Still more goofy terms of service – restrictions on information disclosure


Part of the terms of the Continental Airlines OnePass Account Privacy rules seem unusually onerous.

You are authorized to access OnePass account information solely to obtain information regarding your OnePass account and for no other purpose. You may not delegate or grant any power of attorney or other authorization regarding any such access. Any other use of OnePass account information is strictly prohibited. You may reproduce information regarding your own account for personal use and, in consideration of this authorization, you agree that any copy of such information shall retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained therein. Redistribution in any way requires the express written consent of Continental Airlines.

Under these terms, I cannot tell you that I have 6058 OnePass miles in my account. Because that is a use of OnePass account information that is not explicitly granted above. In fact, if I were to order a ticket from Continental via their online purchasing system, I would not be allowed to enter my OnePass account number, since disclosing my account number is not an explicitly authorized activity. (I am permitted only to access my account information, not to disclose it.)

Furthermore, the second highlighted phrase says that even when I jot down my mileage on a scrap of paper, I have to write down next to it, "Copyright (c) 2004 Continental Airlines, Inc. All rights reserved." Similarly, if I tell my brother how many miles I have, I can't just say, hypothetically, "I have 6058 miles." I have to say, "I have 6058 miles, Copyright 2004 Continental Airlines, Inc. All rights reserved."

And you wonder why people say this country has too many lawyers.

Comments (20)
  1. Anon says:

    Not that Microsoft has a better EULA :)

  2. David R says:

    "You may not disclose the results of any benchmark test of the .NET Framework component of the OS Components to any third party without Microsoft’s prior written approval."

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnnetdep/html/dotnetfxredisteula1_1.asp

  3. Cooney says:

    Not to pick nits, but a simple disclosure of data does not constitute a copyrightable work. Only the presentation may be protected. What this means is that you don’t need to pay attention to that second highlighted sentence. Somebody got a bit too happy with the legal boilerplate, methinks.

    This reminds me of a college prof – he did an online course where the lecture notes were distributed as pdfs. At the top of every pdf was a big, scary copyright notice, complete with the sort of t&c you have above. As if the notes were worth stealing – everybody knows that the interaction with the prof is the valuable part.

  4. Andy says:

    Can they really restrict your right to grant a Power of Attorney?

  5. asdf says:

    I thought you didn’t have to say "all rights reserved" anymore.

  6. Merle says:

    I remember thinking about making a Microsoft Agent at one point — you know, like the paperclip.

    BTW, Microsoft missed a big one by not licensing Jar Jar Binks. Just imagine Jar Jar popping up on the desktop! And you thought a *paperclip* was annoying…

    The EULA for just downloading the DDK was intense. Part of it boiled down to saying "you cannot create an agent who espouses beliefs that denigrate Microsoft". Err… so I could not make a paperclip that says "Outlook is slow".

    So I refused to download it. A shame, looked like it would have been fun. But content restrictions like that are just nasty.

  7. Anonymous Coward says:

    On the subject of licenses etc, Microsoft was the first company I spotted to change one part to something reasonable. They warrant that a product will perform substantially in accordance with the accompanying documentation, for a period of 90 days. I have this vision of Word turning into a flight simulator or a tax calculator on the 91st day :-) (Yes I do know about the Excel easter egg).

    For almost anyone else’s license, if the text editor turns out to calculate pi, well then tough luck. Heck, if it turns out to be a can of baked beans then it is still tough.

  8. This isn’t a copyright issue or a licensing issue per se, it’s a non-disclosure issue. There is often a non-disclosure term in commercial licenses, and refusal to accept that term means that you have no license to have/use the copyrighted work.

  9. Cooney says:

    This isn’t a copyright issue or a licensing issue per se, it’s a non-disclosure issue. There is often a non-disclosure term in commercial licenses, and refusal to accept that term means that you have no license to have/use the copyrighted work.

    That’s still an open question, as the license typically is only available after purchase, and there’s no recourse if you don’t accept it. It also is tied to a retail purchase and has no expiration, so the Supremes may rule it to be a sale ala CDs.

  10. Raymond Chen says:

    Whether or not you are a religious person, the phrase "acts of God" does have a formal legal definition.

    http://www.goapply.com/tools/homeownersInsuranceGlossary.cfm?SearchByTerm=Acts%20of%20God

  11. Merle says:

    That’s just the insurance companies’ definition of "acts of god", and a generalized one. My State Farm terms of service document spends a few paragraphs on it, explicitly delinteating certain things (and not others).

    From what I understand, a spokesperson for the Yankees claimed that stupidity was also an act of god, which is why they should be allowed to sit out the games after their pitcher… well, had an "act of god" happen to him. Sounded pretty lame to me, but…

  12. My favorite legal document has to be the Sony warranty. It reads, and I quote:

    "This warranty is limited as set out herein and does not cover, inter alia, any consumable items (such as batteries) supplied with the Product; any accessory products which are not contained in the Product (such as mouse, port replicator, AC adapter and speaker); cosmetic damages; damage or loss to any software programs, data, or removable storage media; or damage due to *acts of God*, accident, misuse, abuse, negligence, commercial use or modifications of the Product."

    Acts of God? They actually use the phrase "acts of god" in their warranty. Well depending on how religious you are, you could consider anything an act of God.

  13. the license typically is only available after purchase, and there’s no recourse if you don’t accept it

    There’s usually a phrase like "if you don’t agree to this license, please return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund."

    A lack of that phrase would strike me as a good way to incite some judge out there to decide that the license is invalid.

  14. Small Paul says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of two many lawyers, I think it’s a matter of bad lawyers. Most of this stuff gets written once by a lawyer who doesn’t understand the field they’re writing about, and would never stand up in court anyway.

    See also http://www.pauldwaite.co.uk/athens2004hyperlinkpolicy.html

  15. Cooney says:

    There’s usually a phrase like "if you don’t agree to this license, please return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund."

    And at the place of purchase, you are informed that they don’t accept returns for opened software. You can’t return software in a retail environment – that’s already been determined.

  16. foxyshadis says:

    Some companies are responding to the obvious stupidity, partly due to court cases; I’ve noticed Winforms and some others now package their software in a DVD case with a folded license agreement stuck around it, so you actually have to read the long agreement before you can break the seal and open it.

    Also I have the mother of all online agreements:

    http://abctorrents.org/useragreement.php

    God knows where they got this.

  17. Ben Hutchings says:

    In general:

    – There’s no claim of fitness for any particular purpose, nor any warranty, so no guarantee that the software does anything in particular.

    – You are forbidden to reverse-engineer the software to find out what it really does.

    Plus, with auto-update, the publisher can change the software if they feel like making you pay again for a feature.

    Doesn’t it feel great to be a con$um€r?

  18. Ben Hutchings says:

    Oh, and I thought this quotation was appropriate:

    "Crowley had been extremely impressed with the warranties offered by the computer industry, and had in fact sent a bundle Below to the department that drew up the Immortal Soul agreements, with a yellow memo form attached just saying: ‘Learn, guys.’"

    — Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens

  19. Norman Diamond says:

    9/29/2004 9:00 PM Anonymous Coward

    > They warrant that a product will perform

    > substantially in accordance with the

    > accompanying documentation, for a period of

    > 90 days.

    I wonder what "warrant" means in that sentence. It certainly doesn’t mean "provide warranty service", because Microsoft tells customers to go to the OEMs and the OEMs say they don’t have fixes for Microsoft bugs. Microsoft told me to contact Microsoft’s legal department about this, but Microsoft’s legal department said "".

    9/30/2004 6:09 AM Steve Dispensa

    > WRT the copyright notice, the only thing

    > you’re getting a license to use is the

    > airline’s software.

    The airline didn’t agree with you. Mr. Chen quoted them in the base note:

    > You are authorized to access OnePass account

    > information solely to obtain information

    > regarding your OnePass account and for no

    > other purpose.

    Whether or not the information can be copyrighted, the airline doesn’t give the information to Mr. Chen in the first place unless he says he agrees to its license.

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