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Don't Like EULAs? Get Your Cat To Agree To Them 874

Posted by timothy
from the my-cat-toy-is-a-model-m dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Anne Loucks built a device which, when her cat steps on it, can click the 'I Agree' button of a EULA. Who knows what the lawyers will make of this sort of madness. Can a cat make a legal agreement? Does it need to be of legal age? She lures the cat onto the device, and the cat steps on it of its own free will. Anyway, folks who hate EULAs now have another tool to make the lawyers freak out."
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Don't Like EULAs? Get Your Cat To Agree To Them

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  • Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:45PM (#26904819) Homepage
    Call me crazy, but since you built a device to allow your cat to agree to EULAs, wouldn't that mean you authorized the cat to act on your behalf - regardless of how inept a decision maker it may be?
    • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skye16 (685048) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:47PM (#26904859)

      I'm pretty sure that, no matter what, you can't authorize anything other than another human adult to act on your behalf.

      At the same time, if she's luring it there with bits of food or whatever, then that's (in my mind) her effectively agreeing to it. Now, if she set this thing up, and the cat just happened to walk on it at some point, I could maybe see that, but I don't know that a judge would see it that way.

      • by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:50PM (#26904895) Journal
        I guess I just need to invent a device so my dog can fire a gun pointed at my mother-in-law every time he licks his balls.
      • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by slyn (1111419) <ozzietheowl@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:20PM (#26905457)

        I just asked my father, who is a lawyer, a few questions about it. Note that he is primarily what I like to refer to as a financial lawyer (bankruptcies, IRS/tax problems, certain real estate things, wills, and a few others), so this is outside of his normal repertoire. Here was his answers (paraphrased):

        Q: Do you know what an EULA is?
        A: No
        Q: You know, those end user license agreements you have to accept when you buy or download certain software?
        A: Oh ok yes what about them
        Q: If you built a device that would allow a cat to accept an EULA, would you be legally bound by the EULA?
        A: Well it depends on the intent. If you specifically built the device and coerced the cat your intent is obvious and you would probably be held to the agreement in court. If the cat was just dancing around on your computer and accepted it though you probably wouldn't be bound.
        Q: What if you got a small child to accept the agreement, would they not be bound because of their age?
        A: It depends on your jurisdiction and the law of that area, but here in Illinois it probably wouldn't be binding in court and would be tossed out.
        Q: Do EULA's violate any sort of doctrine of first sale since they require you to agree to the license after you've bought the product and limit what you've gotten if you don't agree to it?
        A: I'm not exactly sure, but its defiantly a good question. They could get around that pretty easily by making you agree to the EULA before you purchase the computer, but I'm not familiar with the law so its just an educated guess.

        There you have it.

        • Re:Call me crazy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:53PM (#26906997) Homepage Journal

          Q: What if you got a small child to accept the agreement, would they not be bound because of their age?
          A: It depends on your jurisdiction and the law of that area, but here in Illinois it probably wouldn't be binding in court and would be tossed out.

          Wrong question... If you got a small child to accept the agreement for you, would you be bound?
          And yes. The child is an instrument of your will. Note - they are not acting as your agent, as a child cannot be an agent. Instead, they are your instrument, much like a pen signing your name or a cat clicking a button for you is an instrument. You are responsible for acts committed through instruments of your will - no claiming you didn't murder the guy, the bullet flying from the gun in your hand did it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jasonwc (939262)

        A EULA governs the sale of software, which is considered a "good" under UCC Article 2 (Uniform Commercial Code). The UCC has been adopted in every state, in slightly modified forms. The UCC allows an authorized agent to contract on behalf of the principle, and in fact allows "electronic agents" to bind the principle. If a computer can act as your authorized agent, surely an animal can.

        This does not pose significant difficulties for contract law. It's just stupid. But don't bother with the legal answer - con

      • by adiposity (684943) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:33PM (#26905663)

        I lured the cat into hitting cancel, but he missed! What now!!?

        -Dan

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I lured the cat into hitting cancel, but he missed!

          Note that this would require a cat since most other trained animals would just do what you told it to. Only a cat is obstinate enough to push the opposite button just to spite you.

          And no, it's not because cats are smarter.

          </cat_hater>

      • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Informative)

        by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:50PM (#26906941) Homepage Journal

        I'm pretty sure that, no matter what, you can't authorize anything other than another human adult to act on your behalf.

        At the same time, if she's luring it there with bits of food or whatever, then that's (in my mind) her effectively agreeing to it. Now, if she set this thing up, and the cat just happened to walk on it at some point, I could maybe see that, but I don't know that a judge would see it that way.

        You're confusing two things...

        You can only authorize another adult to act on your behalf as your agent.
        You can utilize as an instrument anything, animate or inanimate, including a pen, a knife, a cat, or another person. I cannot claim my pen signed the contract, my knife stabbed you, my cat clicked the EULA, or Bob committed a battery on you when I shoved him into you against his will, and that I am thus responsible for none of the above: all of them are instruments of my will to cause that action. As I intended the action, the instrumentality is irrelevant.

    • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oberondarksoul (723118) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:49PM (#26904889) Homepage
      And since one has to deliberately get their cat to click the button, they clearly show their intent to agree to the EULA.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And since one has to deliberately get their cat to click the button, they clearly show their intent to agree to the EULA.

        As any cat owner knows, you don't have to "deliberately" do anything for them to have an excuse to walk across your keyboard.

    • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jimmy King (828214) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:55PM (#26905001) Homepage Journal

      Either that or you still actively caused the cat to click it, therefore you did it. Just like if you held a basketball over your mouse and dropped it to cause the click. The ball didn't agree to the EULA, invalidating it, you agreed to it and just clicked the mouse button in a convoluted way.

      Just because you didn't click the link/button in the traditional, hand on mouse, one finger on the button does not mean you did not agree to the EULA.

    • Re:Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:57PM (#26905037) Homepage

      > Call me crazy, but since you built a device to allow your cat to agree to EULAs,
      > wouldn't that mean you authorized the cat to act on your behalf - regardless of how
      > inept a decision maker it may be?

      Cats are property. Property cannot be "authorized", cannot "act", and cannot make decisions. The cat is merely a tool she uses to push the button.

      "I didn't sign that contract. My pen did. Sue it."

  • Children (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:46PM (#26904835) Homepage Journal

    Just have your underage kid click. They cant enter into a contract.

    Of course if this happens too much, they will require you to produce a CC# and SSN for each EULA that gets sent back to the company. Or even force you get it at the store you bought the box from.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tinkerghost (944862)

      Of course if this happens too much, they will require you to produce a CC# and SSN for each EULA that gets sent back to the company. Or even force you get it at the store you bought the box from.

      Absolutely not. The software industry lives by "pig in a poke" contracts and by convincing people buying software that that's exactly what they do - buy software. If you have to sign a contract & actually agree to the license before you buy, people would stop buying. In fact, you wouldn't be able to sell this ty

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd (2822)

      The answer is the same for children as it is for your cat -- you are still responsible for their actions.

      Dog bites someone? You get sued.

      Kid bites someone? You get sued.

      Kid steals music? You get sued.

      Cat steals Word? You get sued.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sorak (246725)

      Just have your underage kid click. They cant enter into a contract.

      Of course if this happens too much, they will require you to produce a CC# and SSN for each EULA that gets sent back to the company. Or even force you get it at the store you bought the box from.

      As for the last option, if they were required to provide you with the terms and conditions when you bought the product, I would consider that a small victory.

      Of course, that may seem unreasonable, considering the complexity of the contract and that you are now requiring Walmart employees to handle hundreds of legal contracts...

      But it's not my problem...The terms of the transaction should be negotiated (or dictated) before the sale is complete, not after.

      If the terms are too numerous and complicated to discu

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:46PM (#26904839)
    Hey it could be worse. It could have been bears and we all know we can trust those godless killing machines.
  • Seriously (Score:5, Funny)

    by rockbottoms (1393173) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:47PM (#26904853)
    Just sign the EULA, pussy
  • by Bob_Who (926234) <Bob&who,net> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:48PM (#26904871) Homepage Journal
    Unless they practice law
  • Ask A Kid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:48PM (#26904877)
    Just ask some neighbor kid to install your software for you, one that's too young to enter a legal agreement. Seems much more simple, and unlike this cat device, gives you plausible deniability to claim "I didn't even realize there was a EULA, let alone agree to it."
  • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:49PM (#26904891)

    Can a cat make a legal agreement?

    A cat is property, not an individual. Animal law has been quite unsuccessful in breaking out of that mold. So, no, a cat can't make a legal agreement anymore than your keyboard and mouse can.

    However, the cat here is just a tool for you to accept the agreement. If you set up a device to automatically agree to a license without you fully reading it, you've still manifested an intent to accept the terms, whatever they may be. I don't think a court would have anymore problem with holding you to the contract than if you used machine to automatically stamp a signature on a stack of paper contracts. It wouldn't matter if it worked on a timer, on a RNG, or on the fickle movements of a cat so long as you set it up to happen with certainty that it would eventually happen (because you can't proceed with the installation without it happening).

    • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:58PM (#26905071)

      However, the cat here is just a tool for you to accept the agreement. If you set up a device to automatically agree to a license without you fully reading it, you've still manifested an intent to accept the terms

      Yeah, well, what if you used Schrodinger's cat? Then you have both accepted and not accepted the terms.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sanosuke001 (640243)
      As I stated in another comment above, don't make it certain. Make two buttons, go into the other room, let the cat choose accept or deny.

      You can't decide if a bear will maul you any more than you can decide if you cat selects accept over deny. Now, repeating the process until it accepts is another story. However, could they prove you did or not?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khopesh (112447)

      the cat here is just a tool for you to accept the agreement. If you set up a device to automatically agree to a license without you fully reading it, you've still manifested an intent to accept the terms, whatever they may be. I don't think a court would have anymore problem with holding you to the contract than if you used machine to automatically stamp a signature on a stack of paper contracts. It wouldn't matter if it worked on a timer, on a RNG, or on the fickle movements of a cat so long as you set it up to happen with certainty that it would eventually happen (because you can't proceed with the installation without it happening).

      I agree. The best defense along these lines would be a system that randomly clicks your screen (in a random place, at a somewhat infrequent interval) all the time. When you have a license to bypass, leave it open and walk away (perhaps put another window over the "I disagree" button). It'll eventually get bypassed. Even this is stupid, and even this might not stand up in court.

      More notably, the concept of EULA itself might not stand up in court. If you want a legal tact, I suggest that one. EULAs ar

  • free will? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:50PM (#26904911)

    "She lures the cat onto the device, and the cat steps on it of its own free will."

    Doesn't really seem to be free will then, does it? I mean, is the term "free will" even allowed in the same sentence with "lures"?

  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:52PM (#26904943) Homepage
    Haha! Negative equity isn't a problem for me, I don't have to pay back my mortgage, because I got my goldfish to sign for it!
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:52PM (#26904947)

    I have a box in which I seal a cat along with my computer and a radioactive isotope. I connect an electronic monitor to the cat, and it is rigged up to click the "Agree" button if the cat dies.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:54PM (#26904981)

    That won't take you off the hook. By luring the beast onto the device and having it agree to the EULA, you're employing the it as your proxy or agent, your utensil or tool, your...um, what's the word...your cat's-paw.

  • by Asmor (775910) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:55PM (#26905003) Homepage

    What if someone bypassed the EULA entirely (e.g. hacking the installer so that "I Decline" still continues).

    Since you've never agreed to the EULA in the first place, you're not disallowed from hacking it (consumer-unfriendly millennial laws not withstanding).

    • What if someone bypassed the EULA entirely (e.g. hacking the installer so that "I Decline" still continues).

      Since you've never agreed to the EULA in the first place, you're not disallowed from hacking it (consumer-unfriendly millennial laws not withstanding).

      Wouldn't that violate the DCMA? Circumventing and such?

  • by n3tcat (664243) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:55PM (#26905011) Homepage
    Then you can claim that either Schroedinger accepted the agreement, or the software company killed your cat.
  • EU of the LA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Moof (859402) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:57PM (#26905029)
    If you make the cat click on the 'I Agree' button, doesn't that make the cat the actual licensed end user, not you? Meaning you're actually using your software unlicensed (gasp!)?
  • Cat? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:01PM (#26905135)

    This is not news! I have a mouse that has been accepting EULAs for years!

  • by GuyverDH (232921) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:11PM (#26905295)

    I have an SPLA posted on the front of my computer, very clearly labelled, and in big bold print.

    It basically states that by allowing your software to be installed on this hardware, you (the software provider) agree to the following.

    1) Your EULA is null and void.
    2) Your software cannot make any changes unless I agree to them beforehand.
    3) Your software cannot call home unless I authorize it, every time (this is enforced via firewall rules outside the box).
    4) Your software cannot interfere with the operation of any other software on the hardware installed to. (prohibits viruses, malware, adware and automatic disabling software)
    5) Any violation of the above terms can constitute a cyber attack against the hosting hardware, and treated as such, and dealt with using the strongest legal measures available at the time of attack.

    Granted, my SPLA will hold up in court as well as their EULA, but it is posted, and yet their software installs - so they are as bound by my terms, as I am by their terms.

  • Do they have your signature, do they have a spoken contract, do they even have any communication of acceptance? No, but they don't seem think a judge will require any evidence of agreement before holding you to page after page of "boilerplate" mixed with "gotcha" legalese.

    Did they already take your money and give you your product before even showing you a EULA? Yes, but they don't seem think a judge will care about "first sale" doctrine when deciding how valid that EULA is.

    Does the EULA offer you any new rights beyond what copyright already allows you to do? Does it offer anything of value in exchange for what they claim you're voluntarily giving away? Usually no, but they don't think judges will bother worrying about "consideration" anyway.

    Are they trying to disable the advertised features of their product until and unless you agree to additional terms made after the sale? Yes, but they seem confident that a judge won't invalidate terms agreed to under duress.

    And up until now, legal challenges looked like they could go either way. But what if we used a cat? That's foolproof! Surely if a cat clicked the button, no judge would possibly enforce that EULA! That's been clear since Plessy v. Whiskers! Case dismissed!

  • by commodoresloat (172735) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:17PM (#26905401)

    Get a bottle of tequila. Drink at least a quarter of the bottle. Take pictures or a BAC test or get witnesses or something so you can later prove you were hammered. Click "I agree." You can't be bound by a contract you sign while inebriated, so you didn't really agree. Much cheaper than cats in the long run; no need to worry about feeding and cleaning litter boxes and cuddling and such. Plus getting drunk is fun!

  • by steveha (103154) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:34PM (#26905697) Homepage

    I am amazed by all the posts complaining that this is "retarded". Guess what, folks... she may not be completely serious.

    The same woman also claims that, if you watch the three best Star Wars movies in order, they make a story arc different from what George Lucas had in mind overall.

    http://www.ohesso.com/essays/essay004.htm [ohesso.com]

    She also devotes a whole essay to explaining how her friends like to drink beer out of a prosthetic leg.

    Next up: Slashdot analyzes the wisdom of Steven Wright to decide which of his suggestions are best not tried out in real life.

    P.S. Her funniest essay is "I Like Babies". It's not what you expect... or, if it is, you are very strange.

    http://www.ohesso.com/essays/essay002.htm [ohesso.com]

    steveha

  • Buy & Pirate it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by myxiplx (906307) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:54PM (#26906047)

    Simple solution: For every piece of software you own, buy the software, then download a copy off the Pirate Bay. Claim you "just like to keep things in their boxes, like comics & stuff".

    Now you never read, or agree to any EULA, and since you own the software I'd love to see the look on their lawyers faces if presented with this case :-D

  • Yes.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drolli (522659) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:00PM (#26906139) Journal
    If your cat agrees with the EULA, i guess then you cat may uns the service. No, honestly, this is bullshit. Your cat can not agree to EULAs, because she cant read or understand the contract.
  • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:01PM (#26906159)

    It'll make them laugh at how naive you are... Now where was that link to the "You Are Not a Lawyer!" column?

  • by 0xygen (595606) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:08PM (#26907237)

    So your cat agreed to the EULA, and by doing so, gained a license to use the software, for themselves.

    So you still have no license to use it...

    The fact that the software is now installed on your PC, does not mean it is yours. You might as well torrent it.

    Where's the big news?

  • by refactored (260886) <cyent@NoSpAM.xnet.co.nz> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:03PM (#26908155) Homepage Journal
    Didn't you know?

    The phrase "I Accept" has become the internationally recognized slang for "GET LOST YOU SLIMY CREEP".

    Tell me honestly, have you _ever_ clicked on an "I Accept" button with the intent in your mind to be bound to every term (of which you are lucidly aware) of an EULA?

    No. You didn't.

    The thought uppermost in you mind at the time of going "Click" was one of...

    • "Blah blah blah.
    • Fuck off
    • GET LOST YOU SLIMY CREEP
    • Gahhh I hate them and the horse they rode in on.
    • ... add your own.

    So that's it. Somebody create an web site explaining what the phrase "I Accept" means. (You can reference several of my posts on slashdot and the like).

    Then somebody else can create a Wikipedia entry referencing the other web site.

    Wait a few months until it makes it's way into the latest dictionaries and the like.

    And there you have it. In court you say, "But didn't you know, the commonly accepted meaning of "I Accept" is "GET LOST", see here in this dictionary of common usage, and I really really did mean that when I clicked on that button.

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