New Microsoft agreement: No class action suits for you

New Microsoft agreement: No class action suits for you

Summary: Microsoft has notified users of changes to its Services Agreement. Effective October 19, users waive their rights to class action lawsuits - among other fun clarifications.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Legal

Just before the holiday weekend, Microsoft notified users via email that a new Services Agreement will be taking effect on all of its services starting on October 19th.

windows live

Among the changes include every user's binding agreement to waive all rights to participate in class action lawsuits against Microsoft.

News of the changes saw praise for Microsoft's simplification of its agreement into a simple question-and-answer format. And that's certainly a plus: clear and consistent licensing is good for everyone.

Microsoft was, in fact, crystal clear about what will be affected. From the email:

We've updated the Microsoft Services Agreement, which governs many of our online services - including your Microsoft account and many of our online products and services for consumers, such as Hotmail, SkyDrive, Bing, MSN,, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, Windows Mail Desktop, and Windows Writer.

The email also specified the change to class action suit participation.

Finally, we have added a binding arbitration clause and class action waiver that affects how disputes with Microsoft will be resolved in the United States.

Sounds simple, but a look at the clause and waiver reveals that by using Microsoft's products, users will be effectively "signing" an agreement to waive their rights to class action lawsuits:

10.3. Binding arbitration. If you and Microsoft don't resolve any dispute by informal negotiation or in small claims court (...) You are giving up the right to litigate (or participate in as a party or class member) all disputes in court before a judge or jury.

That's pretty interesting, don't you think?

For extra lulz, combine this change with the first line of Microsoft's now-clarified Code of Conduct under its Microsoft Services Agreement:

You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, distribute or facilitate distribution of any content (including text, images, sound, video, data, information or software) or otherwise use the service in a way that:

depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.

incites, advocates, or expresses pornography, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, or gratuitous violence.

A reader rhetorically asked me, "So if you use Hotmail/Outlook to send naughty pics or hentai doodles to your friends, you could find your account terminated and everything purged?"

If true, that would not be as hilarious as it sounds.

But like any pulp noir junkie who loves characters that make a series of malformed decisions and then everything ends badly at the end of the book, I went back and read the entire - and now quite easy-to-read - Microsoft Services Agreement.

Microsoft cares about privacy (to the extent of CYA, for sure). Microsoft it is also up front about robo-parsing your emails, chats and more:

When you upload your content to the services, you agree that it may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services.

For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use. When processing your content, Microsoft takes steps to help preserve your privacy.

I have to think that this bit is mostly to prevent users of Microsoft products from commercial porn distribution, like via Hotmail, rather than focusing on every person whose material is subject to its search algorithm.

Well, I remain ever hopeful anyway.

At the very least because Bing is way better for finding porn than Google these days, and any pornographer that uses Hotmail to deliver content should just be smacked upside the head for having no style.

Okay, I'm being snarky - and I'm sure this is close to what other service suites of free communication products offer as well. But I also think that having some of these things spelled out so plainly invites us to share a collective moment of WTF.

I loved the helpful question, "How do I accept this agreement?"

How, indeed! As it happens, mere use of the services counts as your agreement - conveniently, you don't need to do a thing.

If you don't want to agree, it's easy: Microsoft says you can just not use their stuff.

Which is pretty much what every use agreement says right now - much to the consternation of many users.

And that always works out well for everyone, because everything is black and white online.

Unless it's grey, which seems to be most of the time.

Topics: Microsoft, Legal

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  • They are going to far

    How could they prevent users for using their legal rights (class actions) ?
    How could they control what is sent withing private emails ?
    Is Microsoft willing to become (again) some sort of Big Brother ?
    Please MS, make OS and software and stick to that.
    • Oops, sorry : "too far"

      Early morning....
    • Going too far?

      Think about it, if you use their services (servers, storage, etc.) they certainly are within their rights (legally) to dictate what you are or are not allowed to do with those services.

      An analogy would be someone wishes to borrow your car (assuming you have one) and you tell them they are only allowed to drive a maximum speed of 35 mph and no further than 10 miles from home. It IS your car and you can certainly ask and dictate the conditions of its use. Even though the speed limit MAY be higher than 35 on the roads the owner dictates the conditions and if you don't like those conditions, don't agree (use) their service(s).

      Private emails? Anything sent across the internet is NOT private unless you use a strong encryption in your computer and the recipient has similar software to decrypt it. If you believe that ANY email is granted ANY sort of privacy, you're living in a fantasy.
      • This applies to existing users, too, right?

        The analogy would seem more like if you were leasing a car from a company for a long time, when one day they told you that a new contract would set a maximum speed limit of 35 mph and maximum distance from their office of 10 miles.
        However, if this were to happen and you didn't like the terms, you could simply terminate (or not renew) the contract and find another car elsewhere with less restrictive and invasive contract conditions.

        You're right, of course, that Microsoft are entirely within their rights to alter their T&Cs at any time, and if we don't like it, there is a door.

        But in this case, you may have thousands of emails stored, and of course everyone you know has your old email address, which is printed on the batch of 1,000 business cards you ordered last week.

        Another analogy: you have happily been using your private phone for business and personal purposes for several years.
        One day you get a message informing you that you're no longer allowed to swear while talking on your private phone, or to talk about religion, politics or Star Trek. Fine, you can walk away and do business with another phone company, but now you need a new phone number and have to inform everybody you know about the change.

        Totally agreed about encryption. Even if the connection to your mail server is encrypted, your mail provider has complete access to all of your email, and the email protocol itself is unencrypted, so at each stage, various outside agents can monitor your communication. If you want privacy, at the very least you need to use something like (Open)PGP, and your intended recipient must of course do likewise.
    • There's a new big brother in town

      and his name is Apple. Oh the irony.
      • What does this have to do with Apple? (nt)

        • Nothing

          He just wanted the attention, that's all.
          Cylon Centurion
    • Contract agreements vs. law.

      "How could they prevent users for using their legal rights (class actions) ?"

      Well, either they are rights or they are legal privileges, and they are either protected or not by law. Just to muddy the waters a bit.

      The one almost universal truth, however, is that law trumps contract. If you have a legal right to participate in a class-action lawsuit, and the law granting that right specifically words that right as something that cannot be waived, then it really doesn't matter whether you've agreed to it or not - you can still participate in a class-action.

      There are plenty of contracts that include wording that is contrary to law. The most common are stipulations in employment contracts (usually non-compete clauses) and usually just make that part of the contract unenforceable.

      Unfortunately, there's no law against writing a contract that is unenforceable. It is up to the parties of that contract to know their rights.
  • Excessively intrusive

    I like being able to send someone an email with the word "shit" in it, without having my entire account and email archive deleted.
    Since this is apparently no longer possible with Windows Live, I'm thankful not to have an account in the first place... what a step backwards, though.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

    So this tells me that if Harper Lee was writing this classic novel today, using Microsoft's services, such as Hotmail, to email bits of the novel to an editor or her agent, then she'd be violating Microsoft's terms of service.

    After all, the novel does portray hatred, bigotry, racism, and violence.
    • Absolutely... then Harper Lee would find a different service provider. Luckily, there are plenty of those out there.

      Of course, it is more likely her agent and editor have a more secure means of transmitting these kinds of documents anyway. Using email would be kindof silly.
      • Email

        Plenty of authors email bits to their editors or agent. For example, when they are setting up a new book and trying to get the publisher to pick it up, they'll email an outline and bits of the story to the publisher. You'd be amazed at some of the authors and how little many of them know about technology. Many of them use email services like Hotmail, or use various cloud services to back up their data, if they back up at all. One author I used to read had to lose her entire manuscript twice before she decided she should take backups.
    • re: To Kill a Mockingbird

      >So this tells me that if Harper Lee was writing this
      >classic novel today, using Microsoft's services, such as
      >Hotmail, to email bits of the novel to an editor or her
      >agent, then she'd be violating Microsoft's terms
      >of service.

      Not only that she would "agree that (the novel) may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed."

      And not only *that*, she would not be able to join a class of litigants whose works MS "used, modified..." to try to get her rights back.

      Ah, the new ZDNet talkbacks. We started with USENET and now we've come full circle back to it.
      none none
  • New Microsoft agreement: No class action suits for you

    There is really no need to bring a class action suit against Microsoft anyway. They are watched so closely by regulators (even if they didn't deserve it) that it would be hard to bring them to court for any wrong doings.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • LOL, spoken like a true idiot!

      I've been waiting for a good laugh from you.

      more lol...
      Cylon Centurion
  • Violet does not get it

    According to law in this country (USA) ... users are not bound by an agreement that is not specifically acknowledged. In other words, users must indicate abrogation of rights by direct indication. All too often, users are subjected to legal "agreements" which will not be honored
    by the court system. A judge who upheld such an agreement would definately have "padded"
  • So what's worse this or Gmail's TOS?

    And weren't Microsoft the ones complaining about Gmail? Hypocrisy much?
  • Further proof that Microsoft is out of control .

    Some will argue that user's rights are not violated and the courts in the US of A may not recognize the validity of this (EULA) for Win8.
    The point is that Microsoft is reaching, trying to ensnare everything in its' path.
    Recently several pundits have pontificated that MS operating systems are coming to an end, since most technical people use Linux, or Free BSD or Apple. The current Apple (Mac), Snow Leopard seems to have a strong connection , or is, a Linux based system.
    Apples' Mac loves to stick it to every user by charging for weak programs (apps) that are freely available with Linux.
    This move by Microsoft may very well signal its' demise.
    • I doubt it

      Microsoft is big.

      Any company trying to overtake it will likely use the same terms.

      After all, one cell phone company removed unlimited plans and everyone else followed...

      As usual, there is envelope-pushing and people might complain once but they won't a second time... anybody else remember serial numbers integrated into every CPU at the time of manufacture in the 1990s, and everybody whined? People stopped whining and gave up a little more of their makebelieve freedom...
    • really

      how did you manage to arrive to this "The current Apple (Mac), Snow Leopard seems to have a strong connection , or is, a Linux based system."? Is "Apple" even an OS? Yes, Apple's recent OSs are UNIX based.