Terms and Conditions May Apply: documentary about abusive license terms, privacy and surveillance

Cullen Hoback's documentary "Terms and Conditions May Apply" is a scathing look at the abusive, lengthy fine-print that dominates our online lives. If the YouTube trailer and the non-embeddable Guardian trailer are representative, this is an important and timely film. I do quibble with one point — the movie doesn't distinguish between the stupid license agreements that are a function of a stupid law (for example, requiring LinkedIn users to license the stuff they give to LinkedIn so that LinkedIn can display it) and the ones that are pure greed and venality (AT&T making you agree to extrajudicial wiretapping).

Hoback has an op-ed in today's Guardian where he sets out his thesis with great clarity, and draws the important connection between Patriot Act surveillance and fine-print "agreements." Unfortunately, the video itself seems to be exclusively available through Itunes, which has some pretty dreadful license terms, and mandatory DRM to boot.

At our DC premiere of Terms and Conditions May Apply, Congressman Dennis Kucinich made a surprise appearance in the crowd and went a step further, standing up after the screening and saying the "NSA should be abolished", and that Edward Snowden should get a "ticker-tape parade".

While this speech tickled users on Reddit and got a lot of press, open criticism of the surveillance-industrial complex is far from the norm. And supporting Edward Snowden as a public official seems to be politically cancerous.

But I have hope, and here's why:

While in DC, I was reminded of something that stuck with me: Congressmen are just people too. When 9/11 happened, they were rushed to protected sites in what must have been a terrifying moment for them. They surely felt like the next target. And then they were asked to pass a bill that would protect America from the kind of horror they had just been put through, first-hand – a bill called 'The Patriot Act'.

It wasn't passed because they got together and said, "Let's gut the Constitution". It happened partially from fear and partially from a misguided sense of duty.

Our data is our digital identity – and we need to reclaim control [Cullen Hoback/The Guardian]

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