Thursday, November 17, 2005


Sony Delenda Est

One day, Joseph Johnson, a movie buff saw an ad for Acme Postal Movies, a company that promised easy and convenient DVD rentals by mail. Interested, he wait to their web site, read their agreement, and signed up. His movies came, and when he returned them, more came, and he was happy with the service.

Awhile after he signed up, though, he found himself questioning his sanity. Not that there was anything wrong with APM, or the service he got from them. But he thought he heard strange noises, and some objects in his home seemed to rearrange themselves from time to time. He thought there might be a burglar, but a search of his house revealed nothing.

One day, however, he found a little man trying to retreat into a recently-dug crawlspace. When confronted, the guy said he wasn't a burglar, and was in fact there with Mr. Jones' permission. He handed Mr. Jones a couple sheets of paper. The first was a copy of the APM membership agreement with the following text highlighted:
APM will not hold the member liable if a movie is lost in the mail. APM reserves the right, however, to take such actions as it deems appropriate to prevent abuse of this policy including, but not limited to, revoking the accounts of users if too many of their rentals are reported lost.
The second was a statement by APM:
We at APM recognize that some people will try to cheat us by keeping our disks and then reporting them lost in the mail. We think it appropriate, therefore, to use field agents to inspect our members' houses and ensure that they do not have any disks that have been reported "lost". Because some members might report a disk lost and then try to deny our agents entry, we think it appropriate to place agents in advance in the homes of anyone who might conceivably report a lost disk....
Joseph Johnson was furious. "Fine. Here are all the disks I currently have rented. I quit my membership--now get out of my house!"

"Sorry, said the inspector, APM doesn't want me to leave. And you didn't finish reading that second page."
We at APM recognize that some people may wish to terminate their memberships and later rejoin. Therefore, we think it reasonable to keep agents in the homes of even those who have quit membership, to ensure that if they rejoin we will have an agent present.
"So you see," said the agent, "you have no right to kick me out. You gave your consent to my presence, so here I will stay."

Some companies claim that End User License Agreements give them cart blanche to install whatever spywhere they please. But what does "consent" really mean?

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