Monday, March 14, 2005

Terms of Use

Ever since I took Cyberlaw last semester, I've started reading the Terms of Use at the bottom of Web pages (I even drafted a few last summer). Many of them are downright scary when thought about in terms of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. While this law has many positive attributes (inasmuch as it makes hacking into others' computers illegal) one of its problems is that it defines actionable unauthorized use by the terms of use the Web site owner has put in teeny tiny writing at the bottom of the page (which no one reads).

That means, dear law students, if you download $1000 worth of cases from Westlaw for your employer using your student account (something that is pretty darn easy to do), you have committed a felony and are also subject to a civil suit for damages. Take a look at those pesky terms of use. Oh, by the way, they're not at the bottom of the page, rather you saw them when you first logged in with your student password three years ago.

In related news, today Copyfight has a post about AOL's latest terms of service under which AOL lays claim to all the intellectual property in its clients' posts. As bad as this is, it isn't particularly unusual. However, the language is so broad it seems to lay claim to all the IP you may have in your private IM communications as well. You better stop writing all those haikus to your lover lest they be published in The Best of AIM 2005. Yikes!

Oh, and there is an updated story in which AOL denies this was its intent. Yeah, right.


Blogger Crapartist said...

I expect that it was the intent of their legal council, not the brass. Perhaps the law is a bit like a dick with a head of its own.

7:22 AM  
Blogger great sandwich! said...

true, lawyers are taught to couch language so it is the most favorable to their clients, but for the brass to insinuate they had no idea IM content would be included is not realistic. these people are sophisticated.

10:55 AM  

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