back to article Lawmakers propose TLDR Act because no one reads Terms of Service agreements

Almost no one bothers to read the Terms of Service agreements on websites so a group of US lawmakers on Thursday proposed a bill to require that commercial websites and mobile apps translate their legalese into summaries that can be more easily read by people and by machines. The bill, titled the Terms-of-service Labeling, …

  1. Foxglove
    Coat

    That was quite a long article

    With lots of links as well.

    Any chance of TL:DR/Summary please?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: That was quite a long article

      There is no need to get your coat. I fully agree with the sentiment. The article needs a concise summary. A point/bullet list.

      Lets make it a summarizing presentation. No, not a slide show. A real presentation, with moderator and laugh track at the punchline. You know, that line with the bullet, there where your privacy gets stolen in clear unequivocal terms using very few yet very expensive words. You know, the kind of words you learn in law school.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: That was quite a long article

        <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

        <tldr>

        <title abbrev="TLDR">Total Loss of Daily Revenue</title>

        <TsAndCs rules="default"/>

        </tldr>

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: That was quite a long article

      I thought the headline summarised it perfectly. Or at least I assume it did since the article was TL;DR :-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Garbage

    This is going to be about as useful as the idiotic way the cookie notifications were implemented.

    Like those it will give service operators another layer of obfuscation. It fails to address the provider rewriting the terms of service however they please, and with no clear guidance on what "clearly written" will mean, it will be another box checking exercise.

    The only purpose of this bill to enable know nothings and do nothings to look busy while wasting others time and money.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Garbage

      Well.... yeah, in some way probably yes.

      However, you should note that there was indeed some judical decision that rejecting the cookies must not be more clicks than accepting them. So we might be getting there (in civilised countries)

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: rejecting the cookies must not be more clicks than accepting them

        CWYWF

        The acceptance route could easily be padded out so that it is the same number of clicks as the reject route. "Is it January?" "Do you object to spam?" "Do insects have six legs?" "Congratulations you have accepted cookies".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: rejecting the cookies must not be more clicks than accepting them

          One issue with rejecting cookies is the rather annoying continuation of being asked whether or not you want cookies every time you return. They could easily allow the "cookie rejection" cookie to be considered essential to operation and not rejectable, but then they wouldn't get to ask you over and over again...

          Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Garbage

      "This is going to be about as useful as the idiotic way the cookie notifications were implemented."

      Not if they give the short form legal precedence over the TLDR form.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Garbage

        Simple fix: If one contradicts the other, then neither are valid.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Garbage

          I'd go one further, if one contradicts the other, the customer who finds the contraction is paid $10k by the company. If the contradiction is found during a dispute, the customer is additionally automatically ruled as the winner.

    3. Pseu Donyme

      Re: cookie notifications

      It is instructive to consider who actually implemented them and why they chose to implement them in a particular way; EU 'cookie law' certainly didn't require the abusive ones we got, indeed, it required none at all as long as only strictly necessary cookies were used.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Garbage

      The proposal seems like something similar to the privacy bullet points in Apple's app store. Which, let's face it, would be an improvement on a 50-page EULA.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Garbage

        Nope, Apple's 'privacy' bullet points are uninformative and useless.

        And a 50 page EULA can be simply disregarded. "On the advice of my attorney, I didn't read a word of that bullshit, I simply clicked the 'make it work' button that happened to be labeled 'agree', reciting 'I do not' beforehand."

        Making the bullshit more 'readable' is not only pointless, it's counterproductive. As it is now, no one but a corporation with a legal department has any expectation that those things have been read, understood, or even remotely actually agreed to. Making them understandable makes things worse.

        What's really needed is legislation banning most of the things those EULAs purport to do.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Garbage

          "What's really needed is legislation banning most of the things those EULAs purport to do."

          Which will never happen as the companies and their teams of lawyers and influencers will lobby to make sure it never happens. Failing that, they'll back for changes in government to make it so.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Garbage

      How about those 'Use of Cookies' popups that don't make it clear if you are opted in or opted out. If it shows 'Off' does it mean that the option is off because it shows 'Off' or that the option is 'On' because 'On' is covered by the green blob?

      Like, erm... the Advertising Standards Authority site (asa.org.uk)

  3. 9Rune5
    Mushroom

    Want to play our game? Read these 50 pages of legalese first.

    A year ago I got hold of an XBox. For the kids naturally.

    Last month we installed Need For Speed I think it was. I had to page through not one, but two very long documents before we got to the menu. Just pressing the down button without reading took me at least two minutes.

    I think they did it that way because their game isn't very good. I have no idea as I left the controller to the kids and went and did something else.

    Maybe they should make a game where you have to first read the Terms of Abuse followed by a quiz where you have to answer questions that pertain to the text you just read. Answer all the questions correctly and they won't sue you.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Model contracts should be mandated

    There should be a set of model contracts that are clearly written and fair to both customer and retailer/business. These would come with a logo like the BSI Kitemark.

    Different contracts as there are different sorts of business.

    The contracts would come with a schedule where the business could put things like: delivery times & charges; URLs; geographic restrictions.

    One thing forbidden would be any change without further customer agreement - except, maybe, stuff in the schedule.

  5. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Happy

    The current trope is that it would take about two and a half to three lifetimes to read all the legalese we encounter in our life, not understand the carefully crafted meaning, just to read through it all once.

    So I do not see anything wrong with trimming that down to say a single day in total.

  6. John Riddoch

    The biggest lie...

    The biggest lie on the internet is the checkbox titled "I have read and understood the terms and conditions"

    1. Scott 26

      Re: The biggest lie...

      > The biggest lie on the internet is the checkbox titled "I have read and understood the terms and conditions"

      Followed by "I am 18 or older"

      1. pavel.petrman
        Coat

        Re: The biggest lie...

        The lie about the age of 18 gets evened out by the other side of the most frequently occuring type of an Internet transaction, in which one party advertises being 18, the other asserts via a button to be 18 or more, and in reality neither party actually is.

  7. Persona Silver badge

    EULA

    I have twice snuck in the clause the user consents to having a unicorn horn grafted to their forehead and both times the company lawyer silently removed it. Till then I didn't believe anyone ever read them.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: EULA

      Lawyers read EULAs, especially when it's one going out with their companies products.

      People don't read EULAs.

      Therefore, lawyers aren't people.

  8. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Why not have, say, 3 standard licenses that are properly worked out by consumer groups? You (as in the software company or web site) have to say which is your choice. No variations, no additional clauses.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      What company is going to use a contract that's written by people with a vested interest in it being fair to the user ? The people this is aimed at (as the article points out) RELY on users' ignorance of what they are signing up to. Lets face it, a TL;DR version of many of them would boil down to :

      "You agree that we can collect any information about you, however and whenever we like, using fair and unfair methods (including deception by collecting information even though you have asked us not to and we appear to have agreed to that); we will warehouse that and link it with other information we gathered about you by both fair and unfair means; and we will monetise that information in whatever way we want, when we want. Furthermore, we will ignore any requests not to do so; and we will ignore any requests to delete that information. Lastly, you agree to illegally supply us with information about other people who have no contractual relationship with us which we will warehouse, cross reference, and misuse as above".

  9. DS999 Silver badge

    So if the TLDR for a 50 page EULA

    Is two pages, are people going to read THAT?

    Just skip a step and require a one sentence summary: "We will screw you over in any way our lawyers think we can get away with".

  10. swm Silver badge

    How about doing away with all EULAs and use existing law. At least make the EULA printable and viewable before purchase. (And limit to 100 words.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because existing law probably favors the seller. Remember, they have the better lawyers...

      Plus, consider that we may be too late for something like TLDR. Another angle the people up top are taking is the collective dumbing-down of the proles to the point of being nothing more than mindless drones mentally incompatible with any decent form of government or business...

  11. Robert Grant Silver badge

    This could be a good idea if it were like the creative commons licences: distinct categories, easily summarised.

  12. Whitter
    FAIL

    It exempts "small businesses"

    Until such time as we stop

    1) non-small-buisnesses isolating/wrapping up their multiple arms into allegedly small-buisnesses

    2) the sale of cusomer data / contracts between companies

    then that's an easy loop-hole to exploit.

  13. sreynolds

    I thought it was quite obvious...

    You agree to waive as many of your rights as we can possibly get you to do so here and you agree to the most onerous terms that we could apply to you given what our lawyers believe to be the current legislation.

    1. Sixtiesplastictrektableware

      Re: I thought it was quite obvious...

      Isn't that decree based on the assumption that the unwashed masses have any manner of free will, mental agency or autonomy? Or are even considered sentient?

      For serious though, I always want to hope something nice will happen, but just can't shake this recurring image of wolves swathing swine with pearls....

  14. EricB123

    Would you like to print that?

    My favorite sites give me an option to print out the terms of service tome. 2 toner cartridges later...

  15. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

    While they are at it

    They should make it illegal to include a clause that prevents the company from being sued for damages.

  16. Dinanziame Silver badge

    The world is too complicated and it should be simpler

    By curiosity I read Google's Terms of Services. I had to hit PgDn 27 times to get to the end. Though the text was not dense, included whimsical drawings, and was quite easy to read. Mind you, this did not include the Privacy policy, which is 32 pages just by itself...

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