How Did The iTunes Terms Of Service Become A Cultural Phenomenon All Its Own?

from the have-you-read-it? dept

People have always tended to hate "terms of service" (TOS) and "end user license agreements" (EULAs) for their software. No one reads the things. A few years back, we wrote about a software company that attempted to prove that no one read the terms of service, by embedding a promise to pay $1,000 to the first person who read the terms and claimed the money. It took four months and over 3,000 downloads before anyone claimed the money.

For some reason, however, the terms and conditions associated with Apple's iTunes service have taken things to an entirely new level, to the point where it appears the iTunes terms have become a cultural icon entirely separate from iTunes. CNN recently asked some lawyers to go through the 56-page document to pick out the bits and pieces you should actually be aware of, but probably aren't. But that's nothing.

Plenty of folks saw the recent episode of South Park, in which the entire basis was built off of parodying the fact that no one reads the iTunes terms:
But, that's not all. CNET recently had famed actor Richard Dreyfuss do a series of dramatic readings of portions of the iTunes terms, which you can hear in the video below:
I have to admit that I'm sort of fascinated with the level to which the iTunes terms have become such a cultural phenomenon, and am curious to see how far it will go. Will we see plays or movies based on it? How about a musical version?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Mike C. (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Can't go much further...

    I can't see this going much further before an over-aggressive (i.e. typical) lawyer starts throwing cease & desist letters everywhere, filing DMCA notices to take down content and claiming copyright infringement of the EULA.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    I'm fairly certain some money can be made out of this, by Apple. The question is, will Apple lawyer up over it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 7:50am

    why wont it read!?

     

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    David Cortright (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    Exposure, exposure, exposure

    The reason is that we are exposed to the iTunes terms so much. Most software you install, agree to terms, and that's it. With iTunes, new terms come up with practically every update. You're looking at a 71 page scrolling dialog 2-3 times every year. It's like we all have a subscription to the latest ToS, and it is automatically opened front and center on our screens every few months.

    How can you *not* take notice of that?

     

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    Eric E. Johnson (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    More proof Apple is the new Microsoft

    Everybody has a EULA nobody reads. The question is why does the cultural angst focus on Apple? It's because Apple is the new Microsoft. It's the 1984 commercial flipped on its head. Apple is Big Brother. While we are all laughing about it, everyone is just slightly scared of Apple. Face it, they're getting super creepy.

     

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      Vincent Clement (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:25am

      Re: More proof Apple is the new Microsoft

      I'm fairly certain the paperwork one has to fill out for say, major surgery, is less onerous than reading AND understanding the Apple TOS/EULA.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re: More proof Apple is the new Microsoft

        As someone who helped to fill out paperwork for a relative receiving an organ transplant, I can attest that you are correct.

         

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    Boomhouser, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    oops

    I can't watch the video on my iphone or ipad... no flash.

     

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    ts, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    I'll sum up Apple's EULA to save people some time from reading it...

    You're not buying Apple software, you're buying a license to use their software. You have no rights to use the software in any way that is not intended by Apple. If the software does not work, that is your problem, not Apple's. Apple also reserves the right to cripple the software in a way so that it does not function in the same way that was intended at time of "purchase"... in which case, tough shit. And if anyone finds a loophole that gives consumers any rights at all, Apple reserves the right to change the EULA, requiring you to agree to the new terms or forfeit your license.

    I think that covers it pretty well. GPL FTW.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:11am

    Microsoft FrontPage 2000

    This was a long time ago.

    Microsoft FrontPage 2000 was a program used to write Html with a GUI interface. (Think of it as Nightmare Weaver.)

    The EULA had terms that said you agreed not to use the program to write pages that disparaged Microsoft, Expedia, blah blah, and other companies owned by Microsoft.

    Yes, I am serious.

    Yes, at the time I did download the PDF version of the EULA and saved it. Somewhere.

    Think about that. If a news web site written with this software were to say anything good for example about Microsoft, it would not be credible, because they agreed to the EULA.

    Will Apple go this far?

    Signs point to yes.

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:19am

    I think that if any ToS or EULA came with an audio version as read by Richard Dreyfuss, I would be more likely to actually understand them and make an informed decision.

    He is an awesome actor.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:23am

    I AGREE

    You were led into the Apple store to be tempted. You haven't had a new shiny for 40 days and 40 nights. Steve Jobs took you to a very high mountain and showed you all of the shinys of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and click I AGREE to my EULA."

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 8:33am

    56 pages?

    56 pages? My brain stopped at that point.

    Apologies to the insightful, constructive, and well meaning lawyers that read and comment, but your profession is absurdly out of control.

     

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    Beta (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    wish list of voice actors

    I can think of a few others I'd love to hear. Christopher Plummer, Mark Hamill, James Earl Jones (natch), Robert Duvall, Leonard Nimoy, Judi Dench...

    Oh, what Orson Welles could have done with it...

     

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    chuck, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    signed it, never read it.

     

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    terrybbarton (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    Don't many people have the software and updates

    installed by a computer professional and thus they have not agreed to anything. In reality I think some contents of many EULAs are completely unenforceable.

    There are some EULAs that go so far as to contain a clause to the effect by using the software you give all intellectual property rights of any content you use in the application to the software publisher. It could be a very slippery slope for the software publisher to try take possession of content using this technique. Suppose as is common that a computer guy not the person using the software clicked agree on the EULA and suppose that's irrelevant anyway because the IP rights belong to their employer or someone else. Then the company's contract is not with the person who used the software and the person who did use the software couldn't give those rights away anyhow.

     

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