Suppose you purchase a fantastic new toy that you know will thrill your little boy. You then sit down at your computer and type out a list of expectations for his use of the toy. Let's say you make it a very long list. Include lots of restrictions -like the frequency with which he can play with the toy. Or, perhaps, limit any playing with the toy to his bedroom.
To be on the safe side, forbid playing with the toy along with any other toy. In fact, clarify that if the toy breaks another toy while he is playing with both toys at once, then you will not be responsible to replace either toy.
Draw a hard line by stating that if your child gets hurt in any way by the toy, you will not be responsible to soothe the child nor to provide any bandage for the wound and will be held blameless for any such damage.
Include some rambling text about how, in the future, if you should decide to replace the toy with a similar toy that might not be as much fun to play with, that your child will accept your decision without complaint.
With as many words as possible, forbid your child from ever tinkering with the toy to make it more fun to play with. Prohibit your boy from asking friends to change the toy or add anything to it that could enhance the toy-playing experience. This will ensure that you retain full credit for any joy obtained from the toy.
Next, list the consequences for noncompliance with your requirements. Whatever legal way you discipline your child is OK -just make your description long and detailed. Trust me -you don't want your kid coming after you because of some frivolous "toy displeasure."
Finally, print out your stack of pages in the smallest text possible and use them to wrap the toy (text facing out).
Call your boy over and hand him the wrapped toy, but before you allow the toy to be opened, say, "Do you agree to everything that is written on the outside of this gift?" When he immediately screams "YES," and tears the paper, you can relax. You're covered!
How many times have you been excited about installing some new software only to be halted by an Agree/Disagree button below some microscopic text called a EULA (End User's License Agreement)? Do you read the text? All of it? Every time? No, you don't -and neither do I. But we probably should -at least more often.
You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we've agreed to while installing software. A friend of mine joked that he'd agreed to so many EULA's that one day he might hear a knock at the door from men in white coats who will be there to fulfill his unknown agreement to harvest all his organs. Kidding aside, EULA's have actually become far more egregious than my absurd child/toy metaphor. Some EULA's actually ask consumers to sign away fundamental rights. For example, some have the audacity to forbid public criticism of the product!
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) provides excellent info on EULA's for consumers with the goal of defending free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights.
Dangerous Terms - A User's Guide to EULA's by Annalee Newitz can be found at eff.org. After reading this guide, my face looked like someone had told me all of the revolting things hidden in my food that I've unknowingly eaten throughout my entire life.
I imagine the need for software companies to go after violators of their EULA's is relatively rare. Even so, we should still be aware of what we are agreeing to when we click the "I Accept" button of a EULA.
By the way, I figured out why the text of EULA's is so tiny. It's because if we read the wrapping paper, the toy might not be worth it.