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The Internet Your Rights Online

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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  • 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.
  • 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
  • Re:while funny, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:55PM (#24865755)
    It loses in court and EULAs die and the world becomes a happier place.
  • 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?

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:01PM (#24865853) Homepage

    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:while funny, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:01PM (#24865857) Journal

    EULA's are really more for protecting them from liability than they are for trying to steal our junk.

    I mean, vis a vis the Facebook thing, there are vast quantities of precedent regarding copyright and liability which make it a bit unlikely that they could actually follow through on some mass appropriation of content...Just as an example, say I'm a professional photographer and someone else puts one of my images on Facebook...does that mean that they own all the rights to my photo? Seriously unlikely; those laws have wicked teeth, and there are very specific things that have to occur for you to transfer rights to your own copyrights to a third party.

  • Problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nickswitzer ( 1352967 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:01PM (#24865861) Homepage
    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 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."

  • by Kelson ( 129150 ) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:17PM (#24866019) Homepage Journal

    I thought it might have something to do with data retention and backups. i.e. preventing someone from suing them because they still have a copy of a deleted video on one of their 2-month-old backup tapes.

  • 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!

  • Re:laughable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:24PM (#24866093) Homepage

    > 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."

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:28PM (#24866131) Homepage Journal
    They're a search company and obviously used the first EULA their search engine found.
  • by martinw89 ( 1229324 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:30PM (#24866165)

    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 delete switch can fix this. They probably have no idea that this information is going to stay in storage somewhere practically indefinitely.

    Now, before I get caught up in the uber paranoid every-large-corporation-is-evil groupthink, it's probably safe to say that YouTube isn't going to do anything with this embarassing/personal information that the user thought was deleted. But the possibility is there and it's something to consider.

  • 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.

  • by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@g m a> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:38PM (#24866255) Homepage Journal

    This looks like a bashing that went wrong. Complain about Googles bad EULA and they turn around on a dime and change it to the better the very next day. It must be very very hard to run a smear campaign against a company like that. Sucks to be Microsofts astroturfers nowadays.

  • Re:while funny, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DittoBox ( 978894 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:46PM (#24866351) Homepage

    No designer in their right mind would use even an nth of the shit uploaded on Facebook everyday.

  • 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.

  • Re:laughable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:30PM (#24866871)

    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:laughable? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:39PM (#24866995)

    Ah, but if you go to (and not you're exempt!

  • Re:laughable? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Redfeather ( 1033680 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:52PM (#24867157) Homepage
    While possibly not enforcable, in most cases these people have enough money to hound you until the end of your days (read: until you agree and shut up). While bordering on illegal, this kind of harrassment in most cases (according to media coverage) ruins lives more effectively than a swift legal proceeding.
  • Re:laughable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skippy_kangaroo ( 850507 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:06PM (#24867315)

    Everyone can understand this stuff when you point to the sentences in question.
    Then why are there long complex court cases over the interpretation of clauses in contracts? English is not like maths - it can be and is ambiguous.

    Care to tell me what the following clause means (it's just English after all):
    8. Indemnification ...
    (c) Promptly after receipt by an indemnified party under Section 1(g), 8(a) or 8(b) hereof of notice of the commencement of any action, such indemnified party shall, if a claim in respect thereto is to be made against an indemnifying party under such section, give notice to the indemnifying party of the commencement thereof, but the failure so to notify the indemnifying party shall not relieve it of any liability that it may have to any indemnified party except to the extent the indemnifying party demonstrates that the defense of such action is prejudiced thereby. If any such action shall be brought against an indemnified party and it shall give notice to the indemnifying party of the commencement thereof, the indemnifying party shall be entitled to participate therein and, to the extent that it shall wish, to assume the defense thereof with counsel satisfactory to such indemnified party and, after notice from the indemnifying party to such indemnified party of its election so to assume the defense thereof, the indemnifying party shall not be liable to such indemnified party under such Section for any fees of other counsel or any other expenses, in each case subsequently incurred by such indemnified party in connection with the defense thereof, other than reasonable costs of investigation. If an indemnifying party assumes the defense of such an action, (i) no compromise or settlement thereof may be effected by the indemnifying party without the indemnified party's consent (which shall not be unreasonably withheld) and (ii) the indemnifying party shall have no liability with respect to any compromise or settlement thereof effected without its consent (which shall not be unreasonably withheld). If notice is given to an indemnifying party of the commencement of any action and it does not, within ten days after the indemnified party's notice is given, give notice to the indemnified party of its election to assume the defense thereof, the indemnifying party shall be bound by any determination made in such action or an compromise or settlement thereof effected by the indemnified party.

  • by CFD339 ( 795926 ) <[andrewp] [at] []> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:20PM (#24867449) Homepage Journal

    When I was preparing to market some software, my own lawyer and I talked about it. This was several years ago but oddly enough I don't think the situation has changed much since.

    The subject was "Click Through Agreements" be they on the web or on software installation programs. According to her (and she's the lead partner for IP in a fairly prestigious firm) the funny thing about click-through agreements is that they're entirely untested.

    While everyone in the IP industry sort of goes along assuming they'll hold up, there remains this possibility that if someone ever did go to court the entire practice could get thrown out as invalid. We all declare that these agreements have meaning, and as long as we all pretend to admire his outfit, the emperor is treated as if fully clothed.

    Any misunderstanding of my interpretation of this is down to me, not the lawyer who is quite good at her job.

  • Re:while funny, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Docboy-J23 ( 1095983 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:11PM (#24867937)
    Before software, the idea of agreeing to any terms before you even saw the product was ludicrous. Anything that might begin "Upon the opening of this package..." would have been called a "grift."
  • Re:while funny, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:26PM (#24868065) Homepage

    You should do what Playboy is said to do with their photos. You should invisibly mark the photo by your credentials. [] []

    It is said to have no effect on the image and if done right, it is impossible to destroy it. A webmaster friend who got seriously sick of their (expensively paid) graphics stolen by other sites implemented it to everything. I mean it is not some huge stamp or something :)

  • Not so laughable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by faceword ( 635817 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:48PM (#24868817) Homepage
    The article summary (and orginal Valleywag article) are misleading. They both fail to note that the Facebook EULA allows you to revoke the license by removing your content: "If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire..." Facebook could never create a stock photography site -- it's customers can cause the license to the content to expire at any time. Frankly, the Facebook EULA is quite reasonable. Facebook needs rights to the content that it has on the site, and that is what it asks for.
  • Re:Verizon DSL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @04:29AM (#24870931)

    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...

    They'd never enforce something like that - they'd lose 40% of their subscribers overnight.

  • Re:laughable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ErroneousBee ( 611028 ) <ku.oc.kcocnahlien:lien> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @06:42AM (#24871431) Homepage

    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 might interpret that as a copyright breach.

  • Re:Verizon DSL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:59AM (#24872965) Homepage
    Correct you are. The law as it is now is completely inadequate for the information age. We need laws that do prevent Verizon from telling you what you can and cannot download. Data is Data and they need to get out of the business of telling you which kind of data or from where you can download it.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye