License Agreement for a Public Park

Now, this is nice and insane. So, apparently HSBC has "bought" the normally-public Madison Square Park in New York for today, and to make sure everyone knows it, by just setting foot in the park today is the equivalent of clicking the "I agree" box on something you'd probably never agree to. This Awl article has details.
And what exactly is HSBC advertising? HSBC seems like one of those companies you end up doing business with because you have to-- does anyone seek out HSBC products? How would one even try to be excited about them?

I did a parody of these agreements for Carrie's Illegal Art exhibit; it looks like reality's hell bent on catching up. I'm sure in a couple of years, after Mountain Dew owns the now fluorescent-yellow moon, we'll be used to these kinds of things popping up everywhere.

Jason Torchinsky is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Jason has a book out now, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture, that he hopes you'll want to buy. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is a tinkerer and artist, started a webcasting company, and writes for the Onion News Network. He lives with a common-law wife, five animals, too many old cars, and a shed full of crap.


  1. Is it wrong to have a morbid desire that someone does get injured or whatever and tries to sue just to see how this kind of thing actually holds up in an actual legal environment?

  2. Isn’t the bigger question ‘How does a private company manage to take ownership of the public Commons at all?’

  3. Brilliant.

    The nearest thing I’d previously seen to an IRL EULA was a big 7×7″ label on a box of three Microsoft Mice, listing the many situations in which opening the box of would be breaking your agreement with Microsoft(R) Corporation.

    This one just takes it one step further. Who would be stupid enough to enter after reading that?

  4. Note by reading this comment. The parties involved in utilizing visual apparatus(es) to view this comment [YOU] assume no responsibility for damages to health caused by reading this comment. The comment poster [ME] assumes no such responsibility in the following: eye strain, forehead slapping, paper cuts, (in)voluntary bodily function discharges, or electric shock due to hitting your head against the monitor. If you disagree with the following terms please forget you ever read this comment.

  5. Steal the signs! It’s not there, people entering the park cannot be bound by its terms.

    Then again, this wouldn’t be necessary if there weren’t people out there who make a living entering buildings and tripping on something.

  6. At least that one is large and more or less read-able, I have been seeing far more dense and draconian ones small typed onto a single sheet of paper and posted high above entrance doors at shows where one has usually already (over) paid for a non-refundable ticket to be abused

  7. Ever check the fine print when you buy a baseball ticket? Same deal here: HSBC rented the park for their “soapbox” advertising deal, and their lawyers want you to know that you assume reasonable risks walking into the area of their event. Basically, if you get hit in the head by a boom mic, you can’t say you weren’t warned and thus your acceptance of the risks provide a complete bar to recovery.

    Hell, I just agreed to something very similar walking into an art gallery doing a video art installation a few weeks ago.

  8. By reading this comment, [YOU] the reader, agree that you have not read Chris’ previous comment.

  9. Wow, I started reading that sign before I read the article and though it was a clever geek/artist parody. I can’t believe it’s actually serious.

    So I’ve always wondered, what happens if the person entering the park can’t read it, or doesn’t want to parse the legalize before heading off to enjoy their lunch? Unlike road signs, there is no legal requirement to read a sign before walking into a public space. And certainly children, or those who primarily speak another language can’t be expected to read every sign they pass on the sidewalk. I can only assume that this ‘Agreement’ wouldn’t hold up in any court.

  10. They’re just posting a big nasty sign notifying everyone of something that is already true and always has been for parks.

    Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule, but they’re hoping to get rid of those people by rudely putting all this nonsense up our noses.

  11. FYI – they’re one of those banks that took full advantage of the credit crunch to hit people with outrageous fees and 30+% interest rates the moment somebody falls behind at all. Sure, it’s all legal according to the small fine print, but you know what – not every bank took advantage of what they could technically get away with! A few of them actually thought twice about screwing their customers. Be interesting to see over the next year or two what the PR backlash is for the ones that did jump in with both pitchforks.

  12. I just thought I’d mention that HSBC is bank originally based in the UK.

    Normally, they’re not so bad with the way they treat customers, and UK contracts are normally a fraction of the length of US contracts. I suppose what we’re seeing here must be a side effect of trying to do too much business over there with you dodgy yanks. ;-)

  13. #8: I’m thinking that the detail of the reason is that they don’t want to be liable if you’re there because they have a thing going on. Still ridiculous, but whatevs.

  14. Isn’t this just an area release for a film shoot? Note how they refer to themselves as the “Producers.” HSBC is probably shooting a commercial or something and needs to make sure they have permission to use the likeness of anyone who enters the park. Pretty standard film stuff, really. I’ve used these for several shoots.

  15. This notice is really useless as no one
    can take your right to sue them for damages
    they caused you.
    Many TV and Film shows use this however my Lawyer
    assured me this is only for the comfort of the
    producers own anxiety.
    Also a movie crew or Production Assistant cannot
    stop you from walking even if they are shooting
    it is tantamount to false arrest ,the only exception
    is during a car chase scene.

    And yes the blanket “model”release as cited here should you appear in a film is also legally unenforceable in a commercial filmshoot.

  16. A “warning” is only to warn of in-place physical dangers, not negligence on the part of people. You can magically make yourself not liable on stuff because of a sign.

  17. I happen to be an “affiliated entity” of HSBC, so the way I read this, I’m now allowed to run around that park, punching people in the gut and there’s nothing they can do about it. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing tomorrow. Talk about a way to work off a little steam during the lunch hour!

  18. I’ve always thought that no one in their right mind would agree to a waiver like that–except for the fact the the number of people who have ever refused to do something because of a waiver is probably zero. In this case it’s just silly, but think of the waivers ski resorts make you sign. If they’re exempt from damages due to negligence, then you can’t sue them period. Even if they decided to stop doing maintenance on their chairlift and it collapsed killing a bunch of people, their customers still wouldn’t have the right to sue them. Right?

  19. I’m an Assistant Director in reality television,and we post some form of this sign regularly. It’s usually called an “area release,” and I don’t really think they hold much legal water. We usually post them when we’ll be shooting events that might involve a large number of the public on-camera, as a way of alerting people that we may use their image if they get in a shot. Nevertheless, we usual blur the faces of people who haven’t specifically signed a “personal appearance release.” I really think they’re pretty meaningless in a legal sense.

  20. #13 Jackm: the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was originally a Hong Kong bank, and only established its headquarters in London when Hong Kong was handed back to China in the 1990’s.

  21. I can tell that nobody else read to the end (I’m not surprised!) because the very last line is what makes my blood boil.

    Any unauthorized video recording is prohibited.


    Eat a brick and die, HSBC.

  22. Just go into the adjacent office, calmly explain that you’re in the witness relocation program and ask to speak with someone who can guarantee your face won’t be used in a press campaign lest your family be murdered.

  23. “HSBC seems like one of those companies you end up doing business with because you have to– does anyone seek out HSBC products?”

    To be fair to HSBC, their First Direct telephone and internet banking subsidiary is actually one of the best banks in the UK. We used them for years after being jerked around by High St banks, and they were unfailingly polite, efficient and helpful – even the time when we rang up from the other side of the world with a bad line and a lost credit card. If they were to open up downunder I’d move my accounts back to them in a flash.

    That said, it’s a particularly stupid notice. But do you think, just maybe, it might be a little bit to do with how keen people in the USA are to find someone to sue?

  24. I’ve always wanted to license (not sell) a chewed up half pencil on eBay with a really onerous license stipulating what can and can’t be written with the pencil. But I’ve been too lazy to do it.

    Not sure if you can do that on eBay, either. Never checked. But every so often I almost get around to it.

  25. Isn’t this warning a product of the type of society we live in…
    If people wouldn’t be idiots and sue for every little thing, then companies wouldn’t have to put these kinds of signs up.

  26. No mention in the disclaimer of the mental trauma imposed by having to walk by this sign.

  27. HSBC seems like one of those companies you end up doing business with because you have to– does anyone seek out HSBC products?”

    I did. They have one of the highest interest giving savings accounts around with no minimum balance.

  28. does anybody have the link to the anti-EULA posted on bOINGbOING some time ago? (years even perhaps) I’m sure that thing could be adapted to a real life context like this such that you could hand it off to a lackey and regain all rights supposedly forfeited with this other EULA.

  29. This kind of crap does NOT hold up in court PERIOD
    Just like signing a release from your doctor not to sue him/her if they screw up, it means nothing legally.

  30. just to play DevsAdvo for a sec, i would hate to be sued by some asshat that tripped on the curb while playing with their iphone just because i happen to be shooting a video in the same park.

    ya know, big evil corp did not warn me that not watching where i walk could cause me to trip and fall, so i am suing them for enough emotional damages to retire at 23…

    those are the people that make corps feel they have to put up signs like this in the first place, then their legal department takes the sign to a psychotic level…

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