English stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard once said “No one in the universe has read the terms and conditions”. He was of course referring to the terms and conditions of iTunes which we all blindly accept in the “ordinary course of our social business”.
He went on further to say “anything could be in the terms and conditions, we can take your buttocks and sell it to the Chinese, fine fine, we are going to rearrange your toes and number them, yes yes, we are going to put your underpants in hedges around the world, yes fine”. Although I do not suspect for one minute that a reputable company such as Apple Inc. would ever contemplate selling our collective buttocks to the Chinese, Mr Izzard does make a good point, we truly have no clue what we are agreeing to.
The public at large generally take these “on-line contracts” for granted without giving them the due consideration they deserve, all well knowing that they are just as binding as any other contract we may conclude. The purpose of this article is to summarize the common, interesting and mostly unconsidered characteristics of the terms and conditions of not only iTunes, but also the terms and conditions of other social “can’t live without” sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Drop-Box, not to raise undue concern, but rather to educate us all because let us be honest, we are going to accept these terms and conditions next time that little tick box appears anyway (spoiler alert after reviewing all the terms and conditions not one of the aforementioned companies has the right to sell your buttocks to the Chinese).
They are all service Level Agreements
As you may well have guessed it, the agreement which one concludes with each of the aforementioned companies falls within the ambit of the commonly referred to “Service Level Agreement” as they render a service for your benefit. In most cases the services are rendered against no compensation.
You give them a license to “use”
Subject to the privacy settings which you choose when you share any content on the aforementioned websites (the privacy policies will be discussed below) you grant the applicable website a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any intellectual property content that you post on or in connection with the applicable website.
What the aforementioned licenses essentially entails, is that you grant the applicable company the right (once again subject to your privacy settings) to, broadcast, distribute or publish your content without paying any compensation to you.
The aforementioned license terminates the moment you delete the content, however if someone else has already shared your content it continues until such time as that user has also deleted it (beware before you share!).
You use it “as is”
Each provider provides their services “as is” and they do not provide you with any performance guarantees or undertakings whatsoever. This means that there is no guarantee of continued service or guarantee of the level of security they will use when storing your information.
You indemnify the provider and hold them harmless
When you use each of the websites you provide the provider thereof with an indemnity in terms of which you indemnify and hold the applicable provider, its directors, officers, employees, affiliates, agents, contractors, and licensors harmless with respect to any claims arising out of your breach of the “on-line agreement” which you conclude with them.
Practically where this may become very relevant, is that whenever you submit any content onto one of these websites, you warrant that you have the authority to do so. Should you share any content without the required authority, you may be held liable by the applicable person’s whose intellectual property you have infringed and furthermore may be required to indemnify the applicable service provider against any claims which are made against them as a result of you breaching your terms breaching the terms and conditions.
Their Liability is Limited
Even though each of the respective providers do not provide any warranties or guarantees whatsoever, in the event that they are found to be liable for any reason whatsoever, their liability is limited. In most cases there liability is capped to around $100 or the aggregate amount which you have spent with them in the preceding 12 months, but no more than that.
What information do they gather about you? The short answer is – everything. Firstly, they gather all the information which we all voluntarily divulge, such as our names, date of birth, contact details, where we live, study, work and the things we like.
Apart from the information which we voluntarily part with, the service providers will gather further additional information from us when we access their websites such as our current location (this is either obtained from us “checking in” or committing a similar activity or directly from our cellphones, tablets or pc), our previous locations (this can be obtained from a number of sources such as photos which we have posted or photo which friends have posted and tag us) and our previous internet browser information (i.e. previous websites which we have visited).
Why do they collect your information? What these companies have perfected is the art of monetizing information. Once they have gathered this information and packaged it sweetly, they may then sell off this information to the suppliers of goods and services in order to assist suppliers in conducting their marketing more efficiently.
What they can and can’t do with your information? Firstly, all your information is broken into two categories – personal information and non-personal information. All the service providers give an undertaking that they will not divulge your personal information without your consent.
Non-personal information may generally be shared. Aggregated personal information becomes non-personal information.
After reviewing all the various terms and conditions and the privacy policies, I am bitterly disappointed to report that I did not come across anything scandalous and found the terms and conditions to be “par for the course” and in line with what one might expect to find from a reputable service provider. Fortunately for you, you may continue to blindly accept the terms and conditions without the fear of having your buttocks sold to the Chinese.