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Terms of Disservice

Enormously detailed, practically endless, seemingly boilerplate contracts can be fun!

Am I crazy or what?

Well, yes, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

This idea came to me last week after running across an interesting website called Terms of Service; Didn't Read.

The idea behind the site is that most (if not all) people don't read the lengthy "terms of service" they agree to in order to use all sorts of Internet services. So ToS;DR does the reading for you, rates the terms, and briefly notes the most important parts.

That way you can be halfway informed about what you're agreeing to and then, probably, go ahead and use the services anyway.

This is a terrific idea if you assume that the summaries and ratings are accurate - but let's not be too cynical. They look good.

Of course, I suspect that the masses of people not reading terms of service probably won't read ToS;DR either (or be aware that the service exists). Most of us will agree to click on anything immediately to get some computer gratification.

This brings me to the fun part.

If you're a lawyer, web developer, or someone with a demented sense of humor, terms of service can be a wonderful outlet for creativity. If no one is reading the stuff anyway, why not throw in some imaginative material?

You can have millions of people agreeing to whatever strikes your fancy.

Some examples:

Users of Netflix streaming services agree that Mr. Ed episodes may only be viewed in the company of domestic pets who are encouraged to discuss the ramifications of human ownership of animals and your wacky neighbors.

iTunes is not responsible for your terrible taste in music and will contact local mental health officials if it deems you have downloaded an unhealthy amount of Kenny G or skinhead heavy metal death rock. A healthy balance of Kenny G and skinhead heavy metal death rock, however, will entitle you to a free download of Disney soundtracks.

Twitter owns every word you write and will use them for "Twitter: The Movie," an upcoming blockbuster film starring Ashton Kutcher and an adorable silver robot who speaks in short sentences and then murders Kutcher with a death ray from his eyes.

Amazon reserves the right to ship anything it wants to your house and dare you to send it all back. This includes deliveries of hundreds of pizzas and the collected works of authors no one wants to buy.

Google rules the world. Google users agree that they may be taken prisoner and used as slave labor on secret barges where their waste material will be used to power servers that run the Internet.

Contributors to Instagram agree that their photos will be altered. This may include hand-drawn mustaches, virtual removal of clothing, and addition of 30 pounds to anyone deemed too attractive. The photos will then be sent to users' Facebook friends.

Clients of this law firm agree that the firm's attorneys are hired for personal vengeance purposes only and that all funds and assets recovered on their behalf are the property of this law firm. Upon successful completion of a vendetta, clients will be required to perform a naked victory dance around a campfire and participate in the creation of s'mores.

It won't be your fault if no one reads these things.

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