Monthly Archives: August 2008

Two Dilberts on Contracts

I love Scott Adams – he has an unnatural ability to truly capture the essence of whatever he points his pen towards. The last two days have been contracts:

(Click on each to see it full-sized.)


Lost in Translation

I downloaded an application this morning. All seemed well at first. The download was simple, installation was as easy as dragging the application to my Applications folder.

I fully expected some sort of click-through agreement. What I didn’t expect was that an application that was completely (up to this point) obviously written by a fluent English speaker would have a click-through license agreement in German. Heck, even the “I accept” button language was English.

Being the contracts geek that I am, I highlighted the license, went to Google Translation, and pasted it in (BabelFish, which used to be my preferred translator, has a 150 word limit). The translation took a few seconds. Here are a few of the resulting sections before and after:

3.2. Eine Trial-Version berechtigt allein zur Benutzung der Software zu Testzwecken. Ein Produktiveinsatz ist nicht gestattet.
3.2. A trial version only entitled to use the software for testing purposes. A productive use is not permitted.

5.2. Der Hersteller steht nicht dafür ein, dass die Software vollständig fehlerfrei ist. Sollte sich ein Fehler zeigen, der die Software für den üblichen Gebrauch untauglich macht, so liegt ein Mangel vor. Bei einem Mangel hat der Hersteller das Recht nach seiner Wahl den Mangel zu beseitigen oder eine Ersatzversion zu liefern (Nacherfüllung). Scheitert die Nacherfüllung zweimal, kann der Kunde nach seiner Wahl vom Vertrag zurücktreten oder die Herabsetzung des Preises verlangen.
5.2. The manufacturer does not ensure that the software completely error-free. If a mistake to show the software for the usual unfit makes, there is a shortage. With a shortage, the manufacturer the right after his election to eliminate the deficiency or a replacement version to be delivered (performance). The failure of the subsequent performance twice, the customer has his choice of the contract or the reduction in the price.

6.1. Der Hersteller übernimmt keine Haftung für Schäden, die auf einfacher Fahrlässigkeit beruhen, soweit sie sich nicht auf die Hauptleistungspflicht beziehen oder Verletzungen von Leben, Gesundheit oder Körper darstellen.
6.1. The manufacturer assumes no liability for damage resulting from simple negligence, to the extent it does not affect the main service obligation, or injury to life, health or body.

7.1. Es wird die Anwendung deutschen Rechtes vereinbart. Erfüllungsort ist die Schweiz und Trogen, AR.
7.2. Gegenüber Kaufleuten, juristischen Personen oder öffentlich-rechtlichen Sondervermögen wird die Schweiz und Trogen, AR als Gerichtsstand vereinbart.
7.3. Gegenüber Personen, die in der Schweiz keinen allgemeinen Gerichtsstand haben, wird die Schweiz und Trogen, AR als Gerichtsstand vereinbart.

7.1. It is the application of German law, agreed. The place is Switzerland and Trogen, AR.
7.2. Compared with merchants, legal persons or public service special asset, Switzerland and Trogen, AR as a jurisdiction.
7.3. Compared with those in Switzerland does not have a general jurisdiction, and Switzerland will Trogen, AR as a jurisdiction.

Now, except for jurisdiction and governing law, I’m not very displeased with the license.  In fact, it’s better for me than many English-language click-throughs that I’ve read.  And I like the way that some of the translations read. Overall, the Google Translation service was pretty darn good, even for something as twisty and potentially complex as a license agreement.

I’m really interested in anyone’s thoughts about the enforceability of such a document without a language clause stating that German would be the language used to interpret the document.  In other words, for a non-German speaker, do I have the defense (even if I click the “I accept” button) to say that I didn’t understand what I was agreeing to because I wasn’t presented a version in my tongue (as the rest of the application was)? Am I obligated to translate the document before clicking “I accept”?

Your comments would be appreciated.

Open Source Software Conditions versus Covenants

Meredith Miller, over on ContractsProf Blog, posted part of a review of an extremely interesting case the other day from the EFF‘s Michael Kwun.

I won’t attempt a rehashing of the analysis – the original is good enough.  But I will summarize.  In the case, the Federal Circuit Court drew a distinction between conditions (those things you must to do HAVE whatever the license is for) and covenants (those things your promise to do WITH whatever the license is for).  The result was a tick in the positive column for open source licensing proponents.

But the underlying argument may have some unforeseen aftereffects in the EULA realm.  Really interesting… and another issue to pay attention to in the future.

Why Priceline Commercials Piss Me Off

As much as I love Shatner, the Priceline commercials really piss me off.  Why, you ask?  Well, it’s because he plays the Priceline Negotiator – a person with a blue hotline phone who gets calls to go help someone “negotiate” a better price on their travel-related purchases.  He’s now even got a sidekick, Nofee, who doesn’t like airline fees.

This latest commercial exemplifies the problem:

Shatner gets a call while riding his motorcycle with Nofee in the sidecar.  He’s been alerted that someone’s buying an airline ticket and is paying fees.  He arrives just in time to prevent the person from completing the transaction, convincing them to use Priceline.  He closes out the commercial with the statement “Don’t you love to negotiate?”

Alright, so first, what part of using Priceline is negotiating?  Right… none of it.  The simple act of using Priceline might be a negotiation tool, but it is not negotiating.  Negotiating requires an element of effort, skill and practice.  Using one tool isn’t negotiation.

But more importantly, negotiation isn’t always about price.  Saving on fees is great, but if you have to travel when you don’t want to travel… or fly on an airline that you don’t like/want/prefer, the $15 in airline fees doesn’t seem like that big of a tradeoff, does it?

In fact, negotiation is almost NEVER about price.  Sure, we’ll talk about money… and we’ll look for an appropriate price for a particular good or service.  But usually, negotiation is about what I’m going to GET for a particular price.

At the end of the day, however, I just don’t like being compared to Shatner on a motorcycle.

But I love the hotline phone.  And you can reach me on mine through the contact page if you need help with your next negotiation.