Ask LH: Can I Use Cats To Evade Software Licence Agreements?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m often annoyed at software licence agreements that are many pages long and asking me to agree to complex terms and conditions. So I’m wondering: how could they prove I clicked ‘Agree’ anyway? What’s to stop me saying “I was going to read your agreement, but my cat stepped on the enter key and agreed to it, so feel free to sue my cat”?

I even started to think this might be a service: whenever you see a “Do you agree?” message you share your screen with a cat farm and wait for a cat to randomly walk over the shared keyboard, agreeing to the terms. My question is: would a cat farm hold up in court? Thanks, Future Cattery Owners

Dear FCO,

While we admire your ingenuity and gumption, we suspect this probably wouldn’t hold up in court. For starters, many terms specify that your usage of the software constitutes an agreement, so the act of clicking ‘I agree’ doesn’t necessarily define the whole arrangement. (If that were the case, people would be free to use pirated software without penalty as they haven’t actually agreed to any terms or conditions within.)

Plus, most software providers regularly update their terms and conditions during the lifespan of the product, which constitutes another user agreement. Are you going to claim your cat stepped on your keyboard twice? It’s obviously not going to hold up in the long run.

Bear in mind also that licences exist on software you don’t have to pay for (e.g. open source) — the enforceability of software licences is a broad question but using a cat probably isn’t going to help. That said, if you really want to put the theory to the test, we’d start by buying Charlie Schmidt’s Keyboard Cat — at least you’ll then have some video “evidence”.


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