I remember the fallout after the 2008 financial crisis. I’m sure you do too, regardless of your age, since you either lost a lot of money, couldn’t get a job, or watched your wife sail away on a yacht with a hedge fund manager on their way to Moorea for a life of excess and the sex you weren’t having. Many of us were left wondering had the bailout of the banks not happened if we would have had to cue-up for groceries like the breadlines in Romania circa late 80s, but it never happened. Thankfully. But there were other signs that people were hurting, and largely it was people trying to get their hands on your money regardless of morals.
I remember driving around Miami and on billboards and bus stop benches there were these enormous, heinous signs for a site called “WhoCanISue.com.” People were desperate, and since then covering your a** legally has just become a lot more intense.
Everyone is always covering their tails from every angle because it seems if we don’t, someone will exploit it. Photographers deal with it with their contracts and in just about EVERY digital platform we use. Sign up for 500px? Flickr? Instagram? You’re going to sign your life away, and you do it with all with a scroll and a click of a button that reads, “I have read and agree to the terms.”
Practically, information is only useful to the extent that you can find it when you need it. That doesn’t stop us from relentlessly gorging on all sorts that we’ll never remember or use right after the sentence ends.
I’ve never met anyone who has actually read these ‘terms’ and would un-friend anyone who actually has. But what are we really saying when we agree to the terms of service? We could be saying we give full authority for these platforms to keep and use our imagery in any manner they like, sell our imagery, or perhaps have rights to our first borns. But we click it anyway. Who has the time to read all the fine print?
Well now there’s a site called ‘Terms Of Service Didn’t Read’ (TOSDR) that believes the “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the net, and aims to expose it.
The idea is that the terms of service are written in such legal jargon and at such length that it’s difficult to read, but it’s important to understand what it all says and means. TOSDR deciphers the information and regurgitates it back out in a simplified version, so you have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. I think it’s a great idea. There are loads of applications and services they’ve already gone through that you probably use, like 500px, or Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Gravatar, and Dropbox.
All the info is delivered in an easy to read, easy to look at format with soundbites, some of which will have you balking, or at least scrunching up your face with concern like Gravatar’s “No right to leave the service,’ or how Twitpic ‘takes credit for your content,’ and ‘deleted images are not really deleted.’ Or how about the fact you can’t actually delete your WordPress account?
If you use these services, it’s worth a look. Each site has a ranking, the lower the letter, the generally worse or more suspect the terms are. Within each breakdown, the key points are listed, and each has its own discussion board to can add to, or browse and see what others are saying and their experiences. So take a little time and know what you’re getting into. Don’t be taken for a ride.