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)