Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is it reasonable for non-lawyer folk to understand Terms Of Service?

rather watch ice melt than read TOS
It doesn't matter if you are on facebook or buying a URL on godaddy there is always that point where you have to agree to their terms of service (TOS).  Usually you just select a box without reading anything because in most cases you need to be a lawyer to understand all the legal mumbo jumbo.  Facebook which has had to do better than most still is couple of pages of text you have to absorb into your brain.  I argue there is no point trying to read TOS because it would be like reading french.  You might be able to sound out the words but unless you speak french, you won't have a clue what you are saying.  Maybe you might understand one or two words on their own but not within the context of a legal document.  Maybe a better comparison would be Shakespeare since it is in English and like legal documents nobody really has a clue what people are saying without a translator.  I can't afford a translator of the legal kind to explain to me the far reaching implications of agreeing to terms of service on a website.

I remember the last time I talked to a lawyer I was trying to get a trademark sorted.  We had a conversation on the phone for maybe five minutes about what I wanted done.  Two weeks later I get a letter summarizing what the 5 minute conversation was about and a bill for $300.  That was the last time I talked to that lawyer.  I told him to cease and desist.  Charged me an hour for a 5 minute phone conversation and I never asked him to type out a letter telling me what he was doing in text because telling me on the phone wasn't enough work to charge me for an hour.

In some cases it would probably take a pretty talented lawyer to explain to me in simple enough terms to understand a websites TOS.  I don't have that kind of money, lawyers are expensive to talk to, let alone have them do work for you.  I could probably this question to software in general which also generally makes you agree to some terms of service.

This all begs the question, is being stupid a defence if you were in theory to break a website's or software's terms of service?  For a layman's person it is not reasonable to expect them to read and understand what they are agreeing to when it comes to terms of service.  If you can't understand what you are signing, can you be legally responsible if you break the terms of the contract?

I have no idea and I can't afford to ask a legal mind.  It is just one of those things I wonder every time I click I agree.

If you happen to end up on this blog in the geographic location of #yeg and friends, wanting ice, just give Ernie a call.  I am the iceman, the crazy looking guy who will bring you your big bags of ice.  

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