This both made me laugh and made me mad. Corey Doctorow over at Boingboing relates how he was contacted by a new online service to write a letter of recommendation for a former student applying to graduate school. Using a web-based interface the same letter could be submitted to multiple universities. Good idea. Like a lot of professors I have to write a lot of these and making it easier is good for me and good for students. The catch was that this one came with an end user license agreement (EULA) requiring the submitter (who is doing everyone a favor, including the web-based application service) to agree that by submitting the form you waive your own rights:
In no event will ApplyYourself or other third parties mentioned at this site be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, those resulting from lost profits, lost data or business interruption) arising out of the use, inability to use, or the results of use of this site, any web sites linked to this site, or the materials or information contained at any or all such sites. Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion or limitation of incidental or consequential damages, so the above limitation and exclusion may not apply to you.
The part I like, though, is Doctorow’s response, which I henceforth will adopt in similar circumstances:
READ CAREFULLY. By reading this email, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.
While the concept behind this — that just by reading the email the other guy waive’s legitimate rights — is pretty stupid and would unlikely hold up in court, it is no less stupid than the equally preposterous EULA’s that come with just about everything on the web these days.
Of course the recommendation service wasn’t buying it, responding in an email that they wouldn’t be able to release him from the terms and conditions of the EULA. The EULA, they said, was to protect him as much as themselves. Here’s Doctorow’s response:
“No, you don’t understand — you’ve already released me, just by reading my email! And that’s also for your protection as well as mine, OK?”
Yes, it is OK. So that settles it.