06 April 2005

U-Turns, Jurisdiction, and Software Contracts on the Brain

Sometimes a story just tears its way through the courthouse gossip vine. Yesterday it was this case:

A man had been convicted of making an illegal U-turn in general district court. Word was, in the lower court he just stood there as the judge found him guilty and then went off to the clerk. However, once he got to the clerk he apparently decided to exercise his right to appeal the conviction for a trial de novo in the circuit court.

Yesterday he came to the circuit court. His case was called and he pled not guilty. He started talking about how the court had no jurisdiction because of some contract. The prosecutor and judge are a little confused so he pulls out copies of the contract which he brought for the judge and prosecutor because he realized the case would be the first of its kind in Virginia and of precedentual magnitude.

Here's the contract:
Software License Agreement:

Revision 9/12/2001/01

1. The System will here forward refer to John Smith Serial# 111-22-3333.

2. The Owner will here forward refer to John Smith Serial# 111-22-3333.

3. Software - For legal purposes the software governed by this agreement will include all contents of memory of the system referred to as John Smith Serial# 111-22-3333 or information derived thereof.

4. Redundancy in this agreement is not in error.

5. This agreement is non-exclusive, independent, and self-contained. The terms are binding in any relationship or interaction between the System and any other object or entity.

6. Authorization of the software is an object and includes authorization of the software and authorized use of the software for this agreement.

7. Authorized Use of Software: Authorized Use of this software is cooperative responsibilities agreed to by the owner after payment of the software lease stated below.

8. Unauthorized Use of Software: Unauthorized Use of this software includes all competitive responsibilities assigned without authorization by the owner. Possession of the software for more than 3 days, without payment of the software lease, is also considered unauthorized use. Unauthorized software is to be disposed of immediately (less than 3 days) as listed in Destruction of Software. Unauthorized users of the software will be subject to prosecution of copyright, patent, and software piracy laws as well as forfeiture of 1.5 times the lease price.


1. The owner is the sole owner and executor of the software.

2. Authorization, possession, and responsibility for this software is non-transferable.

3. Any possession or use of this software not approved by the owner is considered unauthorized use.

4. Authorization is bi-stable. It either is or is not authorized. If there is any question it is to be considered unauthorized.

5. Possession, control, or jurisdiction over the system is equal to possession of the software.

6. Use of or possession of this software constitutes agreement to the terms of this document.

7 Any removal of or denial of responsibility or self-control from the system will constitute possession of the system.

8. Any compromise of the proprietary technology and intellectual property contained in the software will constitute use of the software. This includes any attempt to use psychologically active or reactive drugs, hypnotism, psychological manipulation, or behavior modification.

9. This document shall supercede any previous revision and shall remain current as long as a newer revision is not present. All revisions shall be subject to the approval of the owner.
Terms of Use:
1. Price: The price of the lease of this software is One million dollars ($1,000,000.00) per year after taxes, fines, or any other liabilities are subtracted. Any use of this software will commit the user to pay the full price of the software lease.

2. Duration: The duration of the software lease will be for no less than the total life of the system. This began on 7/23/1965 and will end upon the destruction of the software.

3. Modification of Software: Any analysis, alteration, manipulation, de-compilation, decoding, or disassembly of this software by anyone other than the owner is to be considered unauthorized use.

4. Unanticipated Damage To System: No repair or recovery is authorized and no resuscitation or heroic life saving actions are to be taken in order to prolong system function. Alteration of the software or system to repair damage is forbidden and the software is to be disposed of immediately (less than 3 days) as listed by destruction of software.

5. Destruction of Software: The destruction or deletion of the software may be accomplished by any means which will result in a lack of brain activity for a period of 24 contiguous hours.


His claim was that this agreement rendered him outside the jurisdiction of the court (unless, of course the Commonwealth was willing to pay applicable fees). The guy was dead serious. Apparently he caught the judge in a good mood because they are said to have discussed the provisions of the contract for several minutes. The judge ended the conversation by pointing out the last provision under Terms of Use and asking the defendant if that meant if he had the deputy take him out and shoot him then the court would have jurisdiction. The defendant is said to have stood there giving it serious thought and replied, "Yes, your honor, that would work."

Needless to say, the judge did not take him up on his interpretation of the contract.


Mister DA said...

This is a new spin on the "sovereign citizen" doctrine of some of the more, shall we say, extreme militia movements. We occasionaly see these, mostly in traffic court, as attempts to avoid the state's licensing/vehicle registration laws.

Here's a prime example of the theory in action:


Mahan Atma said...

Gosh, I sure hope there weren't any gold-fringed flags about...