Guy Suing Google For $500 Billion, Now Suing Microsoft For The Same Amount

from the either/or dept

Last week, we wrote about David Stebbins legal filing in which he claimed that Google owed him $500 billion, and that the whole thing could not be contested. This wasn't a first. As we noted, earlier in the year he demanded $600 billion from Walmart. Eric Goldman lets us know that Stebbins is also demanding $500 billion from Microsoft, using basically the identical legal "theory" (and we use that term loosely) as he did with Google. That is, he "amended" the Xbox contract, sent it to Microsoft, telling the company that if it didn't cancel his account it meant it had agreed to the contract. When his account wasn't canceled he demanded arbitration over a random issue, pointing to the clauses in his amended contract, including a promise to respond to arbitration requests in 24 hours. Microsoft, of course, did not. Once again, he pointed to the clause in his contract that "claimed" such a forfeit means an automatic victory in arbitration at an amount declared by Stebbins. He then goes to court to "enforce" this supposedly incontestable arbitration "win."

Like most of his previous lawsuits, this one will likely get tossed, in part because nothing in the terms for Xbox (or YouTube, with the Google lawsuit) say that the customer can unilaterally change the contract, contrary to Stebbins' claims. It'll also get tossed out because it's ridiculous.

When we wrote about the Google claim, a few folks in the comments pointed out, accurately, that Stebbins' efforts, while crazy, do point out the ridiculousness of one-sided clickthrough agreements, and the fact that most companies reserve the right to unilaterally change them, and that you "accept" those changes by doing nothing. In fact, in an interview with SeattlePI (the main link above), Stebbins seems to suggest that's part of his motivation:
“My true goal is not to just harass, and it’s not just to get rich. My true goal is to level the playing field.

“I’m trying to give employees, consumers, and generally, people who’ve been economically disadvantaged a new, powerful tool to protect themselves. Who needs to go crying to Congress for more workers’ rights and consumer protection laws?! We can do it all ourselves! How’s that for a motive you can get behind?!”
If that's his reasoning, it's likely to fail on that intention as well, as these lawsuits won't actually work and will get tossed (and sooner or later he may end up in a bit of trouble for filing bogus lawsuits). It's one thing to point out bogus legal terms. It's another to abuse the court system to try to make a point (and on the "lottery ticket" hail mary pass that some court might award you $500 billion).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    theDude, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Contract?

    I have a few XBOXs and have played on XBOXLive since its beginning. I have never signed any contracts. There is some TOS stuff you have to click through and the EULA like stuff here and there, but no contracts. Personally I like what this guy is doing. If these manufacturers want to call TOS/EULAs contracts (even though they clearly dont meet many of the basic definitions) then I think this guy taking it right back them is great.

     

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  2.  
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    JayTee (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 8:45am

    It would be nice to believe that he is doing all of this for the good of the public at large but to suggest that all these lawsuits are anything but blatant, and extremely stupid, attempts at fulfilling his own personal greed would be deluded.

    If he wants $500 billion dollars why not set up a worthwhile tech company?

     

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  3.  
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    TriZz (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 8:51am

    If he wins all of them he'll have 1.6 trillion dollar! *puts pinky up to side of mouth*

     

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  4.  
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    Ryan Smith, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:10am

    win-win

    Either he will get paid or this will set a precedent for anyone defending themselves against such bogus claims by these companies in the future.

     

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  5.  
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    jimbo, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:11am

    'abuse the court system to try to make a point' (make even more money and screw over the public while doing it). isn't that what the entertainment industries are doing all the time? if it's good enough for them, why not for him?

     

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  6.  
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    Alien Bard, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:11am

    It'll also get tossed out because it's ridiculous.

    If only the courts actually worked that way.

    To be honest he is doing a good thing by highlighting out how ridiculous all of these 'by opening this package/by not canceling this service' agreements are. Perhaps this will encourage more people to realize that these 'agreements' aren't actually legally binding.

     

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  7.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Some bogus patent claims have about as much merit as this guy's filings have. The bogus patent claims are just dressed up in nicer legal clothing.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:22am

    If he were suing for a mere five hundred thousand, would that make it less stupid/greedy/pointless?

    I have to agree with others above me on the alleged motivation for these suits: the [non]validity of agreeing to a contract or terms that are not presented to you prior to purchase.

    I think it's a can of worms that most companies don't wanna open. They like it just the way it is - ambiguous and taken as gospel by the buying public.

     

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  9.  
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    A Dan (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Idiom

    It's a "Hail Mary" pass, referencing a Catholic prayer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail_Mary_pass
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail_Mary

     

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  10.  
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    ethorad (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Just change the text before clicking submit

    If the terms to accept are on a webpage, then you can edit the terms yourself. While on the page, enter the following code in the address bar:

    javascript:document.body.contentEditable%20=%20'true';%20document.designMode='on';%20void%20 0

    [There shouldn't be a space at the end, but I can't seem to get rid of it. The code should end "200"]

    You can then change the text on the webpage. I think you'll then have to do the same but with 'false' and 'off' in order to turn off edit mode so that you can click on a submit button.

    Just remember to take a screenshot or something of the terms you're agreeing to (or the blank page ;)) and say goodbye to all those annoying clauses!

    Caveat: IANAL. I can't comment on how enforceable your amended terms are (or how enforceable the original terms were either come to that)

     

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  11.  
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    AndyD273 (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:40am

    Foiled

    TechDirt does not appear to have a EULA when signing up.
    There goes my get rich quick scheme...

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 9:57am

    The $500 billion dollar claim may be due to him figuring people will have to know it's not being done for monetary gain. He probably figures you can't reasonably believe any court would award that much. If his goal is to bring attention to companies' ability to possibly abuse EULAs, then maybe that's his way of trying to tell people its not for the money.

    Not necessarily the case, but something to consider.

     

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  13.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:07am

    Re: Just change the text before clicking submit

    Awesome suggestion! If using NoScript you'll have to go to about:config and filter for noscript.allowURLBarJS and toggle it to true. More recent browsers may require some tweaking too, or at least they should for security purposes.

     

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  14.  
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    HavaCuppaJoe (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:17am

    It's about time...

    I would think that the reason he's putting a very big $$ amount on the claim is specifically for the purpose of generating attention. If he were suing for a hundred bucks then I doubt that Mike Masnick (or anyone else) would have even noticed the suit, much less devoted time and column space to it. (Who's to know for sure?) And, of course we really don't know Stebbin's true motives.

    Having said that, I've been waiting for years now for someone to pierce the ridiculuous legal fiction that these click-through agreements have been operating under. It doesn't seem like anyone that doesn't have a building full of lawyers could stand a chance given the current state of the US legal system. I don't think that Stebbins is going about it the best way but, nontheless, part of me would like to see him prevail in at least some small way. The theory is just preposterous.

    Here's an anecdote to illustrate what I mean.

    Back in 2002 or so I had just moved into a new apartment. I'm buying furniture and things and I decided to get a big screen rear projection HDTV since they were the new thing back then. The TV gets delivered and then I realize that it didn't have a digital receiver in it, so I couldn't receive HD signals, just analog. No problem; I'll just run down to Best Buy and get one. They only had a few back then so I decided to get one that was made by Samsung and had an integrated DirecTV receiver in it. Why not? I hadn't had satellite in a while, so it seemed to make sense. I paid for the receiver on my credit card. It was a straight transaction; went to the checkout stand, paid by card, item bagged, out the door, nothing else.

    When I got home I set up the receiver and a cheap OTA antenna and was able to receive the HD OTA channels just fine. (NFL in HDTV simply rocks). The next weekend when I started to look into the satellite thing I realized, much to my chagrin, that the balcony of my 3rd floor apartment was on the WRONG side of the building and I couldn't see any of the DTV satellites at all. So I abandoned that plan and went with the cable provider that my apartment complex had contracted with for all of my other channels that weren't OTA.

    About a year later I got a bill in the mail from DirecTV. They wanted to charge me $150 for, get this, NOT signing up with their service. $150 for nothing. And they claimed in the letter that I had agreed to some type of contractual terms with them at the time of purchase that I would subscribe to their service. What a load of crap. I agreed to no such thing. The only thing I did was sign the little LCD signature pad that Best Buy used for credit card signatures at the time. At no time was there any type of "agreement" discussed or implied by anyone at Best Buy. There was no paperwork other than standard CC reciept. But apparently Best Buy sent them my contact information from my credit card somehow, because they had my mailing address, even though I hadn't given it to them.

    These are the types of things that companies are trying to assert with these ridiculous click-throughs. And they're all a bunch of crap. Someone needs to pierce this veil, and if David Stebbins helps in any way, then I'm behind him.

     

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  15.  
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    NullOp, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Contract

    Lets not judge too quickly here. Companies/Employers are using this same tactic against us every day. They are requiring you surrender your right to be heard in court and accept arbitration. The companies regularly hires the "experts" to find in favor of the company/employer. And our legal system calls this "Fair". I think the man might have a point. I'm sure Google's and Microsoft's lawyer have told management to ignore this person but should they? I personally think it's time to turn-the-tables on these mega-companies that essentially "read you your rights" when you use their product.

     

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  16.  
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    Donnicton, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    Maybe if he's really altruistic, he'll buy out the MPAA and the RIAA with that money, and then disband them.


    Ohhh... but to live in my own made-up fantasy land like the industry does....

     

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  17.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:57am

    Re: win-win

    MS would be very unlikely to sue when they could just cancel your account if they want to get rid of you. Then you would have to sue to get it back, and you'd fail. So I'm not sure this really does anyone any good.

     

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  18.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:59am

    Why 500 Billion?

    Because if he was suing for $10k or even $100k nobody would take notice. If his point is to bring attention to the issue, the ridiculous amount is sure to do it.

    It's being talked about. It's getting publicity. I will consider it greed once it starts sending out settlement letters.

     

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  19.  
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    Rekrul, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 11:11am

    That is, he "amended" the Xbox contract, sent it to Microsoft, telling the company that if it didn't cancel his account it meant it had agreed to the contract. When his account wasn't canceled he demanded arbitration over a random issue, pointing to the clauses in his amended contract, including a promise to respond to arbitration requests in 24 hours. Microsoft, of course, did not. Once again, he pointed to the clause in his contract that "claimed" such a forfeit means an automatic victory in arbitration at an amount declared by Stebbins. He then goes to court to "enforce" this supposedly incontestable arbitration "win."

    While this seems ridiculous on the face of it, a couple things stand out;

    MS presents you with an EULA that you are expected to accept as-is. I very much doubt that your clicking the "I Agree" button is specifically recorded anywhere by MS. However, should you amend the agreement and send it back to them, nobody bothers to even look at it. Or if they do, they simply ignore it. Then when he requests arbitration, as stated in the agreement they ignore that as well. When he claims a win as stated in the agreement, they ignore that too.

    Call me crazy, but what is the entire section relating to arbitration doing in the EULA if MS is just going to ignore it? How is any part of the agreement enforcible if they can just choose to ignore whatever they like?

     

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  20.  
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    Alien Bard, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    That was my thought as well. If he actually wanted a settlement he should have started at a much lower number and perhaps they would have paid him off rather then creating an unpleasant scene.

    Still, only he knows for certain.

     

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  21.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 12:54pm

    Re:

    Yes, unfortunately he forgot to pay (read:lobby) politicians first.

     

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  22.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 2:27pm

    And your sure this isn't just a pen name for John Steele?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    If what happens with him is that his "agreements" get nullified and thrown out of court, then we all win since that establishes a precident that can dissolve all previous corporate eula's and opt out agreements.

    Unless the corporations totally own the politcians AND the legal system .... which I believe they do.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 7:43pm

    I sincerely hope the court actually spend time to hear the case instead of just tossing it, so it'll set up the case for people to reference in the future.

     

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  25.  
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    R.H. (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re: Why 500 Billion?

    If he'd asked for an exorbitantly large amount of money that could have possibly been paid like $100 million dollars I'd be with him because then it might make the companies think about trying to pay him off which would help him make his point. However, this amount will automatically make them fight against his lawsuit.

     

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  26.  
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    Josh, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 8:10am

    Re: Contract?

    "A software license agreement is a contract between the 'licensor' and purchaser of the right to use software."

    A EULA is a contract, you moron.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 11:04pm

    asfafaf

     

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  28.  
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    Jim, Apr 7th, 2014 @ 11:34pm

    What Mr. Stebbins has actually done is show that the court system is actually not here to serve justice or the citizens but rather the corporate entities who control the bureaucrats and lawmakers who in turn control the courts.

    What? It's ok for corporations to amend your contracts (sometimes without even notifying you) but you can't amend them only agree to them? If you breach their amendments, you're in the wrong. If you say they've breached your amendments, you're in the wrong. The system is corrupt.

     

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