Guy Claims Google Owes Him $500 Billion

from the novel-legal-arguments dept

I’m always interested in novel legal theories and arguments, and Eric Goldman points us to the latest attempt by one David Stebbins to convince the court system that giant companies owe him tons of money. Last time we’d checked in on Stebbins, he had been claiming Walmart owed him $600 billion, using some dubious claims which still don’t make much sense. But it involved something with a “contract” he put on his website, which he apparently emailed folks at Walmart about, and when they sent back a boilerplate reply saying he had contacted the wrong department, he demanded they settle their “legal dispute.” Walmart ignored that, and he declared that they now owed him $600 billion (with a b) as an arbitration award.

He’s now trying something similar with Google, though this time it’s “only” for $500 billion (again, with a b). The filing is embedded below and it’s worth a read. It kicks off with a long diatribe insisting that the court cannot deny the motion, and making dubious legal claims that the court “must” grant the motion that Google owes him $500 billion. As for the crux of his “argument,” it’s that YouTube’s terms of service say that the company can change the terms at any time and give notice. So he decided to change the terms himself. As he notes:

[YouTube’s terms of service] state that the terms can be unilaterally modified at any time. If the other party does not wish to accept the new terms, they may sever the contractual relationship.

On March 22, 2011, I took YouTube up on that generous offer and sent them an email announcing my own modifications of the Youtube terms of service.

The key part that he “inserted” into his new terms was this nugget:

If you do not accept my invitation to arbitrate within 24 hours of receiving it, I automatically win the relief request, regardless of the merits. No actual arbitration award need be entered; I simply win, automatically, without having to go to arbitration. However, this will only apply to me. If you attempt to arbitrate with me, and I do not accept it, you must obtain an order to compel arbitration.

Amusingly, in the clause above that, he also states: “If you even so much as attempt to litigate a case with me, even if that attempt is unsuccessful you automatically loose that case.” Yes, he typed “loose.”

You can pretty much guess what happened next. He claimed that YouTube “accepted” his modified contract by not canceling his accounts within 30 days, and then it failed to respond to his arbitration request within 24 hours. Thus, he tells the court, Google owes him $500 billion and, according to the legal genius of David Stebbins, the court has no choice but to agree.

Of course, courts generally don’t like having people waste their time, and I imagine this one gets dropped pretty quickly for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that YouTube’s terms of service are actually pretty clear that only YouTube can modify them, not some random, lawsuit happy guy.

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Comments on “Guy Claims Google Owes Him $500 Billion”

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51 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: abc gum on Aug 18th, 2011 @ 4:49am

“Before I continue” let me point out that Stebbins clearly has a solid case and is well versed in all legal matters. As to whether or not he used his pinky finger for emphasis I would say probably not. Using his pinky finger for emphasis of an evil deed would obviously violate copyright and trademarks of the New Line Films production, Austin Powers. He would simply know better, he is smrt and stuff.

slacker525600 (profile) says:

as much as he is crazy

Isn’t his point a valid one. As far as I am aware contract law is pretty clear that you cant unilaterally change the terms of a contract and the way websites do it nowadays they dont even give any form of notification. The boilerplate on most websites nowadays appear to me to be unenforceable and invalid contracts, and somebody needs to bring the issue to court. The last I remember reading about it, some judge claimed it was fine as long as there was a link to the terms somewhere you would see it while logging into the site and the hyperlink to the contract was a different color(maybe he said something about it being underlined). The methodology he is trying to use is silly and a waste of everybody’s time, but if he is just trying to point out an issue with contracts on the internet I have to say I think he has a point.

Gracey (user link) says:

Re: as much as he is crazy

[but if he is just trying to point out an issue with contracts on the internet I have to say I think he has a point]

That would be a very big “if”.

If that were the case he should be suing every website that has a “Terms of Use” or “Terms of Service clause”, not just the companies who (apparently) have lots of money.

Beyond that, wasting the time of the US court system isn’t going to win him any blue ribbons, and if he keeps going, might get him a spot in a very nice padded room somewhere.

TechLawAttorney (user link) says:

Re: as much as he is crazy

Your “awareness” of contract law needs some more work. I suggest you start with a bit of light reading: the case law surrounding “click-wrap agreements,” and the “Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act” (UCITA). I think you will be enlightened as to enforceability of unilateral online agreements.

The more you know….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: as much as he is crazy

…contract law is pretty clear that you cant unilaterally change the terms of a contract…

Contract law, of course, is a matter of state law.

Here’s some Texas law, from Harris v Blockbuster:

Legal Standard

In Texas, a contract must be supported by consideration, and if it is not, it is illusory and cannot be enforced.?.?.?.

Analysis

The basis for the Plaintiffs’ claim that the arbitration provision is illusory is that Blockbuster reserves the right to modify the Terms and Conditions, including the section that contains the arbitration provision, “at its sole discretion” and “at any time,” and such modifications will be effective immediately upon being posted on the site. Under the heading “Changes to Terms and Conditions,” the contract states:

Blockbuster may at any time, and at its sole discretion, modify these Terms and Conditions of Use, including without limitation the Privacy Policy, with or without notice. Such modifications will be effective immediately upon posting. You agree to review these Terms and Conditions of Use periodically and your continued use of this Site following such modifications will indicate your acceptance of these modified Terms and Conditions of Use. If you do not agree to any modification of these Terms and Conditions of Use, you must immediately stop using this Site.

The Court concludes that the Blockbuster arbitration provision is illusory for the same reasons as that in Morrison.?.?.?.

Contract law is other states may differ. However the principle that ?illusory contracts? are unenforcable is pretty basic.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

The point is, he's an idiot. Nothing more.

I’m quite sure you are not a lawyer, so your legal opinion is of no value. He is simply another in a long line of money-grubbing filth who think all they need to do is keep filing baseless lawsuits and eventually they will win one, which is the same reason most people buy lottery tickets, with an even lower chance of success. This dolt should be one of the top nominees for “Biggest Douche in the Universe”! I fart in his general direction.

Digitivity (user link) says:

as much as he is crazy

I have to agree with slacker525600: the guy has a point about wacky ToS’s and how they are stacked against the little guy. And what’s up with just posting contract changes on a page somewhere, and the user’s supposed to constantly check that page for changes? If a user actually did that, he’d probably be brought up on Denial of Service charges. Lose either way.

As for Gracey’s point about not suing sites that don’t have money, would you really rather he sue podunk bloggers? Actually, it’s mostly only sites that do have money which have these nutty one-sided ToS’s.

Gracey (user link) says:

Re: as much as he is crazy

Actually, it isn’t anymore just sites with lots of money that have Terms that most people don’t necessarily agree with. Lots of smaller sites also have these – is this guy going to go about suing all of them just cause he wants the terms “his way”? It ain’t Harvey’s.

My own have terms – the terms I choose to offer, not what someone else wants.

As for “monied sites” – while you may think the terms are one-sided, nobody is twisting your arm to agree with them. If you don’t like them, find another site who doesn’t have terms.

Since when is anyone required to set up their terms to suit another user?

I get pretty tired of stuff like that. When you own a business, you get to set the rules (within the law) and if others don’t like it…well tough. Go somewhere else.

Nagging on terms of agreement or use is not much different than assuming you can tell someone how to run their business .

There are better ways of suggesting changes than making yourself look like…well this particular idiot.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

We had a women sue a bunch of big time oil companies claiming trillions in damages. She claimed she was owed the money because she was Marie Antoinette. Not a reincarnated Marie Antoinette, but Marie Antoinette herself.

If you’re trying to figure out why Marie Antoinette is owed trillions by the oil companies, give up. There is no reason. Anyway…

When the judge I work for started speaking in French at a hearing she told him she didn’t understand his dialect.

Needless to say, her case was dismissed without even an opposing counsel filing an appearance.

Anonymous Coward says:

David Stebbins to convince the court system that giant companies owe him tons of money.

If there is a monopoly, which by definition of a monopoly means that they are the only game in town, and that monopoly declares that it has a right to change the terms of service at whim then it should only be judicial fair that the opposing party have equivalent rights.

Regardless of any other interest David Stebbins is doing the world a favor by showing how absurd those heads I whin, tails you loose one sided mandatory contracts are.

jc (profile) says:

Re: All the Terms in the world...

That would be nice indeed. The issue is, of course, that companies are fearful of lawsuits like this — but at the same time, they are also doing what they can to make sure they can fleece their customers and get away with it.

To me, this whole country’s has gotten way too laissez-faire with capitalism. For God sakes, we are treating corporations as if they are people now. If that isn’t the most whack concept, I don’t know what is. They aren’t people – they have no souls. Sure, people work there, but that doesn’t make them some ‘super person’.

I don’t know.. it is just all so sickening. Working hard to built wealth. That’s considering being dumb. Schemeing, manipulating, stealing, lying, cheating … that’s all par for the course if you want to ‘make it’ in America.

Is it just me? Does nobody else feel things are way upside down? It is no wonder our economy is in shambles. You have to build from the GROUND -> UP. Trickle down crap doesn’t work, we all know that. When the poor (or middle class as they are told they are) have finally been fleeced to the point where they have no more money to spend, then of course everything goes to crap.

Amit says:

Re: Re: All the Terms in the world...

Corporations have always been considered a person in the legal sense.

cor?po?ra?tionNoun/ˌk?rpəˈrāSHən/
1. A company or group of people authorized to act as a single entity (legally a person) and recognized as such in law.

So i am not sure what your problem that it is being treated like one.

out_of_the_blue says:

"YouTube's terms of service" are also unconscionable and not binding.

Terms that can be changed unilaterally in no way constitute an “agreement”. Nor does making use of a machine that someone provides free of charge, open to the public, mean acceptance of any conditions at all. Public access websites fall under community bulletin board and public accommodation rules. It’s just a machine that responds, and it’s the owner of that machine who gives up private rights to the machine, presumably for some commercial gain, which puts it under a whole new set of strictures. — As in the BART cell-phone shut off, once a service is made available to the public, it becomes quasi-public property, and 1st Amendment DOES apply to some degree. Youtube as a corporation has certain /power/, but NO rights.

I’ve expanded on this before and will have to make it boilerplate, because the supposed “Terms of Service” are in fact terms of those who intend to be MASTERS of society, not its servants.

The Real Zano says:

Re: "YouTube's terms of service" are also unconscionable and not binding.

No. Not at all. None of this.

BART is a publicly-funded venture, hence the 1st amendment applies to it. Someone offering a website that is free of charge and accessible to the general public is not operating public property, no more than is someone operating a restaurant, hot dog cart, bowling alley, or telephone hotline operating public property.

Property doesn’t magically transmogrify from private to public just because you want it to.

Karl Polano (user link) says:

I'm being sued by David Stebbins

Hi TechDirt!

Just an update on David Stebbins aka “Acerthorn” on YouTube who is currently sueing me and several other content creators for copyright infringement, doxxing, dogpiling and damages to his “youtube career” asking for several millions after videos being made about him.

I’m not joking, the very same guy that was sueing Google, Microsoft, Walmart, his university, his parents is now sueing us for making “memes” about him and criticizing his work.

If you’d like more details on this feel free to reach out to any of us involved in this.

Link to the court case:
https://casetext.com/case/stebbins-v-polano

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