EFF sets sights on abusive EULAs

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's new Terms Of (Ab)Use project tracks news, litigation and fights related to abusive terms of service, EULAs and other electronic flimflam. Now's a good time to mention once again my own EULA, which I put at the bottom of my emails:

"READ CAREFULLY. By reading this email, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies ("BOGUS AGREEMENTS") that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer."

Using a TOS, online service providers can dictate their legal relationship with users through private contracts, rather than rely on the law as written. In the unregulated and unpredictable world of the Internet, such arrangements often provide the necessary ground rules for how various online services should be used.

Yet TOS agreements also raise a number of concerns for the consumer, as they can be a vehicle for abuse by online service providers. For starters, TOS provisions are usually written by the service providers themselves. As a result, they tend to end up being one-sided in the service provider's favor, and are often designed to be beyond any judicial scrutiny. Even more importantly, most users never even bother to read, let alone understand, these agreements, filled as they are with confusing legalese.

The time has come to shed light on what these Terms of Service agreements actually say, and what it means to users. In conjunction with our TOSBack project, EFF is working to make the contents of these TOS more transparent for the average user.

Terms Of (Ab)Use