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Many people sit around and nitpick about wording that's added or subtracted. They have many terms for this but its essentially everything they get you to agree before they allow you to use a web service or deploy-able software.

However - how does each individual version of these agreements carry over in continuity?

For instance, Software - version 1.6.1 - had its own agreement with a provision X. Version 1.6.2 of the software respectively has a new version of the agreement removing said provision X.

Do people who accepted/signed 1.6.1 continue to be held to the provision X that no longer exists in 1.6.2?

I'm no lawyer but for plain old business contracts any annex or changes are explicit about such things.

Unless this is very well specified, then all privacy is pointless. All a company has to do is introduce an agreement that states they can change the agreement without notice, then insert some heavy handed bs that allows them to do whatever possible to you and your data, and then remove it on the next version and excuse themselves in the press saying it was a fluke, while banking on the fact that - fluke or not - its still valid...

  • You might want to read up on "contracts of adhesion", as they may be related to your question. If that's the relevant issue here, my thinking would be that drastic changes in terms between consecutive versions of a piece of software could easily be found unconscionable if they are skewed in favor of the party who has unilateral authority to draft the terms. So if terms for V 1.0 say "We will not sell your personal info." and terms for V 2.0 say "We will sell your personal info.", the burden would be on them to prove you had read, understood and accepted the new terms. IANAL. – Patrick87 Sep 23 '15 at 19:20
  • What if you didn't actually deploy version 1.6.1? For instance, you were at 1.6.0, and downloaded 1.6.1 but 1.6.2 was out before you installed it. As you didn't run the program you would clearly not be bound by those terms. – Ángel Sep 23 '15 at 21:37
  • As for websites, it's a very shady area, as they could change it to abusive terms on Friday 13th, clean up on Saturday and claim that your login on Friday because "they can change terms anytime, and the burden is on you to verify them «from time to time» and login «automatically means you're ok»". IMHO the company should be required to notify you each time the conditions change. It's a user, you are storing many preferences, just keep in the db the version number of the terms they agreed and show a warning (or error if they're now into effect) if their agreed version is below the current one) – Ángel Sep 23 '15 at 21:40
  • Unfortunately this is of essential importance - as almost every company out there has had outrageous clauses in their terms at one time or another. Most of them usually blame it on the newbie lawyer they got, but we all know they are just trying to go by undisturbed. Who cares what their latest terms say, if people can be bound to a document accepted 10 versions ago with provisions that no longer exist in the latest one. – helena4 Sep 24 '15 at 11:52
  • Is there an open question here? If not this might be closed as a questionless rant. As I read it right now, it's clear to you that if you accept a new license you are bound by its terms. And of course a publisher can change the terms of a license at any time, even on the same version of software. But the terms that apply to a particular licensee are the ones they accepted. (Or if this wasn't clear to you I'll post it as an answer.) Or are you asking the harder question of "how/whether a publisher can legitimately change the ToS to apply to existing licensees?" – feetwet Sep 28 '15 at 15:44
2

Short answer: If you agree to X subject to condition Y, then condition Y attaches to X but not necessarily to other things like X that you do. So an agreement might apply to just one copy of the software, or just one visit to a website, or just data uploaded/downloaded during a particular time period, depending on the words and circumstances.

Long answer:

It depends on the precise words and circumstances.

Generally speaking, the terms of service for a website will say 'You use the website subject to XYZ.' So, every visit is a new contract, potentially with different terms to the previous contract. This then (I will say this a lot) depends on the words and circumstances:

Example 1: you visited a website on 1 January with version 1 of the terms of service, which contained a provision requiring you to rub your head and pat your tummy at all times during that visit, then that obligation ends as soon as you leave the website.

Example 2: you visited a website on 1 January with version 1 of the terms of service, which contained a provision requiring you to keep any data downloaded from the website during your visit secret. That obligation continues in force. Suppose on 2 January you visit the website again and now version 2 of the terms of service are up, and version 2 omits the secrecy obligation. The data you downloaded on 1 January is still secret but any data you download on 2 January is not.

Then you have software end user licence agreements. It depends on the words and circumstances, but generally speaking the crux of an end user licence agreement is 'You may use the software on condition that XYZ.'

So, suppose version 1.6.1 comes with an end user licence agreement that says you can use the software to develop nuclear weapons, but then version 1.6.2 comes out with an end user licence agreement that prohibits the use of the software to develop nuclear weapons. People who only downloaded version 1.6.1 would be free to use version 1.6.1 to develop nuclear weapons. People who are using version 1.6.2 could not use that version to develop nuclear weapons.

Generally (but this depends on the precise words and circumstances) people who downloaded both versions 1.6.1 and 1.6.2 would be able to use their copy of version 1.6.1 to develop nuclear weapons. You see this in practice where an open source project used to be GPL but then changed to MIT (or vice-versa, or to a proprietary licence, etc) and someone forks the version with the old licence.

But, read the documents. Because there might be something in there that says 'This supersedes all other agreements', 'You agree to comply with any new version of the X licence that Y publishes', etc. It depends on the words and circumstances.

To take the comment in your question: 'Unless this is very well specified, then all privacy is pointless. All a company has to do is introduce an agreement that states they can change the agreement without notice, then insert some heavy handed bs that allows them to do whatever possible to you and your data, and then remove it on the next version.'

Generally speaking a privacy agreement will say 'We take your data on conditions X, Y and Z.' So the old privacy agreement applies to data collected from you before a certain date. But the company will probably have something in the new agreement which says 'This applies to all data collected before and after the commencement of this agreement'. Generally you would be given an opportunity to opt out of the new agreement by cancelling your service. How this works in practice depends on the words and circumstances.

See the pattern? (1) Agreements of this kind attach obligations to specified subject matter, so that's what you look for; and (2) It all depends on the words and circumstances.

(Then there is the question of whether you had notice of the terms, and then there is the question of vitiation of the contract by unconscionable dealing etc, and then there are all kinds of statutory consumer protections and such forth, but I think that's outside the scope of the question.)

  • As expected you have to watch it like a hawk and even that wont help when its written in legal speak and purposefully obfuscated to the max. Basically its the merky swamp I suspected it is, and most people in the world traverse it blindly. You've have answered my question amply - thanks. – helena4 Jan 20 '17 at 14:31

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