Reading list: worthwhile terms of service?

Not all digital fine print
exculpates liability: some exhorts users to perform before the
consumer relationship has soured.
We promise to choose strong passwords (and hold
them private); to behave civilly on
social networks; to refrain from streaming shows
and sports; and to avoid
reverse-engineering code (or, worse, deploying deadly bots).
In short: consumers are apparently
regulated by digital fine print, though it’s
universally assumed we don’t read
it , and even if we did, we’ll never be sued for failing
to perform.
On reflection, this ordinary
phenomenon is perplexing. Why would firms persist in
deploying uncommunicative
behavioral spurs? The conventional answer is that fine
print acts as an option, drafted by
uncreative, guild-captured lawyers. Through
investigation of several sharing
economy firms, and discussions with a variety of
lawyers in this space, I show that
this account is incomplete. Indeed, I identify and
explore examples of innovative fine
print that appears to really communicate with and
manage users.
These firms have cajoled using
contracts by trading on their brands and identities, and
by giving up on certain exculpatory
defenses common to digital agreements. I argue
that the result is a new form of
relational contracting, taking on attributes of both mass
market adhesion contracts and more
long-term deals.
A fascinating piece, especially for me (because I
participated heavily in drafting the Terms of Service for the Archive of Our
Own, where we had similar human-readability/user-friendly goals though a
nonprofit, noncommercial commitment). 
Hoffman concludes that ToS can communicate with users when they are
brand-congruent, but I would have put it differently: people are more likely to
learn the actual contents of the ToS when the site promotes knowledge of the
terms as part of its interactions with users (maybe even part of its branding).  The examples he uses also often involved soliciting
feedback from users, which itself is a form of disclosure/communication that
goes beyond normal promulgation of the ToS/use of checkboxes.

from Blogger

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s