#21 - The Van Halen clause
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From time to time on social networks, somebody reads this strange clause in the Amazon Web Service Service Terms and shocked shares it with its followers:
In other words, if a real zombie apocalypse happens, then Amazon can lift the restrictions to the in-house game engine, Lumberyard. Then the game engine is allowed for life-critical or safety-critical circumstances like medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, crewed spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat.
This kind of bizarre clause in contracts is a so-called Van Halen clause. Van Halen was a mythical American rock band with one of the greatest all-time pyrotechnic guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen. The band was incredibly famous in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, and the members were notorious partiers (nothing noteworthy about a rock band) and embraced a level of decadence only surpassed by Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip bands.
Their diva-ish behavior as rock stars was well-known, and the rumor about a strange contract clause that demanded a bowl of M&Ms without any brown ones is legendary. It was entirely true, but it is not a band making absurd demands simply because it could or the perfect symbol of rock-star diva behavior.
The band’s “M&M clause” was written into its contract to serve a very speciﬁc purpose. It was called Article 126, and it read as follows:
There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.
Buried in the middle of countless technical speciﬁcations, as lead singer David Lee Roth explained, the bowl of M&Ms was a signal of whether the concert promoter had actually read the band's complicated and detailed contract:
Van Halen was the first to take 850 par lamp lights around the country […] At the time, it was the biggest production ever […]In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band's sophisticated stage […] If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design, and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check of the entire stage setup…
A Van Halen clause is a seemingly silly clause to ensure that every little detail is taken care of. Little details may seem trivial, but as Van Halen demonstrates, they can be crucial. So it’s not strange for companies to develop their own brown M&M's system in their contracts.
But Amazon is not the only company adding silly clauses to their contracts. Here are some of the most amusing clauses hidden in contracts and terms of services:
Do not use Apple iTunes to create nuclear weapons
I never thought I could use iTunes to create weapons of massive destruction, as Apple stipulates:
You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons.
Free Wi-Fi thanks to a Herod clause
A perfect example of how people don’t read online contracts. In 2014, the European law enforcement agency Europol decided to include a crazy “Herod clause.” The free Wi-Fi was provided only if:
The recipient agreed to assign their first-born child to us for the duration of eternity.
Six people agreed to the terms to sign up for the free network. F-Secure, the security firm that sponsored the experiment, confirmed they did not enforce the clause.
GameStation: "We own your soul."
Gamestation took the April Fools’ pranks in 2010 to its contracts and resulted in the voluntary surrender of 7,500 souls. The "immortal soul clause" was buried in the site's terms and conditions. The clause read:
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 gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorized minions.
Tumblr and Benedict Cumberbatch
The examples of Tumblr in the Community Guidelines use the actor Benedict Cumberbatch as an example:
Impersonation and Non-Genuine Behavior. Don't do things that may cause confusion between your blog and another person, organization, or company, like registering a deliberately confusing URL or pretending to be a celebrity or an elected official. Don't impersonate anyone. While you're free to ridicule, parody, or marvel at the alien beauty of Benedict Cumberbatch, you can't pretend that you're actually Benedict Cumberbatch.
The music snippet
Today is so obvious…