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What Are You Agreeing To When You Click 'Accept'?

Publication Date: 
July 15, 2010
Source: 
WBZ TV (CBS)

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted on the contractual legality of "click-wrap" agreements:

We see them all the time on our computers -- those boxes that say "ACCEPT" when we buy or download things. So what does "accept" really mean? And what happens if we say no?

Businessman Terry Shoaff does his banking online. But he says when he logged onto his Bank of the West account recently, "This pop-up blocker came in, two and a half pages of single-spaced, typewritten, no spacing, no paragraphs. I mean, it wasn't an everyday type of explanation or contract that the average person would be able to respond to without having legal council."

...

Stanford law professor Mark Lemley is an expert on Internet law. He says more and more Web sites are imposing contract language on users. "The companies [that] are writing these contracts get to choose whatever terms they want."

Lemley has collected some extreme examples, like the video store rental agreement that reads: "I hereby surrender my soul for all eternity to the clerks at I Love Video and will become a clerk in their legion of zombies."

These agreements date back to the early days of home computers, when software came in boxes. Whether you realized it or not, by simply tearing off the plastic wrapper, you were accepting the terms and conditions of the software company. Those became known as "shrink-wrap" agreements. Now they're called "click-wrap" agreements -- taking effect with the click of a mouse.