Software Licences: Selling Your Soul

Peter Steven Ho
7 min readSep 13, 2021

Did you just agree to give your soul away? Really? Did you read the last licence agreement you agreed to? You may have done just that but you’ll never know. It’s time to rebalance consumer protection laws.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Let’s be honest, how many of us are guilty of clicking the “I Accept” button without bothering to read the licence agreement?

If you’ve joined an online service, or installed an app on your smartphone or computer, then you would have had to interact with a click-wrap agreement before you can access the product or service.

For a vast majority of users, skipping over the details and clicking the “I Accept” button has become a reflex action.

After all, who has time to wade through pages of legal text?

We all have busy lives, so that’s a perfectly reasonable excuse. But at some point you have to wonder, “what did I just agree to?”

Who’s going to notice?

I am not aware of any empirical studies that measure the number of times users read these legal texts, but there was an interesting experiment in 2010.

As part of an April fool’s prank, GameStation decided that they would insert the following “Immortal Soul” clause into their terms and condition to see if customers notice the change.

By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non-transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorized minions.

Only 12 percent of customers noticed the ruse and clicked on the opt-out button. For these astute shoppers, they each received a £5 voucher.

Shockingly, this meant that 88 percent or 7,500 customers accepted the agreement to give up their souls. It’s difficult to know for sure if they did this willingly or because they did not read the agreement, but I’m willing to bet that the “I Agree” reflex was the likely cause. After all, who would knowingly miss out on a £5 voucher?

Peter Steven Ho

BSc (Hons), LLB. Freelance writer in Technology, Science and Travel. Come join me on a journey of discovery.