I recently came across a pretty interesting blog http://tacticalip.com/. As I was reading about Patent Reform, I came across something hilarious: a terms and conditions section for viewing the blog. I thought it was a joke, but then I realized that these people were serious.
Hmmm. A website without any architectural restrictions on accessing content trying to restrict its viewers under such a legal obligation? It sounded fishy to me too. I figured I should probably look into the terms and conditions that I was “bound to,” considering I was using the site, so I clicked on the link. Here is the first paragraph.
So let me get this straight, TacticalIP. As a user, I am granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. If I do something that goes against this agreement, my access becomes terminated. My first thought was, why threaten to terminate access to the website? There is no practical way to implement such a threat. Did they think that they could terminate your use by blocking your IP address? No, because here is a clause that they have later on in the terms.
Not only can IP address information not be used to identify someone, this blog does not register viewers. If I go against the terms, how are they going to know who I am? Unless these people have some advanced way of tracking every possible protocol that I use to receive the web pages they have freely offered on the web, then I don’t see a point in claiming such bold termination. I think it’s interesting to think about how they could architecturally restrict one’s use, but it’s also interesting to think about whether a restriction can be legally enforced. I will defer that topic of conversation for another day.
Back to the terms and conditions, the next paragraph really had me going.
So my use is restricted to only reading the text of this website. Consider this paragraph copyrights on steroids. Basically, you can only use their content for reading. But such a regime should not be encouraged, especially on openly-accessible websites. If I were to provide consideration to a website (user registration or a monthly subscription fee) to access this information, I could understand the legal basis for restricting use. But we’re talking about a blog that is as open as can be. Isn’t the open Internet a medium that is designed for modifying, publishing, transmitting, transferring, and otherwise reproducing content within the framework of the copyright law? I think that it is. I want to know under what law is TacticalIP seeking to create such a seemingly legal obligation. Copyright law? Contract law? These are questions that need to be answered, but I’ll tell you one thing in regards to contract law; there’s no way that I would agree to these terms.
In sum, websites should only use such clauses as TacticalIP’s terms, when they are playing an April Fool’s joke or when they have registered users. I may have violated Tactical’s terms with this post by copying from their website, but I want to see how they are going to terminate my use.