Recently I needed to download some software to my PC and, being the security-conscious person that I am, I made an attempt to read the software provider’s terms and conditions (T’s & C’s). I’ll admit that I got just so far in really reading the script. Then I started skimming the words, and then skipping entire sections. I finally scrolled down and just clicked on “I agree” to get my software.
That probably wasn’t a very wise thing to do. As reported in a blog post by Brandon Cook at Skyhigh Networks, software vendors sometimes put some pretty sneaky provisions in their T’s & C’s. You may think that a vendor is out to protect you with its T’s & C’s, but the real reason that legalese exists is to protect the vendor’s interests. And sometimes those interests mean asserting the vendor’s right to use your content, your code or your likeness any way it wants to.
Cook gives us a couple of examples where it would behoove the user to carefully read through the entire terms and conditions dissertation, no matter how long it is (PayPal uses more than 36,000 words to detail its T’s & C’s!).
- The cloud-based presentation service Prezi claims the right to exploit – yes, it actually uses the word “exploit” – your content in exchange for providing you the privilege of using its service. So, don’t post anything you don’t want to give away!
- You give Facebook the right to use your name and profile picture in advertising. Say cheese!
- If you’re late in making a payment to the cloud storage company Mega, the company can make you pay for their efforts to collect the money from you. I guess if they send Guido to break your legs, you’re going to buy Guido’s bat for him.
But seriously, folks, sneaky terms and conditions – even if they are spelled out clearly in black and white – can put you or your company at risk. Nobody likes to read the legalese, but ignorance of the T’s & C’s is no excuse if something should go wrong and you have a dispute with the vendor.