Terms and Conditions: the bloviating cruft of the iTunes EULA combined with extraordinary comic book mashups
Back in 2015, cartoonist Robert Sikoryak started publishing single pages from his upcoming graphic novel Terms and Conditions, in which he would recount every word of the current Apple iTunes Terms and Conditions as a series of mashup pages from various comics old and new, in which Steve Jobsean characters stalked across the panels, declaiming the weird, stilted legalese that "everyone agrees to and no one reads."
Incredibly, impossibly, Sikoryak finished the project, and it is now available in book form from Drawn and Quarterly.
In his end-notes, Sikoryak notes that he didn't try to match the language to the action in the panels, drawing his pages first then shuffling them and flowing the text into them. What's interesting (and revealing) is how often there is some weird confluence between the text and the pictures, and this says something important about the Terms and Conditions Sikoryak is lampooning.
Terms and Conditions are weird legal constructs. We are meant to take them seriously -- the companies' lawyers would strenuously argue that just being in the vicinity of these documents constitutes comprehension and consent to their terms -- but everyone knows that no one ever reads them. A surprising number of times, it turns out that even the lawyers themselves haven't read them. The original Twitter T&Cs were sprinkled with references to Flickr -- references that hadn't been purged when the company lifted Flickr's agreement and search-and-replaced through it. Famously, no one had ever looked at the Myspace T&C's, so everyone was genuinely surprised when Billy Bragg pointed out that the company was claiming ownership of all the music its users uploaded to their bands' pages.
T&C prose is thus a kind of oracle, read by none, dreaded by all. The fact that its gibberish can be made to seem sensible when randomly juxtaposed with comics mashups tells you that it has no meaning of its own, but rather takes on all its meaning from the context around it.
To add to this, there is the figure of Steve Jobs, haunting every page of this book in his many guises. Jobs was a famous minimalist control freak, a man on a lifelong mission to eliminate fans, floppy drives and extra mouse-buttons. Yet, this control-freakery manifested itself in the sprawling, nonsensical T&Cs through which the Jobbsean will would be imposed upon Apple's customers, who were constrained by its fine print to act exactly as they were told.
The contradiction here is amazing, really, What could be less Jobbsean, more superfluous, than titanic legal documents that no one is ever, ever going to read? If the design aesthetic of iTunes -- and its hardware brethern, the iPods and iPhones and iPads -- is to eliminate ornamentation and streamline every corner to lickable curves, where does tens of thousands of words of crufty garbage-prose fit in? What could be a starker juxtaposition than the single, four-letter "iPod" wordmark etched into those original gadgets, and the word-salad generated by feeding a monopoly law seminar into a Markov chain that hung off the back of that gadget?
Terms and Conditions [R. Sikoryak/Drawn and Quarterly]
F Scott Fitzgerald, in a 1928 letter to Blanche Knopf: "As ‘cocktail,’ so I gather, has become a verb, it ought to be conjugated at least once." (via JWZ)
Vlad Taltos is the (anti)hero of Steven Brust's stupendous, longrunning fantasy series (which is nearly complete, a generation after it was begun!); Issue 220 of Dragon magazine (August 1995) included a feature by Ed Stark explaining how to play the human assassin and witch who lives amidst a race of nearly immortal elves, against whom […]
The inaugural Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship were an unqualified success, with competitors from the US, Russia, Japan and beyond converging on Joensuu, Finland to thrash and knit: competitors such as Woolfumes, Bunny Bandit and 9" Needles thrashed to heavy metal music while knitting, for an audience of about 200. The winners were the five-person […]
When it comes to passwords, there’s no such thing as paranoia. You want them secure and complex, and you definitely don’t want to repeat them on all your accounts. The trouble is, the internet seems to keep growing. And so do those accounts. Just one lockout from an important email or banking site is enough […]
With the rising temperatures on tap this summer, the climate is going to be a frequent topic of conversation, and those conversations won’t be happy ones. Luckily, there’s a way to do a little climate change of your own – in a safe and sustainable way. When it comes to personal air conditioners, EvaPolar is […]
Whether you’re using them for next-level selfies or steady tracking shots, gimbals are a must for anyone who wants to maximize the potential of these powerful smartphone cameras we’re all carrying around. But those smartphones are also supposed to be portable, and let’s face it: Gimbals tend to offset that advantage. Weighing in at just […]