Terms of Service

I've spent some time over the weekend translating Hour of Code to Slovenian (We need more translators - please help!). One of the sections of the Code.org's home page that I helped translate were also terms of services and privacy policy which proved to be highly educational thing to do. Reading legal blah-blah is not something that normal users of web pages ever do as they are successfully scared away from doing so by lawyers and their convoluted speak. But having to translate these two documents to Slovenian I was forced not only to read them but actually understand the documents. Due to Code.org's non-profit nature Code.org's terms of service and privacy policy are probably the most benign of such documents. Nonetheless you are required to give up all your rights and all your intellectual property away in order to use the Code.org's services, at least according to the letter of the law as set forth in the terms of services. I can hardly imagine how terms of services of Facebook or Google look like, but I guess they make you agree to sell your children to eternal slavery and you let Zuckerberg to pimp your wife.

A few months ago I was working with a lawyer in preparing terms for Zemanta's services. I'm therefore quite well acquainted with the reasons that particular terms are included in the contract you implicitly agree to when accessing Zemanta's services. Lawyers are pessimistic people and their job is to protect the company from all liabilities, no matter how improbable they might see at the moment. That's why terms of services are extensive and full of obscure details, and that's why the terms of service contains only provisions safeguarding the organization providing the services, while the users of the service seems to be left to their own devices. Well, I'm pretty sure that such one-sided worldview wouldn't pass a constitutional court review, at least in Europe. I don't know much about laws governing terms of online services or of any constitutional reviews of terms of services, but I feel I should know more about it. So if you're a law expert yourself, please provide some information in the comments how European and/or USA law treats terms of services and what are the implications for a normal person using online services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others.