Comment I didn’t have a chance to make-


Sort of a big picture question – does “fine print” actually help anything? Disclaimers and Terms of Use have a nice lawyerly appeal, but how much work do they actually do? Think of how prescription drug ads now have to have a prominent voice-over listing the side effects instead of just flashing some text at the end of the commercial. Is there anything that would lead us to believe that conventional fine print would be more effective on the web than in TV, print or other mediums?


  1. kparker

    March 31, 2008 @ 2:21 pm


    I’m not sure it matters if it informs. What the fine print does is provide for traditional governmental enforcement through contract. Without the fine print there would be no (or at most very little) way, ex post, to fashion remedies to problems that are discovered after the fact.

    Of course that only works if there is some meat to the fine print, but that does seem to be the case most of the time. Sure nobody reads the TOS, and yes they are often very pro company (not user), but they do contain some rights either explicit or implicit.

  2. mpollock

    March 31, 2008 @ 11:21 pm


    I wonder if one difference is that, on the Web, you can often go BACK (easily) and look up the fine print if you’re so inclined (at least for sites like Amazon and Facebook). This relates to one of the Web differences we talked about on the first day — the permanence of the Web as opposed to traditional media.

    I do share your skepticism about the effectiveness of fine print disclaimers in general, though.

  3. Aaron

    April 7, 2008 @ 3:28 pm


    This is a follow-up to a conversation I had with David Weinberger before class today about whether ads (especially for prescription drugs) should receive First Amendment protection. Here’s the case in which the Supreme Court extended First Amendment protection to commercial speech (wikipedia summary and full text). In particular note Rehnquist’s dissent in which he predicts (in 1976!) the advent of sleazy prescription drug ads:

    In the case of “our” hypothetical pharmacist, he may now presumably advertise not only the prices of prescription drugs, but may attempt to energetically promote their sale so long as he does so truthfully. Quite consistently with Virginia law requiring prescription drugs to be available only through a physician, “our” pharmacist might run any of the following representative advertisements in a local newspaper:

    “Pain getting you down? Insist that your physician prescribe Demerol. You pay a little more than for aspirin, but you get a lot more relief.”

    “Can’t shake the flu? Get a prescription for Tetracycline from your doctor today.”

    “Don’t spend another sleepless night. Ask your doctor to prescribe Seconal without delay.”

  4. Pol96

    October 22, 2009 @ 5:36 pm


    The humor was another thing entirely! ,

  5. Robert

    June 24, 2010 @ 1:54 am


    Very informative topic, thanks for sharing.