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Guidelines to clauses in contracts to beware of
Remember: If you don't like it, don't sign up!
This page is a brief summary of the kinds of things to watch out for when you're reading the smallprint in a contract. You Should read the smallprint of a contract, and if you don't like what you see, you should quiz the company and if they don't come up with an amicable resolution, don't sign up!
This page also forms a suggestion of part of the company policies at this site, which is run by a paranoid who can see many scary things before they happen, some of which are real as well.
Some companies, even apparently respectable companies, sometimes try to push it too far when making up their contracts. Often it's the result of poor legal advice and/or just not thinking about it in advance. Often companies are quite shocked when you point out how bad some of their contract clauses are, and sometimes they will actually change them once it's been pointed out.
* Exclusivity clause
This is where a company contract says something like "we shall be the only vendor of books/rhubarb/cardboard at your site". Anything like that is a complete no-no, (see Barno), and if you see anyone trying this kind of trick on, you may consider that there are a lot more fish in the sea. Generally it doesn't matter how big or pompous a company is, if they try this, they've already shot themselves in the foot. It's protectionist, against freedom, and bad for the market. Don't let them get away with it. This is not just something for the affiliate to beware of, but also the merchant should avoid exclusivity with affiliate marketing companies.
* Non-disparaging clause
Although this at first view seems to make sense, it's starts to look rather ridiculous when put to scrutiny. Obviously no company wants their affiliates saying bad things about them and condemning them in various ways, but in a way it's a bit like a government pretending to be democratic and then banning any criticism of the government, ie a bit iffy. The non-disparaging clause has two key knock-on effects:
1. If you're not allowed to say anything bad about a company, then customers may consider that anything good you say is fake and not to be believed. It's much better to be able to say in all honesty what you like and dislike about a company. That way, chances are most of it will be good, with perhaps a few minor criticisms. People will respect you for saying it, and will be more likely to believe the good things you'd said about the company.
2. As affiliates are paid on commission, it seems unlikely that any hard-sell affiliates are going to disparage a company they are advertising. So, in effect the clause only affects reviewers who would otherwise say the honest truth as they see it.
* The no-PPC clause
It's generally reasonable to some extent for a company to forbid affiliates from paying for adverts on pay per click search engines by using the company's trade name. We certainly don't do that here, as declared in the No-PPC policy. But sometimes companies overstep the mark very greatly in their estimation of what they think "bidding" is. (Note: "bidding" is paying money to search engines for positioning on specific keywords). Several times I have seen supposedly respectable companies make outlandish accusations of bidding, using PPC, or cheating in other ways, simply on the basis that this site does well. If they did this in the Olympics there would be no point in trying to win a race, as this would immediately be assumed to be the result of using performance-enhancing drugs.
If you see a "no ppc" clause at a company, it's best to sign up (assuming you don't do ppc of course) and to make a public statement of disavowment of ppc.
* The "no spam" clause
If a company you are helping to promote does not want you to send spam to promote them, then don't send spam to promote them! Besides unsolicited email being very poor value for money in terms of advertising, it's also annoying and can bring the merchant into disrepute.
But, there is an important point about this. Although a company has a reasonable right to insist you don't send spam about them, they have no right to tell you that you can't send spam for other companies. Simply saying "no spam at all" is a bit like the owner of a building with a no smoking policy going too far and instead of insisting you don't smoke in that building, insisting that you actually give up smoking and never smoke anywhere else either! That's well beyond their jurisdiction and against personal freedom. Or to put it another way, it's none of their business.
* Natural keywords, meta tags and mentioning of the company name in the page
Companies may ask that we don't put their name in the Keywords in the meta-tags on this site. But they must ask, and if they don't ask then the default situation is that they will be included. A good example of a company who made this request was Allders, whose wishes we respected and so they had no "allders" in the keywords. Shortly after this they went into administration. A coincidence, probably.
But for other meta-tags, it's not up for negotiation. Quite simply, meta tags are a matter of good site design. No-one has a right to tell us what we can and can't put in the meta-tags, and any attempt to impose some ridiculous notion of that kind of thing is usually met by the response that we'd rather not be an affiliate of theirs. Such things as the "description" and "title" of a page describing a company are going to mention that company, simple as that! Plus, some of the meta tags at Zyra's website are special in-house meta tags which are used for controlling the creation of the site index. This is no-one else's business but our own, so they can just keep off our meta-tags!
As for clauses which insist that the company name is not mentioned at all in the review, that is so preposterous that we will show up such flagrant oppression against free speech in public as a warning to others to not be so silly! How would film reviewers react if the trademark owners of Harry Potter insisted "you shall not mention the word "Harry" or the word "Potter" in any of your film reviews"?! Fortunately most companies have more sense than to insist on this kind of thing, although at one time Interflora could be seen missing out at the page of Florists because of such a faulty assumption (see at end of the Florists page).
The page naming is entirely at the discretion of whoever is running the website. If it's your website, you choose the page names. No-one else has a right to tell you what you may or may not name your own pages.
It is reasonable in some ways for a company to ban affiliates from having a domain which contains the merchant's trademark company name. Down with Cybersquatters!! That is not the same as banning the trademark company name from appearing "in the URL". "URL" means "Universal Resource Locator" which is the precise web location of the page (including the domain, any directories, and page name). (Also see how to read a web address which explains the difference between "url" and "domain"). Usually the mistake involved in "the trademark shall not appear in the url" is because the company doesn't understand the difference between "domain" and "url".
As a final summary to the subject of search engine ranking for a particular trade name, here's an interesting philosophical point: When you type in the trade name of a company, it's reasonable for the official company themselves to appear at Number1. We accept this is how it should be. But, who do they think should be at Number2? If not an affiliate, then what? A critic, perhaps? Someone who condemns the company for some reason? My opinion is that the official company should be Number1, top of the list, and after that it's nice if there's a helpful affiliate (such as me for example!) to give a reasonable and honest review, preferably mostly in favour of the company.
* Alteration of the Contract / Modifications to the Contract
When I sign up to a contract, that's what I sign up to. But some contracts say "we have the right to change the contract whenever we want without telling you". No, that is not acceptable. If a contract is to be changed, I need to be informed about it and have a right to refuse to agree.
I've even seen places where they say "We may change the contract, and you agree to inspect the contract at regular intervals on our site to see if it's changed". Clearly that is preposterous, unacceptable, and in my opinion it's dodgy. There is no way (with hundreds of merchants advertised at this site) that I'm going to go looking at boring verbose contracts at loads of places to see if they've changed where someone might have sneaked something nasty into them. There was one place I saw not long ago, and it was what I would have assumed was a reputable company, where they said something like "we reserve the right to change the contract and any such change becomes effective Four Hours after that". So, how much sleep do you think we're supposed to have?!
If a contract is to change, we need to be informed, by e-mail or by post. That doesn't sound difficult.
Plus, as a codicil to this "changing the contract" idea, it has to be mentioned that although changing the contract is sometimes necessary in the small details, generally just making sweeping changes to contracts is considered poor form and suggests to me that something bad is going on. Therefore, I try to avoid any contracts that are subject to indiscriminate change.
In an absolute sense, a signed contract can't legitimately be changed, modified, etc. It's like having a cheque that someone has signed, and then altering the amount! The fact is that a signed (agreed-to) contract is what it is when it is signed or agreed to. The notion of it being changed, altered, having modifications, etc, makes it not the same contract, and therefore it has no validity unless and until it is agreed-to in the new form.
Regardless of where I happen to live, the website I run is International and is visible anywhere in the world. Anyone who says it's "outside demographics" is fooling themselves, and losing good business by it. See Regional Assumption. Incidentally, since this policy was explained online here, many companies have improved their contracts! What's important is not where the website is run from, but where the visitors live. So, some sites that said "you must live in the <location> vicinity" now say "you must have a site which has content which will be of interest to visitors in the <location> vicinity".
* Content Aimed at Children
This has always been a peculiarity of contracts, where some companies say "You must not have any content aimed at children". Well, no. We won't agree to that! With a general-purpose directory it's going to have toys. and a great many educational items and pages of content. The clause, as with other anti-encyclopaedic clauses, represents a misunderstanding about specialisation. They've assumed that a website is only about one speciality, whereas this site is about almost everything. For other content-related issues, see the policies at the ICRA filter page.
* Objectionable Content
Although at first it seems ok to agree to not have "objectionable content", there is a danger with signing up to this. It depends on what's defined as objectionable. If it's such that it's going to be allowed to be arbitrarily interpreted by a lawyer after the fact on trying to find something to catch you out on, then Anything could be classed as "objectionable", for example someone could disagree with your political views or choice of your decor and claim it is objectionable! If that's what you're expected to sign up to, then you might as well pack up! We specifically renounce such arbitrary contract definitions, so if there's a contract someone expects to be able to come back to after the fact and say something is "objectionable", then we didn't agree to sign up to that in the first place. To be reasonable, objectionableness has to be more objectionable than a reasonable level to be truly objectionable. So, here's what we'll do: Here is a yardstick of objectionableness. It's a Picture of a Dead Rat! (don't look at it unless you are prepared to see a picture of a dead rat). Now that's moderately objectionable, but not extremely objectionable. So, it's hereby ruled that if anything is Less objectionable than a picture of a dead rat, then it's contractually regarded as "not objectionable". OK.
* They will keep the money
Surprisingly, the disreputable practice of keeping the money rather than paying it out when it's owed is something which goes on more than might have been expected. Sometimes it's trivial amounts, and sometimes somewhat larger amounts, but it's the principle that counts. One type of example is where a company would retain the money owed if it was "less than the threshold". This is an excuse to keep people's money, and is a touch convenient if a company moves their affiliate program to another service provider. It's a bit like you being in a supermarket paying for your shopping, and you hand over a large denomination note to the cashier, and then over the tannoy comes the announcement "We must inform you all that the company has been bought out by such-and-such corporate group", and then the cashier refuses to give you your change.
Special note on this: Most reputable companies DO give you your change and will do the right thing, even if it means them sending you a small value cheque, to see fair play.
Also note that all links to Clickbank have been removed because of the Clickbank Problem where they thought it was OK to fine the affiliate if there were no sales for a while during the recession. It's Not Fair. However, it's their loss. This site has lost a few tens of dollars which Clickbank inappropriately pocketed from the last payment from them, and after that Clickbank was entirely closed down here, so now they can miss out on thousands of dollars of future revenue.
If you see a contract you're expected to sign is too long-winded or contains too much legalistic slang, beware. In my opinion as a paranoid it suggests there is something in it designed to catch you out! Sane people sometimes assure me it's just incompetence on the part of the company involved, and that they just haven't bothered to get the contract worded properly so everyone is happy, and they've assumed people are daft enough to just sign up without reading the bureaucratic contact. I take a different view and regard it as very suspicious. (Even more suspicious than just the background level of suspiciousness which most things have).
* Gagging Orders
The notion of "confidentiality" is often misused by bad companies as an excuse to threaten you and to try to force you to hide the truth. This is especially significant if the company is involved in evil-doings, bad practices, etc. Running an affiliate network as if it's a protection racket is not acceptable. If you see clauses expecting things to be kept secret when they are there for all to see, beware, the company might be up to no good! According to some sources, the term "common law confidentiality" is almost meaningless and it's bandied about by companies who have no actual chapter and verse to quote. Plus, if you have got information by other sources, it's not confidential.
Be especially wary of any contracts which try to get you to sign something to keep the existence of the contract itself secret. It might make good popular fiction in spy stories, with cloak and dagger clandestine organisations having secret agreements and keeping their dodgy dealings undercover, but it doesn't make good modern day practice business practice.
* "Real Name" policy.
Fortunately, very few websites and companies insist on this. It's a very oldfashioned and rather quaint idea that everyone should have a government-enforced name which is supposed to be their "real name". Firstly, if this happens, this is not their Real Name in a true philosophical sense, but also the whole notion of having to have the same identity at all places goes against the Human Right of Pseudonymity. Any sort of centrally imposed real-name identity has huge problems and the consequences are dystopian, Orwellian, and generally problematical. Various social networking sites have made the mistake, and the worst offender against human rights is Facebook which should on all accounts be avoided as it is a No Privacy place. Avoid! For more about this, look up "Nym Wars", and see the witty satire in the Guardian. Google Plus initially also made the error and is therefore "Evil", unless it mends its ways and allows the proper Right of Pseudonymity. (Note: Pseudonymity is a Human Right).
* They blame the FSA
This is a situation about some companies in the finance and insurance sector in the UK. Some, not all, have some idea that they are imposing some rule or other "because the FSA told us to". Now, I've talked to the FSA (the Financial Services Authority), and they're quite nice about it. This, plus the fact that some companies behave quite differently to others, suggests that it's not the FSA's fault at all, but is more the case that some financial companies are just totally overreacting when they blame the FSA
As a mid-range stopgap solution I'm willing to avoid mentioning actual quoted interest rates on the site, or at least to say things like "the interest rate quoted was correct as of the time of publishing <date>" etc.
Some companies really don't get this, and they might be able to learn by reading the distinction page!
* The Ventriloquist's Doll Clause
This is a clause which anyone in the freelance reporting business should be careful of. Internet freedom of speech is important and is not open to being signed away by ridiculous contract clauses. Yet, sometimes you may see companies claiming we should sign something that says "you may only say what we tell you to, and not anything else". Well, no. We don't agree, and we will say things that are the honest opinions of the writers of this site. Newspapers have historically printed stuff which some of their advertisers might not agree to. Internet sites, even more so, now we live in an International world where nation states are fading from superpower status.
Maybe the companies guilty of this particular thing are being a bit naive of the idea of freedom of the press, or maybe they're trying to pin the problem on the FSA, but either way, we will say what's true. (Sometimes it's best to leave the affiliate program and to write the honest review about the company anyway, rather than become an appendage on the end of the "Ventriloquist").
A good compromise on this kind of thing, which usually keeps everyone happy, is to have a page which is an advertisement for the company, freely written but then officially approved by the merchant, and then to have another page which is comment or review material. Either this, or the skillful use of punctuation, should show a clear distinction between affiliate content and merchant content at the affiliate's website! Special note: Attempts by any merchant to silence free speech and honest critique are not signed up to here! "Thou shalt only use dynamically served creative"? No, go away and let your more open-minded competitors get on with being good for business here!
I think it's important to be on good terms with everyone, and to have freedom of speech, and that often a good diplomatic solution to come to terms with both can be reached.
Yes, of course, Ventriloquists are right to point out it's a "Ventriloquist's Doll" not a "Ventriloquist's Dummy".
* Obey All Law?
Some contracts state that the affiliate shall obey all law in all jurisdictions in the world. At first this may seem, to the naive, reasonable and a way that the company can avoid any affiliates "Promoting Illegal Activities". However, to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and good sense, the idea is preposterous. Most of the legal systems in the world have some utterly stupid laws, and the combination of them all would be nonsensical and conflicting with itself. It would, for example, mean chewing gum was banned because it is an illegal substance in Singapore. It would mean that promoting the education of women would be illegal because some extremist islamic states have laws against it. Promoting any freedom fighters anywhere in the world against the wishes of the tyrannies to which they are dissidents would also be disallowed. Plus, as most civilised countries insist on non-discrimination against gay people and yet a few countries have homosexuality being illegal, it is impossible to comply with all law everywhere. It's just daft.
This paragraph should link to the new page at Xyroth Enterprises where the subject will be discussed in greater detail.
* Hard Coded Banners
It's a minor point, but has to be mentioned. Some merchants have been known to say "...and the affiliate shall not hard code banners". Hard coding banners just means the banners to stored and served at the affiliate's website, not remote-served by the merchant or the marketing company. What's wrong with that?, you might say. The problem is if the images / banners are of the flashy type where there are interest rates and short term sales offers. I can see why they don't want those hard-coding, but there is a much better solution than banning all hard coding. The solution is to have a distinction between generic and transient banners/images. Take a look at the Shopping Portal and the Famous Names to see some generic banners which are unchanging, and which are hard-coded at this site.
Part of the problem of corporate companies failing to understand the "hard coding" issue, is because some of them are still using a splat advertising (distracting / spam based) flashy banner based marketing model, not the more reasonable and futuristic Select Advertising marketing model.
What generally happens here at Zyra's website is that merchant banners are sometimes adjusted to remove temporary flashy special offer bits, and then hard-coded!
It is important to be allowed to hard-code banners, because otherwise the stuff being displayed at the site would not be under our control, and could end up with all manner of inappropriate images, as well as cookies. This won't do, so hard-coding is insisted upon, and therefore the stuff on this site is our own choice. This makes it more trustworthy.
* Awareness of the long term view / difficulty understanding History
Amazing as it may seem, even as late as 2007, some companies still assumed all Internet advertising was like splat advertising like the old spam way of doing things. Consequences of this oldfashionedness included sometimes a failure to understand the reasoning behind the continuing presence of web pages which had ceased to be current and had instead become historical. History can sometimes be inconvenient, but it's preferably to regard it as fact rather than to have a revisionist idea about it. So, old pages are not deleted (as some companies would like) but remain as deep link references, almost like distinguished epitaphs to that which went on before. Because of this, contracts which say "upon termination of the affiliate program you shall delete all mention of the company" are not agreed to! Neither the FSA nor modern European governments condone revisionist history. However, for the sake of good manners and correct grammar, pages are sometimes amended to take account of the correct tense in the updated situation. For example "is" becomes "was". Companies including British Gas and More Than should not be so shocked about this. Marty was a good friend, but when he died, his pages remained online, with a few tactful adjustments.
* Over a Barrel ?
Some time ago there was one particular Affiliate Marketing Network which I left because their contract kept changing and getting even more bureaucratic and litigious each year. In addition to the obvious problems of some of the unfair and unreasonable clauses in the contract, there was also the obvious deduction that as "your only recourse is to leave" there was no point in developing relationships with merchants under that system. Although I felt reasonably safe creating dedicated pages merchants at some of the other Affiliate Marketing companies, if I had done the same thing at the network in question and then they changed the contract to say something like "the affiliate shall give all their worldly goods to the company and shall become a conscript for the Army", then as that would be unacceptable, all the work would have gone to waste and the company would just end up keeping the thousands of dollars that were pending. However, as I'm a paranoid I could see the potential of this kind of nonsense in advance, having seen previous absurd contracts, and so I left the company, whereupon they just kept the few tens of dollars which were outstanding.
In case you're wondering, the affiliate marketing company in question was Linkshare, but that was a long time ago, and since then good diplomatic relations have been restored with LinkShare as they have entered into discussions and produced a contract which both sides are happy to sign!
It's important to avoid giving up your right to privacy. Therefore, Facebook is a complete NO-NO. This is in addition to the subsequent problems of Facebook being a method by which evil governments can gather information about you.
* Special warning about signing Record Company contracts
In addition to advice about the affiliate business, I think it's important to mention the notorious "record company contract" problem so as to save many good music makers from a long term legal suffering problem. If you're a new band, solo performer, potential rock star, or generally someone who has an idea that you're going to make it big in the music business, there may come a time when along comes a record company and offers you A Contract. Although this might look a bit like a big prize "you've made it big" kind of a thing, you should beware! For goodness sakes read all the smallprint, and watch out for things which are decidedly dodgy. Most importantly avoid signing away your future back catalogue. Also, if you are offered "an advance", be careful about whether it's a gift or a loan. The truth is, if you're good enough to be offered "a contract" by a record company, you just might be good enough to commission a bulk pressing run-off of your music funded privately and make the money yourself! But then again, maybe record companies are more generous and reasonable than some of them were a long time ago. Check it, don't assume.
It's also worth noting that the "production line" system of music production (no, I don't like it either), relies on new famous names making it big within a few months, rising to stardom quite quickly, and then crashing and being consigned to the dustbin within a year or two. Also, the market assumes a high failure rate, so a high proportion of contract-offered rising stars are doomed to be damp squibs because of the cruel nature of the market.
Another thing to be careful of is, if your talent is apparently recognised by a company, you have to make sure it's not vanity publishing
An alternative is to pay your own way and have a secure business plan for success in the music business, based on strategy not faith. Some of the stuff on how to run a business is valid even for that! (If you've visited here from the Talent page, here's the link back: Talent)
* Software agreements that are a bit iffy
You may be given the opportunity to have some software, and it looks at first sight to be a good idea, but after you've started installing it, you are expected to click on I Agree, expect that you Don't agree! the trouble is now, it's a bit late! Things that used to work no longer work, and you keep getting the agreement coming up. Well it's usually not too late! For example What to do if you don't agree to Microsoft Media Player 11. This sort of thing, in effect, Shrinkwrap Contracts are very dodgy, and if a company is involved in such practices, it is a sign that there may be other things wrong with the company. For example, if you buy a Slingbox from SlingMedia, this doesn't mean you agree to the contract. You should be able to use it, as you have bought it. I regard their system of having a hidden protectionist contract as deplorable, even if the device itself is clever and a good idea. Down with Shrinkwrap Contracts! (whether explicit or implicit). There is good news on this, as shrinkwrap contracts have been made illegal in some countries. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop the companies from trying it, by using devious tricks. However, You don't need to agree.
* Network fees
Again, back to the affiliate business, when joining as an affiliate you should not have to pay. There are several good reasons for this. One reason is because a network fee gives an impression of get rich quick schemes where the profit is not from the main line of business or product but is from people joining and buying some hope. Admittedly this is not always so, and I have heard some good reasoning from companies desperate to avoid the shocking time-wasting which can be the case if the system is free to join. The problem is also that network fees Put Off new affiliates much more than would be expected. I'm especially put off by this kind of thing, and there are some schemes which I've seen which charge many tens of dollars to join and yet are barely better than a pyramid scheme. Having said that, I have a tendency towards caution on this and there are some companies I have refused to join because they charge 50p per month or something like that. It's a principle. Don't laugh too loud. How would you feel if your local supermarket started charging you 50p / $1 entry fee?! Would you shop somewhere else? See what I mean.
* To Assign or not to assign?
To "assign" means "to sell the company". Affiliate marketing companies are a bit wary of you as an affiliate selling off your company to someone to whom the affiliate marketing company has not been introduced. Thinking about it from their point of view, how do they know the new owner isn't a total rogue?
However, reciprocation is important to be done and to be seen to be done, so as to be fair. The correct form of this "Neither party may assign without the permission of the other, giving fair warning to opt-out if necessary" or something like that. The wrong form is "You are not allowed to assign. But we are allowed to assign. So there". Curiously, the end result is very similar, because if you have grown to become a company worth some money and you want to assign, you'll most likely find this is perfectly acceptable to most of the companies if they can be shown the new owner is also reputable. Similarly, the affiliate company (if they assign) should be quite happy to give all affiliates a chance to leave if they aren't happy with the new company owners. The difference is that one type of phraseology is fair, and the other is unfair. Willingness to have "give and take" gives a much better rapport than the "do as we say" approach.
* The sales staff may not make representation
I've seen this, not in an affiliate marketing contract, but in a contract offered by a salesman, you know, with a suit, and a contract "sign here - don't read it - hurry up" etc. The salesman had offered 50% off the standard price for the product provided we signed up that day! (This in itself is considered dodgy, and usually ends up with immediate ending of the discussion, regardless of what the offer was going to be). I had already read the contract and in very small print it said at one point "the sales staff may not make representation on behalf of the company", which means in effect that if we had signed up we would have been charged full whack for the product and the salesman's promise would have been cunningly evaded by the company. When this was pointed out, the next thing that was heard was the squeaking sound of the salesman's shoes as he walked away.
You may sometimes see this in contracts, sometimes contracts with affiliate marketing companies. The clause usually reads something like "This shall be the entirety of the contract and supersedes any and all other agreements however made". You can see why they've put that in, to avoid the risk of someone inventing some trumped-up additional contract and claim it's at least as valid as the contract you are signing. However, there's a problem, because these contracts are often not perfect, and when you find something that needs amending, the company may say "oh well, we'll just agree to this extra thing to sort that out", which you then point out would not be valid on account of the "entirety" condition. The answer is simple: The entirety clause should read: "This contract shall be the entirety of the contract Unless Another Agreement (Signed by Both Parties) is Made to extend or supersede it". This then leaves it being the entirety for most cases, but it allows the flexibility for both sides to sign up to an addendum or extra contract to amend the terms.
* Disclaimers on e-mail
You may sometimes see an e-mail arrive from a company or an official place with some kind of smallprint "disclaimer" on the end. I have even seen these appear pasted with the message onto newsgroups, often duplicated, looking a bit out of place. There is a good reason for e-mail disclaimers, which is that the organisation doesn't want to carry any liability for things being said by their employees, and also they want to keep their company's secret goings-on under wraps. But sometimes this whole thing is carried too far, and I have seen e-mail disclaimers which state "you should not read this e-mail". The other thing about e-mail disclaimers is that they can't be assumed to be legally valid. You've not signed them, so you can't be held to the conditions, nomatter how nasty and authoritarian they seem to be. My own opinion on this is that if a message says it's "confidential" then it's best to respect that. But do that because it's right, not because of some legalistic dogma which is being foisted upon you. Also, if you are actually not the "intended recipient", I think it's best to let the sender know, so as to be helpful. However, I won't "delete all copies of the message" as that's silly. I might need the stuff for evidence later. Also, I don't care to "forward this error message to the administrator" as this would embarrass the sender, who's probably just got the address typed in with a mistake in it. Boston.org.uk receives all kinds of stuff, and this is dealt with properly and diplomatically, without heeding any stuff in the disclaimers.
To sum this up: You don't Have to do what you are told, especially if it's in one of those e-mail disclaimer thingies.
* Agreements which you've not agreed to
If you deliberately and with full knowledge and not under duress put your signature to something, it's reasonable to keep to your word. However, there are some things where you are somehow expected to keep to someone else's rules even though you have never signed up to them. For example, "if you don't reply to this message within 48 hours then you agree to the conditions". No, I don't agree! And, "by opening up this Microwhatsit Can of Worms you agree to be bound by the rules and regulations which are inside the packet". No, that's not fair, and anyway I didn't open it, even if someone else did. Also, even if you have been signed-up to a religion when you were too young to do anything about it, it doesn't mean you are a follower of that religion. (You're also not a believer or member of a religion just because you were later emotionally blackmailed by the family into being "confirmed"). You can only really sign up to these things by believing in all honesty in your own conscience that the stuff is right. Another example of this kind of malpractice is the dodginess about domicile where a country claims ownership of you even though you personally have no loyalty to the place.
* Second set of agreements which you've not agreed to
If you sign up to a contract, that's what you are agreeing to; the terms in the contract. If you later find a previously hidden "second page" of contract, which you were unaware of, then you don't have to agree to it! Plus, if a merchant tries this trick, their reputation for honesty is inherently diminished by it. If you ever see this, just politely point out the problem and they should fix it.
Also see Zyra's website , good affiliate company guide, affiliate marketing companies, how to run your own company, Advice, Company Policies, Alphabetical Index, etc.
If you're looking for a tenancy agreement, a useful resource can be found at The Tenancy Agreement Service