Who reads the fine print?

Well sometimes NOT reading the fine print can lead to serious problems.

Within the entertainment industry, legal issues can arise due to breaches of terms and conditions that attach to the use of certain products, even inadvertently. I’m referring to games of leisure, iTunes agreements and many more. Sometimes it’s very serious. For instance, criminal charges have been brought against individuals who have "hacked" or written cheat codes for Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.

Locally, it is believed a Melbourne man, who is alleged to have created an invincibility code for a particular game was arrested; and his assets frozen. Is this due to lack of awareness of the consequences of his actions? Did HE read the fine print? I’m not suggesting that people who provide cheats or patches should avoid liability for their actions, however to arrest them and freeze their assets seems like an extreme response. Much better to know the consequences surely.

Will the time come that an individual who uses such cheats and hacks in leisure amateur play may be found liable and potentially at the end of a legal proceeding? Yes, possibly…

What about the fine print for music and movies?

iTunes, allegedly, had a very high profile case brought against it by Bruce Willis. Apparently he had purchased $250,000 worth of music through the iTunes and, in the event of his death, he wanted to bequeath this library of purchased music to his family. He had noted that in the event of his death his purchases would vanish! The fine print - the terms of his agreement with iTunes - in effect meant that he did not OWN the music, but had in fact RENTED the music. Had Bruce or any other unwitting individual spent the time to review the countless pages of the terms and conditions (and had the legal acumen to understand the terms) then he would have realised that it was only "rented" music and upon his death his catalogue would be forfeited. (At least with the purchase of a CD, such issues will not arise and I can give my CD to who I please… even though I would be hard pressed to find people using CD players for their main source of music!).

This case, whilst apparently fictional, highlights that when purchasing music or movies from such platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Sony PlayStation and other such platforms, we do not own the rights to this content in perpetuity. But you can only know this if you read the fine print.

In another local matter a Melbourne man streamed online music from a personal account into his business, a busy hospitality establishment. The terms of the agreement highlighted that such use of the music is not to be used in a commercial context. The establishment received a fine for streaming the music because it was intended for personal use only.

So what is the take-home message here? We need to be vigilant when agreeing to terms and agreements. Agreeing to terms and conditions without reading and attempting to understand such fine print can have nasty, costly consequences. Be aware!

The purpose of this communication is purely to highlight the seriousness of agreeing to such Terms and Agreements and that we as the consumer need to be mindful of what we have agreed to. Important to note a contract is enforceable and rather than clicking “I agree” digitally, or providing a written signature, we should all spend the time in reviewing the terms before agreeing …




Eayl Machlis