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Introduction

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more persons. Contracts cover a wide range of agreements including sale of goods, employment terms, relationship with an independent contractor, intellectual property[1] ownership and resolving of disputes. According to the law of contract, a binding contract contains the following elements (1) Mutual consent- all the parties involved should be aware of what the contract entails. This is also referred to as consensus ad idem. (2) Offer and Acceptance (3) Mutual consideration- both parties must be adding some value to their lives. (4) Delivery- a contract is considered complete when the good or service in question has been delivered. (5) Good faith- the parties must be acting in good faith and with honesty.

A contract short of any of these elements is not considered legally binding in the Law of Contract (Stone 102). Subscribing to social networks is a legally binding contract which can fall in the category either contract of adhesion, voidable contract when the subscriber is a minor or an implied contract given the fact there is no verbal concession between the contracting parties. These networks are protected from misuse by the digital millennium Copyright Act

 

 

 

Case study (Subscribing to LinkedIn)

Creating a profile with LinkedIn is getting into a contract. When creating a profile, the user is requested to read and understand the privacy policy and the user agreement before going on. After this, they tick that they have read and accepted the agreements. The providers of this service offer it to the public and an individual accepts the offer by signing in. Sufficient information about the network is provided in these documents meaning the user has the consent of what they are getting into. Through this service, the user will be able to communicate with friends and family and the provider gains the profits (Stone 105). The user is able to access his or her account any time they need to and this amounts to delivery. Any changes or inconveniences occurring are communicated to the user implying that the provider is acting in good faith. This is therefore a legally binding contract since it has all the qualities of a contract.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction[2] is an element of the sovereignty of the state and it is used in reference to the judicial, administrative and legislative competency (August 531). Claims in this case will fall under cyber space or internet jurisdiction. However, there has been a major problem regarding this form of jurisdiction due to the lack of internationally recognized jurisdictional law and is mostly in conflict with the private international law. These laws vary from one country to another making it hard for the universal jurisdiction of internet networks’ claims to be standard. This standardization is important because of the fact that social networks such as LinkedIn are used globally in the same capacity. One person breaching the contract might require the laws from different countries to be brought together in order to charge the person. For example, if the person if from Ukraine and the service providers from the United States, this person will have to be judged by the laws of both countries.

Rights of LinkedIn users.

One of the rights that a user of LinkedIn can claim is the right to access their accounts at any given time. This access should be unlimited and non-exclusive, but revocable in case of breach of terms in the agreement[3]. This network will be accessible through the default web browsers or from mobile applications and devices. The user should be in a position to view the information in their accounts once they sign in and also to benefit from the services provided on the web pages and in accordance with the Agreement (August 531). The other right enjoyed by a user of LinkedIn is the right to non-disclosure of the personal information provided. The user has a right to decide which of his personal information is supposed to be disclosed and what should be kept private. Information such as passwords should not be disclosed, as this would lead to an interference of personal privacy. Other information such as country of origin, name and date of birth can be revealed but the user is given the opportunity to decide the extent to which this information is to be displayed.

LinkedIn Privacy settings

The privacy settings in LinkedIn can be changed from the account and settings menu found on the upper right hand corner after logging in (August 531). This page contains many options concerning the information that should be displayed to the public. The privacy settings in LinkedIn are simpler compared to those of the competing networks such as Facebook. When left with the default settings, a lot of personal information is displayed. It is therefore advisable for the user to change these settings after signing up. Making the account very private however might lock up some important information such as job posts and it will also hinder the user from viewing information in their friends’ profiles.

Contract of Adhesion

This refers to the type of contract in which the lawful agreement between the parties is inclined to the advantage of one person. This is the person who has the power to bargain and the contract highly depends on his decisions[4]. The contract is therefore agreed to by all the parties, but it is to the advantage of one specific party. An example of this is the contract of sale whereby the customer is not given an opportunity to negotiate the prices according to their interests. The buyer in this case is not able to obtain the goods or services without agreeing to the agreement, which only favors the seller (Stone 120). In fact, it is referred to as the consumer form contract, because the consumers are usually the victims in this contract.

The law of contract does not find fault in this type of contract. This is because of its logicality in the business world. This is also the case in contracts between the providers of social network services such as LinkedIn and the user. The user in this case is not given the opportunity to negotiate their part. They are only given the user agreement information and requested to read. If they agree, then they continue with the registration. If they fail to agree with these terms, the only option available to them is to abort the registration process. Due to this, many people ignore reading these terms and conditions since they cannot be in a position to influence any conflict of interest. It is either they leave or they take.

Voidable contracts

A voidable contract is a valid contract, which binds only one party. The other party remains unbound and is free to disclaim the contract at their own discretion. This type of contract is mostly applicable to the contracts involving minors. If a minor[5] contracts with grown ups, the grown ups will be bound by the contract while the minor remains unbound. The minor can therefore keep away from performing their roles in the agreement and still remain on the right side of the law. This action will render the contract void since there has to be more than one person for a contract to be binding. Void contracts could be valid but they are not legally binding. This means that an adult cannot sue a minor for breaching a contract (Stone 123).

The social networks have no age limit for their members. Even a minor can register and own an account with LinkedIn. This contract is considered voidable since the company cannot sue these people for not complying with the terms and conditions of the user agreement. If they do this, then the contract will be rendered void. In this case, of cyber contract, even the adults can repudiate the contract and render it void. Every individual have the right of opening and closing an account anytime they want to. They get into a legally binding contract the moment they sign up but they can as well close the account anytime too. This means that this contract is one sided and if the user breaches it then it becomes void.

Implied contracts

Implied contracts are those contracts, which are agreed upon by actions rather than words. The behavior and actions of individuals can bind them to a contract even without mentioning a word of consent. A good example is when passengers are boarding public service vehicles. They are not necessarily expected to declare they are boarding the vehicle to be taken to their destination and that they will pay. This statement even sounds absurd. By getting into the vehicle, they have already agreed to the terms of a contract and are expected adhere to them by making the necessary payments. This contract is also applicable in the social networks (Stone 124). The user does not declare verbally that they have entered into a contract with the providers. However, the action of signing up and accepting the terms and conditions make the contract complete and binding.

The digital millennium Copyright Act

The digital millennium Copyright Act is a copyright law, which was endorsed in the United States in 1998 by the then president Bill Clinton. This act enabled the implementation of World Intellectual Property Organization’s treaties[6]. It states that the production and distribution of technology or services related to it whose intentions are to dodge the controlled access to materials with copyrights are considered criminal acts (U.S. Copyright Office 10). This law increased the penalties on the violation of copyrighted property including the intellectual property. It therefore required internet service providers to sign an agreement which they were called upon to provide sufficient legal protection against the circumvention of the efficient technological measures put up to protect other people’s intellectual properties.

LinkedIn as one of the providers of online services has the liability of filtering the content transmitted through its network. To be able to get this information, it has an application through which users can report anything malicious in the network (U.S. Copyright Office 11). If a person posts something that infringes another person’s rights, this is reported and the LinkedIn team will immediately block the person’s account and take legal action against them. This has worked well with other social networks such as Face book.

 

 

 

Works Cited:

August, Ray. “International Cyber-Jurisdiction: a Comparative Analysis.” American Business

Law Journal. 39.4 (2002): 531. Print.

Stone, Richard. The Modern Law of Contract. London, UK: Routledge-Cavendish, 2008. Print.

U.S. Copyright Office. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: Report Together with Additional Views (to Accompany S. 2037). Washington, D.C, 1998. Print.



[1] U.S. Copyright Office. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: Report Together with Additional Views (to Accompany S. 2037). Washington, D.C, 1998.

[2] August, Ray. “International Cyber-Jurisdiction: a Comparative Analysis.” American Business

Law Journal. 39.4 (2002)

[3] August, Ray. “International Cyber-Jurisdiction: a Comparative Analysis.” American Business

Law Journal. 39.4 (2002)

[4] Stone, Richard. The Modern Law of Contract. London, UK: Routledge-Cavendish, 2008.

[5] Stone, Richard. The Modern Law of Contract. London, UK: Routledge-Cavendish, 2008.

[6] U.S. Copyright Office. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: Report Together with Additional Views (to Accompany S. 2037). Washington, D.C, 1998.

 

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