One of my students sent me this tweet from Morten Nielsen of a new oven requiring, on the touch screen, that, before using the product, the happy new appliance owner must waive legal rights by agreeing to the “Terms of Service.” Even by just the snippet of text visible in the picture, the user is assuming risks and waiving legal claims.
Stripping away the legalese, before you can warm up a pizza, you have to give up some legal rights.
A “contract of adhesion” is a form contract where the party being asked to sign it has no choice but to take it or leave it. They’re always unfair because there’s no bargaining power. That’s the very definition of a contract of adhesion.
The original concept of a contract is a bargained-for exchange of goods or services. Courts supposedly look unfavorably on contracts of adhesion, but unless they involve a service on which the public depends (such as medical services or public transportation or public education), they’re upheld.
Did you know that each time you click “Accept” on an online click-thru agreement, you’ve bound yourself to a legal contract? One survey found that 56 percent of people were not aware they were entering into binding agreement.
But, even there, you at least theoretically have the right to not use the service. Don’t want to accept iTune’s or Facebook’s terms of service? Don’t use those services. But where is that choice when you’ve had a new appliance installed and can’t use it without first agreeing to the Terms of Service?
Welcome to the Internet of Things. It’s only going to get worse, much worse. The next generation oven will come with a built-in corporate lawyer who will send you threatening cease and desist alerts if you overcook or undercook your food and bill at a rate of $300 per hour. If you don’t put a lid on the food and it spatters the inside, you will be sued for punitive damages.
At least this is what I heard from some person I met in a bar. I think her name was Alexa.
–Thanks to Sean O’Brien for sending this along.