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Why do lawyers refer to long documents as briefs and
18-year olds as infants? Why do they use so much Latin when so few of their
clients are Ancient Romans? Is it a conspiracy?


Party of the First Part has the answers! Check out the Website for the
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columns; tips on writing legal documents in plain English; and more!



Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Worst Online Agreement Ever?

Or maybe the worst contract ever -- period.

The Central Pacific Railroad has a charming online "Photographic History Museum" which can be found here. From the Home page, click on "Legal Notices" to find a truly egregious Users Agreement, here. Kudos to reader Phil Venton for unearthing this.

The User Agreement goes on for over 31,000 words. When cut and pasted into word (and made a uniform 12 pt font), The Agreement stretches over 57 pages. It contains 44 "herein's." The integration clause (usually "this contract represents the entire agreement between the parties") is a 640-word monster. If you send the website an image, they are free to use it -- but in this Agreement it takes a 766-word sentence to say so.

What's truly odd is that the owners of the website want you to know that they have a sense of humor about the whole "law" thing by peppering the entire Agreement with jokes. For example, in the Force Majeure clause (one of two force majeure clauses, actually), they warn that an "Asteroid Impact," "Vulcanism" or "Ice Age" would void the Agreement. Hilarious, of course -- but the Agreement is no joke, as the authors say at the opening: Don't be put off by the legalese, but please read these terms and conditions of use carefully before using this website, because you are bound by them. In other words, you have to wade through all 57 pages of this -- including our lame attempts at humor if you want to know what your rights are.

Finally, the site owners seem to have gone out of their way to make the User Agreement difficult to read online. I can't put it better than Mr. Venton, who commented that the webpage "appears to have been designed by a burlap sack full of color-blind hedgehogs." Actually, that's not entirely fair to color-blind hedgehogs.

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