On April 1, 2010, the UK retail shop Gamestation added a clause in their end-user agreement stating that users who placed an order on this day agreed to irrevocably give their soul to the company, to which 7,500 users agreed. Similarly, a clause included in the license contract of the program PC Pitstopproclaimed that anybody who read the clause and contacted the company would receive a monetary award. It took four months and over 3,000 software downloads before anybody collected it.
Our personal and public life is increasingly influenced by legal and corporate culture, and end-user agreements are an integral part of new consumer technologies. These agreements are rarely read by users and we are given no choice but to agree to them if we want to enjoy the product we have purchased. Mostly presented to the user as a click-through process, these contractual agreements are ubiquitous in every download, installation or update of our devices and programs. Unlike most other legal agreements we enter into there is no possibility for negotiation and the terms are typically too complex to decipher properly without legal training. While we are usually presented an abstract or introduction, the full length of these documents if you click to read them verges on the absurd.
“Common devices such as tablets and smartphones now come with the option of a child proof housing due to their widespread use by minors, while the end-user agreements that regularly pop-up do not recognise the age of the user who clicks ‘agree’ or their legal status.” (JonesSmithJohnson)
A contract is, by definition, a ‘voluntary agreement’, but the more insidious tech-companies become, the less this definition holds true.