Tumblr’s Smart Solution to Shakespeare-Sized Terms of Service Agreements

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The latest winner of the “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” award goes to Tumblr, which recently debuted its new terms of service. Why is that even remotely exciting? Because the site did something no other site has ever done before — explain what you’re agreeing to in plain English.

Crazy, right? Tumblr basically just summed up its standard legalese with funny, short quips. For example, a dry entry titled “Eligibility” is followed by this translation:

You have to be at least 13 years old to use Tumblr. We’re serious: it’s a hard rule, based on U.S. federal and state legislation, even if you’re 12.9 years old. If you’re younger than 13, don’t use Tumblr. Ask your parents for an Xbox or try books.

(MORE: You’d Need 76 Work Days to Read All Your Privacy Policies Each Year)

Yes, that’s right folks, humor in a terms of service agreement. If you really want to know what you’re getting into, obviously you’re going to want to read all of the carefully worded legal jargon — but let’s face it, how many of us actually do that?

I usually feel my eyes glaze over after about two seconds of reading a sentence like this:

“Tumblr reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to modify this Agreement at any time by posting a revised Agreement through the Services and by providing notice to you that this Agreement has changed, generally via e-mail where practicable, and otherwise through the Services (such as through a notification in your Tumblr Dashboard).”

I bet you didn’t actually finish reading that sentence. Comprehending what Tumblr put below is much simpler:

As Tumblr grows and improves, we might have to make changes to the Terms of Service. When we do, we’ll let you know.

So yes, we should read the whole terms of service agreement in its entirety, but who can blame us if we don’t? According to a new study from consumer group Which?, Apple’s iTunes terms and conditions clock in at 19,972 words — which makes it a longer read than Macbeth.

PayPal’s terms and conditions are even longer at 36,275 words. In that time, you could read another one of Shakespeare’s great works: Hamlet.

If Hamlet can have Cliff Notes, surely someone can write a summary of what I’m getting myself into when downloading the new version of iTunes. Kudos, Tumblr, for doing something all websites should have been doing from the very beginning.

MORE: 30 Must-See Tumblr Blogs