Small Print Project: collecting the "agreements" shoved down your throat

My student Andy Sternberg has launched a great site today, "The Small Print Project," which looks to catalog all the "agreements" we find ourselves "consenting to" when we open a box, install a program, sign up for a service or visit a website. These "terms and conditions," "terms of use" and "end-user license agreements" do terrible violence to the noble agreement, backing us into arrangements that no sane individual would ever agree to. Sony's DRM made you promise to delete your music if your house burned down; Amazon Unbox lets them spy on your computer and shut down your videos if they don't like what they see. And it doesn't stop there. Think of the "agreements" on the back of your dry-cleaning tickets, on your plane tickets, in your credit-card statements, and your cellular phone contract.

Just last week, I had to cancel a speaking engagement at Disney Studios, whose speaker agreement includes a clause in which you promise never to use the word Disney again in an article or story without their written permission (!). This is apparently non-negotiable.

Real agreements usually reflect a negotiation among near-equals who sit down at a table and hammer out something that's mutually acceptable. Small print agreements shove some power-mad lawyer's idea for maximizing his benefit at your expense down your throat.

Andy's looking for your favorite small print — bad and good — for his catalog. Head over and submit the latest "agreement" you were asked to make.