Category Archives: governing law

Updating Contract Language for the 21st Century

Holly Towle wrote an excellent article on the boilerplate contract language issues that might now exist in your contract language.  Read the article… consider the issues… review your templates.  Make some changes.  Of course, you can always just call me and I’d be happy to review your contracts for you.  😉

ALI Approves the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts

As I mentioned a few weeks ago and now recently reported by Concurring Opinions, the American Law Institute recently approved the final version of the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.

If any particular state adopts these rules, I will probably recommend what commenter Sean Hogle recommended – the addition of yet another disclaimer.

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.