Stupid with Authority

Is a terrible combination. I honestly don't think it could ever be emphasized enough.

Stupidity alone is just awful, but give it some authority: a badge, a title, a position of influence, and that isolated case of awful just became a rabid werewolf with smallpox.

I just thought I'd lob a pebble against the roaring tsunami of stupid, at the very least, as a symbol of  protest.

I'll start out with my somewhat mundane example: A whole lot of people on the internet well and truly believe that violating a company's terms of service is illegal. Often criminal. As in you're risking prison time if you don't do exactly as the fine print on some website tells you.

I think a lot of otherwise semi-intelligent people conflate the law and TOS because not only do they not think about it, the TOS often reiterates the law.
  • So a website tells you not to steal their stuff or you will be prosecuted. That's a no-brainer. Stealing is illegal and nobody likes to be stolen from.
  • After a few of these reiterations of the law, they slip in some of their own rules: You may not download any content on this website unless otherwise noted. Or you may not view this content without the provided functionality, or something similar.

Such TOS are, of course, all in legalese, making it sound all law-ish.

Theft is illegal and against many TOS, but viewing a website in your custom-built browser, is NOT illegal. Also, once you initially view online content in whatever browser, you are in fact downloading it, regardless of whatever the legal definition of "download" is. If your device couldn't download content, you would never be able to see or hear that content. I'm no IT expert, but I believe most online content you experience is stored in some temp file, browser cache, or both.

With the right knowledge, you could store and access this temporary memory, permanently. Businesses don't own your personal device, nor the memory on it. But I'm getting off track.

Say someone views some private, exclusive content, without signing an NDA, and they want to tell their friends about it. But they did read a very scary TOS. According to an alarming number of forum mods and commenters, you'll get 20 years in rape-prison for blabbing your mouth. You might even get scary Cease and Desist letters from soulless lawyers, even though the act of free speech is, for the moment, theoretically perfectly legal.
Hell, I'm sure ad-blocking software is against a plethora of TOS, but that doesn't stop millions of web surfers and Stupids with Authority from ad-free surfing.

What it boils down to is that TOS are not the law of the land (nor cyberspace). If you don't break the law, you're legally safe to break the shit out of any TOS you want. Businesses might try to sue you, especially if you caused them harm, but they can't tell the Sheriff to arrest you.

Despite what Captain Badass McForum Mod tells you. Do a google search and shut that stupid down. Or show him this link. But I fear stating the simple common sense that private companies do not make laws probably won't shake the stupid, because they don't think, and any repudiation diminishes their "authority."

So please, throw your pebbles at this kind, or any kind, of Stupid with Authority. It has far-reaching, hard-to-see chilling effects, and just sucks for everyone. Fight the good fight, friend.

Does this sound like legal advice? It kinda does, so take it to the bank despite the fact that I may or may not be a lawyer, despite every fucking lawyer and non-lawyer on the planet putting up an idiot warning disclaimer saying it's not legal advice. In other words, use your brain and fight the stupid.


Stan on April 17, 2015 at 9:55 PM said...

I think I might make my own ridiculous and impossible to follow TOS, just for the lolz.

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