Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Click-through "terms and conditions" or licenses are becoming
increasingly common on the Net.
Whenever you download a piece of software, hand over your email address
or buy something online, chances are that you're confronted with a
little check box that says something like ""I have read and
agree to the terms and conditions".
But do you really read those often long and hard to interpret
pages of legalese before clicking on the box and continuing?
Check Out The Aardvark PC-Based Digital
Entertainment Centre Project
Have you even bothered reading the many and varied click-through licenses
that appear whenever you install a new piece of software?
If not, you may be in for a nasty shock.
Take the recent example of Microsoft's Media Player upgrade/bugfix.
Goodness knows how many millions of people had downloaded that seemingly
harmless update before someone actually read through the license and discovered
that by clicking "I Accept", users were effectively giving Microsoft the
right to delete or disable some third-party software on their system, at will and without
I'm not aware of exactly how enforceable click-through licenses are here
in NZ -- but I sure wouldn't like to have to fight against some oddball
term or condition that the vendor might later wish to use to my disadvantage.
And please remember -- the lawyers who write those licenses aren't
being paid to protect *your* interests -- only those of their clients.
It's safe therefore, to assume that these are potentially "hostile"
documents that deserve very careful scrutiny.
I bet you any amount of money you like that if someone included a clause
that said something like:
In accepting this license, you authorise the vendor to make random or
regular billings against your credit card as they see fit, without notice and
without further approval by you
You'd get a huge number of people who'd still click the "I Accept"
box. If they later found that the vendor had billed several thousand
extra dollars out of their credit card then who's to blame?
How many times in the "real world" would someone sign a two or
three page legally binding contract without giving it reasonably close
scrutiny -- or even referring it to their lawyer for advice? So why
don't they use this same cautious attitude to click-through licenses?
Of course there is the small safety margin accorded by New Zealand's distance
from the main supplier of online products -- the USA. If you do breach the
terms and conditions of such a license (out of ignorance) then it becomes much
harder for the vendor to successfully prevail in a court action against you.
Don't bank on this always being the case though. As I'm sure many of you
have already noticed, US legislators appear to be increasingly of the belief
that their laws should be valid and enforced throughout the world.
Nigerian Scammers Get Desperate
I received a couple more Nigerian scam spams the other day inviting me
to help someone free up tens of millions of US dollars in return for
a whopping great commission. Nothing out of the ordinary there...
Except that this time the spammers actually went to the trouble of
filling out the form on this site's contact form
to deliver their message.
Obviously DR HAN IBRAHIM (email@example.com)
isn't a regular Aardvark reader or he'd have known he was wasting his time.
I have visions of a pokey little mud hut in Nigeria somewhere with dozens
of two-fingered typists all sharing a slow dial-up connection and using
keyboards with broken caps-lock keys while surfing the web for contact forms
that they can fill out in the hope of hooking another gullible mug.
The big problem is that, despite a huge public awareness, there are undoubtedly
people who are still falling for this scam and losing large amounts of their own
(or their employer's) money.
If you want to have your say on the contents
of today's column then please do so.
Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the
readers' comments section.
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