Monday, April 20, 2009

"Illusory" terms of service

Wow I’m not sure how many people caught this or understood the ramifications of it.

I’m trying to do some additional research to find out what this means but this ruling at this morning caught my eye.

Lynn determined that Blockbuster's contract with users was "illusory" because the agreement said that movie rental store could change the terms and conditions at any time.
A Blockbuster spokesperson declined to comment on the case or state whether the company will appeal.

The decision is a blow to Blockbuster because individual consumers would have had a difficult time bringing cases one-by-one against the company. But the decision paves the way for attorneys to argue that all consumers affected by Blockbuster's participation in Beacon should be able to proceed as a class.

Internet law expert Venkat Balasubramani said Lynn's decision invalidating Blockbuster's user agreement was potentially far-reaching because many Web companies reserve the right to make changes to their terms of service. "It seems broad and could have impact on the terms of service used by a lot of different companies," he said.

I’m fairly sure this has to be appealed as couldn’t this throw a lot of User Agreements out the window? (I know it would affect my agreement at out the window).

Any thoughts about how this affects your business? Post below.



  1. this is special for 2 reasons -- both of which circle around blockbuster being run by a team of fucking idiots:

    1- There is a federal law in the US ( us code title 18 § 2710 -
    "Wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records"

    Blockbuster knew about this, anyone who owns, runs, or works in a video store knows about this.
    It's pretty serious. Growing up, my local library removed the 'checkout history' cards from videos because of this.

    How they managed to opt in to beacon, is astounding.

    Perhaps it was arrogance based on...

    2- Blockbuster changed the TOS and then said "you now agree to this". They didn't give an opt-out period, a grace period, or anything. They just said "when we change our tos, so do you"

    That's a hugely stupid move.

    Everyone has TOS that changes -- .coms, cable & phone , credit cards and banks... even itunes and amazon when you log in or update your software... but you get a notice in the mail or a screen that says "The new TOS goes into effect on ____. If you agree with this TOS, continue to use this service. if you do not agree, you have until ___ to stop using the service."

    Blockbuster didn't do that. They just changed the TOS and didn't even notify people.


  2. Blizzard forces World of Warcraft users (11 million) to re-confirm ToS and ToU everytime they change the code - do an update. Given that that is every Tuesday after maintenance, (or feels like it) its a pain in the ass, but it saves Blizzard from the dreaded "this means nothing cos we'll chnage it as soon as it suits us".

    Apple does it too.

    It's about time someone pointed out that an agreement where one party can change the terms at any time is not an agreement, its' the Emporers New Clothes. Cheers :)

  3. Im not surte its a bad thing. Sorry - but as aperson that has had to change the "Rules" TOS on several occassions to suit legislative requirements, tax changes (GST) etc, I hqve learned that market forces generally level the playing field. What you change this week - your competition has to follow for whatever reason next week.