Can You Agree To An EULA You Never Saw?

from the probably-not dept

Slashdot points us to an interesting article about a guy involved in a legal fight with computer maker Gateway over whether or not he agreed to an arbitration clause in an end user license agreement (EULA) for his new computer. In this case, the guy claims his computer never worked properly, so he couldn't even see the on-screen license agreement that apparently included an arbitration clause, saying that he would agree to arbitrate any dispute, rather than take it to court. He then sued Gateway over problems with the machine. The case here doesn't have anything to do with whether or not that lawsuit has merit, but whether or not it could even go to court at all. Gateway contends that the guy shouldn't be able to take them to court because of the arbitration clause. But, of course, the guy claims he couldn't read the license agreement, so he certainly never agreed to it. The court found that the guy made a compelling enough case that he had not seen the license agreement, and therefore can not be forced to go to arbitration (even as some experts suggest that he actually would be better off going to arbitration, rather than through the courts). However, it also raises the question (not answered here) over what does constitute an official agreement. I've been told by lawyers that such arbitration clauses aren't even enforceable in California, but either way, with plenty of evidence that most people never read the EULAs they agree to, could they argue that the clauses don't apply as well?

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  1. identicon
    John, 10 Jun 2007 @ 9:25pm

    Things will only get worse...

    The reality of the situation is that users have always been beholden to software companies. US law makes it so very easy for IP right holders to define how they feel you should use the content you have rightfully purchased. One major reason I'm attending law school for IP law is to fight this kind of shit. I know what current copyright, DRM, and other IP law states - and I believe it's based on a history of incorrect and convoluted judicial decisions. I, like most American's believe, that if I give you money, and you give me a product that I have the choice to do it what I want. If a company doesn't approve of it, don't sell it. I know some may think this is a simple and rather ignorant argument - but it would keep companies competitive, spend more time making products that work (instead of wasting time and adding additional expense to develop "activation" systems), and give consumers the rights, yes RIGHTS, they deserve. I don't have to tell everyone here that this is a fight against software, music, and film organizations that will only end with one side winning and unfortunately for now it looks like the other side is winning.

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