Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pay Attention To The Details

By Samuel Lewis Published in The Business of Photography
Pay Attention To The Details
In the course of setting up an online account, I was presented with a license agreement spanning 24 screens. As I started to review the terms of the agreement, I was struck by the thought that most people's eyes would glaze over by the third or fourth screen, assuming they even made it that far. And since the window with the license agreement only required users to scroll down the first page before being able to click "accept" and move on, I suspect that a majority of people click "accept" without ever seeing page two, much less the entire agreement.

However, in many jurisdictions, all of the terms of the service's agreement would be enforceable, even if one cavalierly skipped the last 23 screens worth of terms and conditions. The reality is that many courts will have little sympathy for someone who enters into an agreement without reading it, receives benefits under the agreement and then complains when he or she must honor the bargain made. Thus, ignoring the terms when entering into the agreement may lead to serious repercussions later.

Social Underpinnings

If there's an instance where people generally disregard contract provisions, it's when they're using social-media websites and services. However, as the old axiom provides, there's no such thing as a free lunch. When using a free social-media website or service, there's commonly some benefit that the user confers on the host or provider of the service. That benefit may be as simple and innocuous as allowing the service to present the user with advertising; however, the benefit may be as complex as any other contractual relationship, which may result in far-reaching and even unexpected consequences.

For example, one of the unexpected consequences may involve the sale of your personal information to other companies. If the service only has your email address, this may only result in some additional unsolicited emails appearing in your in-box. If you also give the service your cell phone number, the sale of your personal information may result in unsolicited text messages, too.

However, the user agreement need not be limited to issues such as your personal information. In extreme cases, it could even require that the user indemnify and defend the company against claims relating to your use of the service. Or, stated differently, the agreement could require a service's users to defend the business model of the company providing the service.

As with so many social-media websites, there's no free lunch with the social-media website Pinterest ( If you're unfamiliar with Pinterest, its creator, Cold Brew Labs, Inc., refers to the service as an online pinboard or virtual pinboard, with the social-media goal of connecting people through their common interests. The service allows users to "organize and share beautiful things [found] on the web" by "pinning"—in some cases, linking to information found on the web with the ability to follow the link back to the original site; in other cases, copying the content without any link back—and suggests that its users can use the service to "plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes." The service also allows users to browse other users' pinboards, to see what other users have pinned from the Internet, and to "re-pin" information and images that other users "pinned."

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