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The 5 Most Laughable Terms of Service On the Net 399

nicholas.m.carlson writes "According to these five terms of service and EULA, Google owns any content you create using its Chrome browser and can filter your Gmail messages if it likes. Facebook says it can sell its users' uploaded images as stock photography. YouTube can keep footage of your kids forever, even after you've deleted it from the site. And AOL can ban you for using vulgar language on AIM. Funny, right? That's why Valleywag calls them 'The 5 most laughable terms of service on the Net.'" Reader dlaudel writes, regarding the previously-mentioned Google EULA for Chrome, "According to Ars Technica, Google's EULA for Chrome was just copy-and-pasted from its EULA for other services, a practice that is apparently common at Google."
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The 5 Most Laughable Terms of Service On the Net

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  • Verizon DSL (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:53PM (#24865717)

    I skimmed the terms of use when I started my Verizon DSL account several years ago, and I'm quite certain it said something about downloading pornography being prohibited. Um, yeah, sure -- click "agree" to continue...

  • while funny, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mistahkurtz ( 1047838 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:53PM (#24865719)
    what happens if these companies decide to try enforcing the EULAs?
  • laughable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:53PM (#24865721)
    Not really. The google one's funny, although wikis which were made with a predominantly chrome-using user base might have a problem with it. The facebook one is blatantly taking a right that it doesn't have a legitimate reason to take.

    AIM probably has that in case someone goes crazy swearing at some kids and a bunch of soccer moms get angry, and the youtube one is probably some CYA, since services like that can often store copies that are hard if not impossible to find.

    Overall, the terms of service (like most ToS's) are overkill and not something that people would agree to if they actually read it. The problem is that they put them in legalese, which might as well be japanese for most people.
    • Re:laughable? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Man Eating Duck ( 534479 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:02PM (#24865867)

      The facebook one is blatantly taking a right that it doesn't have a legitimate reason to take.

      From their EULA:

      "By accessing or using our web site at or the mobile version thereof (together the "Site") or by posting a Share Button on your site, you (the "User") signify that you have read, understand and agree to be bound by these Terms of Use ("Terms of Use" or "Agreement"), whether or not you are a registered member of Facebook."

      My emphasis.

      • Re:laughable? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:24PM (#24866089)

        So how do I read the Terms of Use?

        Go to If I do that, I've already agreed to it!

      • by tonyreadsnews ( 1134939 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:31PM (#24866177)
        Doesn't mean its enforceable. What if I put a website up that had a TOS that said (which of course you had to go to my website to read.)

        "By accessing or using our web site at or the mobile version thereof (together the "Site") or by posting a Slave Button on your site, you (the "User") signify that you have read, understand and agree to be bound by these Terms of Use ("Terms of Use" or "Agreement"), and are my personal slave forever."

        Guess what, not enforceable. There are even more issues with EULA stored online (that you have to seek out to read) plus various things about contracts requiring negotiations and consideration.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SydShamino ( 547793 )

        I've never been to My wife has, though, and I've seen over her shoulder that one of our mutual friends has posted a picture that includes me.

        Were facebook to use that picture in advertising, I'd have them by the balls; I've never agreed to their terms in any way, and I certainly haven't signed a model release.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Its more to cover themselves in corner cases.

          E.g. Miss A posts a picture on facebook. Then Facebook hold a conference, and during one session, a speaker demontrates the new search, and that photo appears in the search results. Miss A has explicitly allowed (in the ToS) that photo to be prestented in cases like this, so it stops Miss A (who is a nutter) sueing every time the photo comes up in a Facebook demo.

          Use of am image in a magazine or TV advert would probably be outside of the terms, and a judge mi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 )

      > The problem is that they put them in legalese, which might as well be japanese for most
      > people.

      And yet 99.999% click "Agree" without even attempting to read the terms. Only fools agree to contracts which they have not read and understood.

      And most are not that hard to understand anyway. "It's legalese and so I can't understand it" is usually code for "I can't be arsed to make the effort to understand it."

      • Re:laughable? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:36PM (#24866233) Journal

        I think in the case of EULAs, though, people have an intuitive understanding that they can not, or should not be held to the terms of the EULA just because they click OK. They rightly think, "Well, I bought it, and they can't make me agree to anything after the fact, so I'm just going to click OK without bothering to read what they can't enforce."

        Or it could just be that people are stupid and lazy and we are correct to feel smugly superior to them.

    • Re:laughable? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:58PM (#24866495)

      The google one in TFA is not the Chromium one, but instead;

      Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service.

      Which seems to me actually to be fairly reasonable. I know Slashdotters hate any kind of censorship, but if I were Google I'd want the right to take stuff off my branded sites for any reason I wanted without fear of lawsuits. What if someone posts copyrighted material or pornography on youtube and someone complains? They can take them down and sort out the rights and wrongs afterwards. The important thing is, the brand is protected.

      I do trust Google not to abuse this clause because of something else that Slashdotters tend to neglect; people who want to make money today will, as a rule, want to make money tomorrow too.

  • by kitgerrits ( 1034262 ) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:55PM (#24865743)

    These days, laws force people that store data to keep a copy of that data for 'forensic puropses'.
    OTOH, when posting anything to The Internets, don't be surprised if it shows up in some odd places (like a google search by your boss).

  • funny? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:55PM (#24865745)
    the DMCA is laughable too, and we're not laughing
  • Before anyone says something along the lines of the following...

    But these are private companies, they can do whatever they want. It's there space.

    ..., please tell me when the last time Youtube told you it would hold your content after you deleted it. Oh right, you had to find that little minuscule footer link that most no one goes to. These are also posted when signing up, but they are in boring, long, law-speak that no one bothers to understand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook ( 132727 )

      The question should be: when was the last time YouTube said they wouldn't keep your home movies forever?

      If you just make pessimistic assumptions until you are proven wrong by a legal document (ignoring the possible invalidity of many EULA clauses) then you don't have to worry about this stuff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by martinw89 ( 1229324 )

        I definitely agree. Considering where your data is going and what might happen to it will almost always prevent these problems.

        I think my main point is about the people on Youtube who don't read Boing Boing and /. Mostly, all of the videos on Youtube are crap that no one has to worry about. But there have to be some cases where someone makes a mistake. One may forget to edit something embarassing out, or leave something personal visible in the edge of a scene. Some YouTube users will assume that the de

    • by jd ( 1658 )
      Look, YouTube isn't going to keep your home movies. They're too busy making copies of the porn people upload before it's deleted, along with all the tv programs and movies that they don't want to be seen pirating via peer-to-peer.
  • by Dude McDude ( 938516 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:55PM (#24865751) []

    In order to keep things simple for our users, we try to use the same set of legal terms (our Universal Terms of Service) for many of our products. Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that donâ(TM)t apply well to the use of that product. We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.

    Rebecca Ward, Senior Product Counsel for Google Chrome

  • by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:56PM (#24865757) scary the next.

    Granted, most people ignore the EULAs. But, what happens if the EULAs can actually be enforced?

  • Everyone asks for whatever they think they can get preemptively to reduce their own liability. I mean, imagine Facebook loses all your pictures through some data breach. If they didn't have all the rights to 'em sewn up, this might be a problem.

    Likewise the rest. If you have no rights, you can't complain when they get infringed on. The AOL thing is probably more along the lines of pre-justifying the banning of accounts.

  • Not ownership (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:58PM (#24865821)
    The Google EULA states that you grant them a non-exclusive right to store and reproduce your stuffs where necessary for the use of Google's services, which is a necessity because otherwise they'd be infringing on your IP rights by storing your files and serving them up to you. You retain copyright, ownership, blah de blah, as stated at the top of that part of the EULA. For Chrome, it's already been revised to only include the "you retain your rights" clause.
  • Licensing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:58PM (#24865825)

    Heh heh... Just the other day an acquaintance was telling me that his company won't use open source software because the GPL is "too restrictive" (huh?). So I suggested that he actually read the EULAs for the software they do use there. He just mutters something about communism and the conversation is over!

  • Problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    Most people don't actually read all of the Terms of Service, including myself. The problem is we don't feel that large companies (such as the ones expressed in the article) would take advantage of us in their EULA and just agree to anything. But if we did read and find it (such as now) are we going to stop using these services? Probably not.
  • by euice ( 953774 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:02PM (#24865871)

    Tomorrow we'll see the 10 fastest ... and then the 20 worst ... and then the 100 funniest ...

    And on the day I read a headline like "the 50 hottest nerds" on the frontpage, I'll digg that story. (and promote it on every other page I can find too).

    Slashdot will need it, by then. Sigh..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:03PM (#24865881)

    Copy-paste copy-paste copy-paste

  • by KnightElite ( 532586 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:03PM (#24865885) Homepage
    I think that these kind of clauses in the TOS (particularly the YouTube one listed) have to do with the fact that they aren't going to go through all their data backups and guarantee they delete your video submissions, even if you delete it from the site. When you think of it in that context, it makes a lot of sense for them to cover their asses.
  • laughable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binarybum ( 468664 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:04PM (#24865901) Homepage

    not so much funny "ha ha" as funny "holy crap these companies are all run by people with God complexes."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spatial ( 1235392 )
      SECTION 11.4

      YOU agree that your casting of a gaze at the HEADQUARTERS or a BRANCH of a COMPETING COMPANY shall result in your TRANSFORMATION into a PILLAR OF SALT.
  • The story submission makes assertions about the claims in the various user agreements and then 'supports' these claims by linking to the entire agreements, leaving it for you to sift through the masses of text yourself, to prove or disprove the claims!

    Why not just say something like "User agreements are bad, go google up some EULAs and see for yourself!"

    New. Low.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:07PM (#24865921)

    And AOL can ban you for using vulgar language on AIM. Funny, right?

    How's that for some sh---
    [------ACCOUNT BANNED-------]

  • You saved me the trouble of RTFA, which of course I usually do.
  • ISP speed claims, "unlimited" amounts of download (until you read what the * means).

    These are far and away worse than the petty restrictions placed in the examples cited in the article.

  • I don't think so ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by chrome ( 3506 ) <chrome@stup e n d> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:16PM (#24866011) Homepage Journal

    9.4 Other than the limited license set forth in Section 11, Google acknowledges and agrees that it obtains no right, title or interest from you (or your licensors) under these Terms in or to any Content that you submit, post, transmit or display on, or through, the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in that Content (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). Unless you have agreed otherwise in writing with Google, you agree that you are responsible for protecting and enforcing those rights and that Google has no obligation to do so on your behalf.

    Seems pretty clear to me. Why the rabble rabble?

    • by chrome ( 3506 )
      Oh, they just fixed it. Yay google?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 )
      Section 11 was the contentious section. Now it's been pruned drastically in the Chrome licence. Compare it to Section 11 of the Google Docs licence for example.
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:16PM (#24866013) Homepage

    "According to Ars Technica, Google's EULA for Chrome was just copy-and-pasted from its EULA for other services, a practice that is apparently common at Google."

    Why the hell do they think they need an "EULA" or "TOS" for a supposedly Open Source program at all? Doesn't Google run these things pas their lawyers? Or do they and this is the result?

  • by floydman ( 179924 ) <> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:21PM (#24866061)

    Man Finds $1,000 Prize in EULA []

  • by creature124 ( 1148937 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:25PM (#24866103)
    I personally have always got a kick out of this particular clause from the iTunes EULA:

    You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons.

  • Why are these funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:34PM (#24866203) Homepage Journal
    These are, for the part, free optional services. Much of this has been discussed before. Google is in the business of selling ads, and so needs to be able to do as it likes to maximize the ad revenue. If it owns your stuff, then it can mine it as it wishes. As far as sites that allow the free display of pictures and videos, they need to recoup some bandwidth costs as well. One might to sublicense the content to other providers. Another might be the media. For example, I wonder if the pictures of the Republican Baby's Daddy were republished for free, or if there were some standard fee involved.

    As far as deleting content, we all know that is BS. These users voluntarily unloaded the content. Not one forced them. They uploaded the content onto a free service and expect some privacy? That is like allowing some random house painters to paint you house for free, and expect all you stuff to be there when you get back.

    I have much more sympathy for the TOS when a product is free than when the product has a real cost. The free service has to protect itself from intellectual theft and harassment by lawsuit. If a video sharing site did not own the content, or at least a license to it in perpetuity, then these services surely would be sued by young teen unmarried mother who was foolish enough to post a video of her naked baby running around the house, only to be chided by her mother that such pictures were not good publicity.

    OTOH, the publicity of the TOS are good because they help educate the populous that nothing is truly free. The pictures, videos, and words you post can be used if and when there is a need for someone to so do. I am wondering if this is the year when a sex video has political ramifications. At least with words, you can say you were just playing around. So, I think as people get used to these free services, we will see a more sane approach to the situation. Honestly, this tech is just too new for social norms to have developed around them.

  • Is for the Dunhill web site. Dunhill makes expensive stuff for people who earn bags of money. In their EULA, it says that you are not allowed to link to their web site unless you get written permission. You can read that [] Be sure to forward that to a few people.
  • by Plekto ( 1018050 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:44PM (#24866331)

    Just go to their original open-source site and download it from there. No EULA at all other than the BSD one(which is fairly non-intrusive) []

    You will need to compile it, though, but I suspect a compiled non-EULA version of it will be available for Windows very very soon.

  • by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:51PM (#24866403)

    You understand and agree, however, that YouTube may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of User Submissions that have been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in User Comments are perpetual and irrevocable

    So they can keep it, but not watch it, broadcast it or transfer it elsewhere? Seems to me this is just to make sure you can't sue them for not wiping the file from their servers the nanosecond you tell them to.

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