Cat-contracts

By Legal Eagle

All of us will have come across those internet contracts (aka End User License Agreements, aka EULAs). You know the ones: they say “Terms and Conditions of Use” and you scroll down about 20 clauses, and click “I agree” at the bottom. Because I’m a contract nerd, I do actually sometimes read them out of fascination, but I suspect I’m in a minority.

What happens if you get your pet to click “I agree” on your behalf? Are you still bound by the contract? Is the pet bound by the contract?

As Anne Loucks notes, most people don’t even bother to read these agreements. She decided that she might get her cat Simba (pictured above) to agree to a software license. Her experiment involved tempting Simba with food so that he stepped on cardboard placed on top the keyboard and clicked “I agree”. The cardboard had the words “Kitty Agrees” on it.

I’m afraid that I don’t think the contract would be binding. You know I’m obsessed by animals and the law, and I think that Simba does not have the cognitive skills to understand the ramifications of what he is doing. Perhaps (it’s an interesting question) a very intelligent chimpanzee with a good command of sign language could enter into a contract, although there would still be questions as to whether the chimpanzee should be treated as analogous to an infant entering a contract.

Actually, I don’t think cats really understand the concept of “agreement” period. It is alien to their being. A cat does whatever he (or she) wants to do. A cat simply momentarily condescends to acquiesce to your request. It has been accurately said that people own dogs, but cats own people.

Anyway getting the cat to walk across the keyboard is a bit like pressing the keyboard with a ruler – the cat is a creature under your control has temporarily agreed to accede to your control by reason of a food bribe and therefore what it does is imputed to you.

But it makes a nice point about the pathetic nature of those EULAs.

(Via A Roll of the Dice)

35 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    A few years back I saw software that had modelled the types of keystroke sequences that cats caused and ran in background so that when kitty ran across the keyboard, it somehow turned off the keyboard for some time.

    Dunno if they modelled toddlers pushing buttons when parent has back turned, or when parent is installing software with toddler in lap. (Was the parent in control of the toddler when “Y”es was pushed…)

  2. Posted February 22, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Ummmm…

    I’ve drafted the odd EULA.

    /shamefacedly attempts to sneak out the back door…

  3. Posted February 23, 2009 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    I’m sure it wasn’t an odd EULA. And if I got my cat to click on “I agree”, the cat would not be bound by it, but I would.

  4. Posted February 23, 2009 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Yes concur; the cat would not be held legally responsible for any agreement, the person encouraging the behaviour in question would.
    What is amusing is the thought that a companion animal is yet again participating in the finer points of modern life.
    Remember the US dogs which registered for the draft in the 60s and the pooch which was accepted as a registered voter in the 2007 presidential election?
    I know a local dog which agrees to free offers and software trials on behalf of his master.
    Also a guinea pig with its own email address.
    Something my cat also insisted was his right!

  5. Posted February 23, 2009 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Crikey, you guys are slow. Didn’t you realise that cats have their own online world? By stealth I managed to capture the proof and I published it over a year ago:
    http://manainkblog.typepad.com/witty_knitter/2008/01/competition-pri.html
    If they do click agree for their people it’s only to humour them. I’m sure they all had a good laugh about it on the catternet that night.

  6. Posted February 23, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Speaking of EULAs, LE. I have a question. A certain piece of software (which will remain un-named) has on the box at the store, the declaration that use of the software is contingent on aditional contracts (the EULA) upon installation.

    At a number of stores, for-sale boxes are kept out back and display boxes are positioned so as the declaration on the box is not readily accessible to the public.

    It is common for people to enter the store, seek out a sales assistant, ask for the software, pay for the software and not have the opportunity to see the declaration (the software box being held by the sales assistant, bagged by them, and handed over only when a receipt has been printed.)

    I know different states are different, and that mail-order and Internet purchases are different again. But if sold in a jurisdiction where contracts must be made at the point of sale, not after, would someone making such a purchase be bound by the EULA by clicking “accept”?

    Would the store (or rather chain of stores) engaging in the obfuscatory practice be liable to the software company for the costs incurred by a EULA-free software user?

  7. Posted February 23, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Aaaah. The light dawns.
    Lets imagine the Australian Electoral Commission charges the elector one cent to vote (which is always rounded down within 5 cents, so it actually costs the voter nothing).
    Now… the notional payment might be considered a contract with the promise of the “product” being the authorized advertisements and statements of party leaders.
    Ergo… broken promises could give rise to a class action for false representation and breach of contract. With the threat of punitive damages, it could get interesting.

    Oh, and if the owner doesn’t like the contract the cat created, the cat could be put down… then let the EULA creator chase down the dead cat.

  8. Posted February 23, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t they be able to argue that you compelled th cat to press the button and thereby agreed? Well you culd say prove it. And they could say prove the cat did it.

    I think that Simba does not have the cognitive skills to understand the ramifications of what he is doing.

    Not true. He knows perfectly well what he’s doing. These cats are plotting something. I wonder what he logs onto when you’re not around. 🙂

  9. Posted February 23, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] said: “I wonder what he logs onto when you’re not around.”

    * Answering email offering 61 million cans of gourmet catfood if it puts in it’s pet human’s credit card number.
    * Signing up for live fishcam

  10. Lizzie
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Dave Bath has a very crude view of cat sensibility. Perhaps it mirrors his own?

  11. Lizzie
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    All in the men in my life have been crazy about cats, LE. One ex taught cats to retrieve homemade woolly balls. And my current paramour rescues cats from drains and under bushes and says to the wider homeless cat world in inner Sydney: come one, come all. We’ve now got five friggin’ cats living in the house. And they can go anywhere they like. One great hulking beast likes to sit on top of the mess of wires behind the tv and audio system. Another habitually sprays on the bottom row of books in the floor-to-ceiling shelves in the lounge room (cooking books and dictionaries). I wake in the night and have the damn critters kneading my breasts!

  12. Lizzie
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Mind over matter, LE. I was allergic to cats too, asthma, hayfever, the unlovely works. You get over it after a while. It’s like homeopathy, just takes a bit longer. Occasionally I get a bit breathless but nothing serious.

    Sure sometimes we have to kick one or two off the bed because we can’t move and are hemmed in something awful by these ultra relaxed sprawling sybarites.

    Can’t complain too much. They do love us so and especially love the softest fabrics and places. As you do.

  13. Posted February 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] asked if I am a cat man or a dog man.

    It’s complicated.

    I’m a huge fan of working dogs (except heelers and terriers) that haven’t had their smarts bred out. Toy dogs don’t count as dogs. (My dog as a kid was a samoyed cross – probably with a lab or border collie).

    Can’t drag me away if the sheepdog trials are on the TV. (Spent a whole afternoon as a kid constantly getting 2.99 sheep in the pen… but couldn’t get that last 0.01)

    I’m a huge fan of rats, even though I’ve had to sacrifice far too many. (Hate mice, hate rabbits.)

    The only cats I like are (1) one that was fostered on a farm by a dog… and it didn’t know it was a cat… would fetch, was a mouser, but was useless with sheep; and (2) the ones wearing blue and white hoops that run about Kardinia Park.

    As you know, I’m also a huge fan of the magpie family (as long as they don’t wear black and white jumpers) and parrots (not inside though).

    But in urban areas, unless you can work your dog, I think keeping dogs is cruel. I say if you want a pet, get two female rats; or become a buddy of your local possums, smarter birds (see "On Nature Deficit Disorder" and earlier related posts) as well as skinks if you are lucky enough to have them around.

    I must admit, cats were very useful to help me study in my uni days…,
    which is why this screenshot from a cat-lover website cracked me up and brought back old memories. Otherwise, they just create an unacceptable risk of schizophrenia for young children (especially in utero).

    The allergy is to a protein in almost every cat’s saliva (some more than others) which gets on the fur during grooming. Someone in the US has recently bred a hypoallergenic cat that cannot make this protein for (from memory) about $500 a moggie.

    Lizzie’s description of them as sybarites is spot on… I used to label them in Freudian terms “ids with fur”.

  14. Posted February 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    You might be right on the price. I can just remember a figure that made me go… “way too much”. Depends if someone buys two…

    Big cats v small cats…. now we’re on to religion again!

  15. Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    Faust 2.0

    Photobucket

  16. TerjeP
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    One of the conditions of use for the pixels on my computer screen are that all agreements I might have entered into via the pixels are not actually agreements unless I actually want them to be agreements. So those that use my pixels to form agreements best be careful. 😉

    It has been accurately said that people own dogs, but cats own people.

    Anyway getting the cat to walk across the keyboard is a bit like pressing the keyboard with a ruler – the cat is a creature under your control and therefore what it does is imputed to you.

    There seems to be a serious contradiction between those two paragraphs.

  17. Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    They think cats are evil beasts.

    My grandmother thought cats were the spawn of Satan – literally. She used to push my cat off my bed. Which was outrageous. It was his bed. He just let me sleep there to warm it up.

    And when he was warm enough he pushed me off. I spent my sixteenth year waking up on the floor a lot at 3am to a cat going: ooh that’s better now I can stretch out!

  18. Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Dave – I like magpies too. Very dignified birds. And when they come over in hope getting a bit of your lunch they’re models of decorum. Nice songs too.

    Lapdogs are not dogs, they are evil mutants.

  19. Posted February 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m a working dog person, and never have been hugely fond of cats. I don’t like toy dogs/lap dogs. A decent sized dog around the place has the tendency to make me bounce out of bed in the morning and run it for miles (which has attractive side-benefits for both me and the dog).

  20. Posted February 24, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]
    I’ve noted before (Magpie Morality) how our magpie buddies offer US food too, not just politely ask for it from us.

  21. Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I usually say I am a dog person (I had a mystery-mix that was mainly kelpie as a teenager,who was great hfor exercise-forcing purposes), but as I grow older, I think I am becoming more of a cat person. I envy their utter confidence, their poise, their intelligence – somehow most smart dogs I have known (whether border collies, retrievers, or whatevers) are also very outgoing and gregarious (even the 55kg Rottweiler, who was rather scary), and it’s only the truly dumb ones that have the same sort of elegance as the average cat (Afghan Hounds, for example).

    I occassionally have nightmares about ending my days, old and alone, in a crumbling, rambling house stuffed full of junk, with six cats who will start eating me before I am missed …..

    What’s the other saying about the difference between cats and dogs? When their owner dies unattended, a dog will pine and starve to death. A cat will just eat said owner. My kind of pet, really.

  22. Posted February 25, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Hey I like dogs too. I’d like a Kelpie but they’re too smart and need a job.

  23. Posted February 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    From Klaus – cat and dog. I really like this cat. I wish it was a real cat. – http://www.museumofbadart.org/collection/recent08.php

  24. Posted March 2, 2009 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    That’s one pissed pussy…

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