Are Developer Program Contracts Too Complicated?

You can't afford to skip through the terms and conditions when signing up for a developer program; no-one wants to suddenly discover that all their code belongs to someone else. But what are you supposed to do if that contract runs to hundreds of pages?

BlackBerry developer relations chief Alec Saunders raised this point during a media briefing this week. He noted that back when he was running his own startup and decided to investigate developing BlackBerry applications, the contract was ridiculously complicated:

When I first signed my contract to be a developer on the BB platform, it was a 144-page contract. I thought 'I'm an 8-man startup, I don't think I can afford the legal fees to check this out'. It was almost a Monty Python way of approaching working with developers.

Saunders eventually told BlackBerry that he was going to rely on it to let him know if the contract was a problem, a risky approach although it had no immediate consequences in his case. When he joined BlackBerry, one of his first tasks was having the legal team simplify the documentation. According to Saunders, the developer contract is now a more manageable ten pages or so.

Have you resisted signing up to for a particular developer program or platform purely because the conditions were too onerous, or just too damn long to read? Tell us in the comments.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to Canada as a guest of BlackBerry.


    Interesting question.

    For many services the "cost" of even reading the contract (let alone understanding it) exceeds the value of the product by hundreds of times.

    We need laws that say: if you want to rely on a clause in a contract, then the cost of the time to be aware of that clause (in the context of the overall contract) should be proportional to the value of the contract.

    It's not acceptable to expect customers to spend $1,000 worth of time (or legal services) to avoid being screwed over in a contract for a $100 service, yet that's the situation we've got.

    Is it "program" or "programme" ? I thought in Australia we use "programme".

    Its just too bad people aren't good, and like to kill each other with legalities. I really like how some things like GNU's license, easy to understand and short. Why not try to be more like them (or better even?)

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