Humour

The Wellspring from which Lawyer Jokes Spew Forth

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 17, 2007

This has nothing to do with urban revitalization, but it was too hilarious for me to pass up the opportunity to post about it. Dozier Internet Law, P.C., an American law firm specializing in internet businesses, has published a bizarre user agreement, which reads in part:

Dozier Internet Law, P.C. has a lot of intellectual property on our site. For instance, we are the creators of all of the text on this website, and own the "look and feel" of this website. We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so. In addition, you should not make any copies of any part of this website in any way since we do not want anyone copying us. We also do not allow any links to our site without our express permission, except that you must maintain the link in our Copyright Infringement Warning Button as it is designed.

Oops, I just violated two of Dozier's terms! I linked to their site and copied part of their content.

(Actually, I've violated three of Dozier's terms: Dozier also prohibits anyone from using Dozier's name or any derivative of Dozier's name, so simply mentioning Dozier without Dozier's permission puts me afoul of Dozier's user agreement.)

By the way, their "Copyright Infringement Warning Button" is this image:

Copyright Infringement Warning! OMG!
Copyright Infringement Warning! OMG!

My advice, if you're looking for a lawyer for your internet business, is to hire one who actually understands how the internet works.

Your browser allows you to view the HTML code from web pages you load because it has to read the HTML, which is stored as plain text, before it can display the page. Insisting you're not allowed to view the HTML that produces a web page is like insisting you're not allowed to look at the shapes of the letters that make up the words.

It's ludicrous on its face and seems to betray a devastating ignorance about not only the business logic of the internet (i.e. market value flows from being able to meet your users' needs more effectively, not from attempting futilely to lock down easily copyable elements), but also the basic legal principles of copyright and fair use.

For any web geeks reading this, here's a Javascript snippet from the head of the webpage (yeah, I'm about to commit a fourth violation!):

function CSClickReturn () {
  var bAgent = window.navigator.userAgent; 
  var bAppName = window.navigator.appName;
  if ((bAppName.indexOf("Explorer") >= 0) && (bAgent.indexOf("Mozilla/3") >= 0) && (bAgent.indexOf("Mac") >= 0))
    return true; /* dont follow link */
  else return false; /* dont follow link */
}
CSStopExecution=false;
function CSAction(array) {return CSAction2(CSAct, array);}
function CSAction2(fct, array) { 
  var result;
  for (var i=0;i<array.length;i++) {
    if(CSStopExecution) return false; 
    var aa = fct[array[i]];
    if (aa == null) return false;
    var ta = new Array;
    for(var j=1;j<aa.length;j++) {
      if((aa[j]!=null)&&(typeof(aa[j])=="object")&&(aa[j].length==2)){
        if(aa[j][0]=="VAR"){ta[j]=CSStateArray[aa[j][1]];}
        else{if(aa[j][0]=="ACT"){ta[j]=CSAction(new Array(new String(aa[j][1])));}
        else ta[j]=aa[j];}
      } else ta[j]=aa[j];
    }      
    result=aa[0](ta);
  }
  return result;
}

This function changes link images when the mouse pointer hovers over them. (By the way, it's a painfully obsolete way to do this, but all their code is horribly deprecated.)

Just out of curiosity, I googled it, which returned 93 results. In other words, the web designer who developed the Dozier site pulled this function from the public domain. Now Dozier is trying to claim that they own it and you're not even allowed to look at it.

The script immediately after this one actually includes a copyright notice from its original author:

// OpenPopUpLite 2.0.1 action by Nate Baldwin, www.mindpalette.com, copyright 2004

So much for respecting copyright.

So to conclude, I hereby present a User Agreement for reading this blog entry:

User Agreement

By reading this blog entry, you agree to the following:

At Raise the Hammer, we encourage you to share what you find here with others. We hope you will link to this website. If you find an article you really like and want to republish it on your site, please feel free to go ahead and do so. All we ask is that you cite your source and provide a link back to the original article. It's the courteous thing to do.

We invite you to share your commentary, particularly if your comments enhance, amplify, clarify, correct, or otherwise contribute to the totality of facts and arguments that enable citizens to participate more meaningfully in civic issues.

We disclaim all express and implied warranties concerning the accuracy of the information on our website, but we do try our hardest to be accurate, and we correct any mistakes we make as soon as we learn about them. We would appreciate if you let us know when you encounter any screwups so we can fix them.

We value your privacy, and do not sell or otherwise share any personal information about our registered users, commenters, or visitors. We publish a summary report of daily page views with no further identifying data on our visitors.

We want to hear from you. We hope you will share your observations, suggestions, and recommendations on what we're doing. We promise to get extra-excited if you agree to contribute articles, especially in areas that we currently under-represent.

Most of all, we urge you to get involved. Learn about the issues affecting your neighbourhood, your city, your country, and the world, and start thinking of ways you can make a difference. Join a local organization (or form one if one doesn't exist). Contact your elected representatives. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Launch blogs and websites. Meet with people in your community and start building relationships. Resist apathy. Expose corruption. Celebrate successes and enjoy victories.

Finally, let the evidence lead your investigations and let your conscience guide your responses. Remember the Benny Hill Rule: When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

We sincerely hope that this is the first time a user agreement has ever referenced Benny Hill. Thank you for your time and interest.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By legaleagle (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2007 at 02:04:41

Cease and desist letter from Dozier in 3...2...1

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted October 18, 2007 at 14:21:15

That is pretty funny, but did you notice something else that was different about these provisions?

Unlike most other such agreements I have seen on internet sites, this one employs, at least for the most part, ordinary English, not legalese.

That's pretty revolutionary, isn't it?

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By Vic (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 16:11:33

Your user agreement actually sounds much more professional when spoken, Ryan. Maybe you should give Dozier some tips!

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