago with some golf buddies, having thoroughly discussed the Alex Rios trade, Ricky Romero's great start with the Jays, and other headline stuff, the conversation turned to fine print.

This falls into the category of "stuff we don't really understand but know should be changed."

We understand that it's a litigious world, and you need to cover your backside against any nefarious scheme the other guy's lawyer might think up. But is it really necessary to obfuscate language around activities that regular folk engage in every day.

For example, opening an e-mail account is pretty routine stuff, but Google requires you to accept a Terms of Service document that has 83 sections, subsections, and sub-subsections, and includes paragraphs like this:
You acknowledge and agree that Google (or Google’s licensors) own all legal right, title and interest in and to the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in the Services (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). You further acknowledge that the Services may contain information which is designated confidential by Google and that you shall not disclose such information without Google’s prior written consent.
Now, how many people do you figure are reading and understanding all this before checking "I agree" in order to get their damn e-mail account. Exactly!

My credit card agreement is 304 square inches of densely packed, tiny print. You can bet cardholders all wade through that regularly, right? Cell phone terms and conditions --- 374 square inches.

You get the idea.

Here's my theory:
Lawyers write this stuff so that, if anything goes awry, you need to hire a lawyer to tell you how much trouble you're in, and to deal with the lawyers on the other side. A cycle of perpetual billings. Sweet, eh?

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