Friday, April 16, 2010

Should the freedom of contract include the freedom to unknowingly sell your soul to Satan?

I don't think Robert Johnson made any deal with Satan to obtain his remarkable talents; he listened to and made his own the sounds of his contemporaries. Apparently, however, the British game retailer GameStation is counting on its customers believing talent is more a matter of divine or satanic inspiration than the creative reworking of existing culture. GameStation's current end user license agreement requires online purchasers of its products to agree to the following:
By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorised minions.
As further reported, "While all shoppers during the test were given a simple tick box option to opt out, very few did this, which would have also rewarded them with a £5 voucher, according to news:lite. Due to the number of people who ticked the box, GameStation claims
believes as many as 88 percent of people do not read the terms and conditions of a Web site before they make a purchase." The fact that so few people read the contracts they sign is no news to me. The troublesome part is that these contracts are generally enforced, although GameStop "noted that it would not be enforcing the ownership rights, and planned to e-mail customers nullifying any claim on their soul." They are enforced because contract law is founded on the notion that we are all free and equal individuals left to our own devices to enter those transactions we wish. Moreover, many believe that any limitations on what individuals can be allowed to agree to (within certain well-accepted limits) are counter to economic wisdom. But when we face up to the fact so few people actually read these agreements, sooner or later we're likely to have to face the fact we'll have to limit what consumer retailers can require in these agreements.

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