Reporters' Roundtable: Why are license agreements so convoluted?

Just what are you agreeing to when you click on a license agreement on a software app or Web site? Today we discuss EULAs, TOSes, AUPs, and other contracts you sign when you use tech. Our guest: Attorney Gabriel Ramsey of Orrick.

In March, NPR's Planet Money podcast had a great episode, Why Are Credit Card Agreements So Long? But from my perspective, credit card agreements are simple compared to what we deal with in tech every day: Terms of Service Agreements, End-User License Agreements, Acceptable Use Policies, and so on.

So I'm stealing the Planet Money idea (I never signed an agreement saying I couldn't) and doing a Reporters' Roundtable on EULAs. My guest for this great discussion is Gabriel Ramsey, a writer of EULAs and a partner at the San Francisco and Silicon Valley law firm Orrick.

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Some of our discussion points

First, of course, we have to play some special recordings we had made for this show .

So, Gabe, let me get this straight: You write EULAs. How does that work? Does a tech company come to you and say, "Hey, can you give us an agreement that you can guarantee our customer won't read or understand?"

So who reads them? Do you?

Why are they so long?

How legally binding are these things?

What do these agreements bind the vendor to that end-users may not be aware of?

What can we do about developers who display multi-page EULAs in three-line-high windows? It's like they're mocking you.

What is a contract of adhesion?

Are there ways to solve the issue of people not reading licenses?

How about some war stories: Good EULAs, bad ones, court challenges.

I have to ask about the "no nuclear facilities" clause in the iTunes agreement. Why is that ncessary?

Different legal issues in different countries. (I've heard consumer privacy protection in the U.S. is poor compared to some European countries.)

More to read/watch

Wrap-up
Follow me on Twitter for more news on Reporters' Roundtable. E-mail roundtable@cnet.com with your ideas for shows!

 

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