Graham had heard all about “Frank’s Dogs” from a bunch of friends that were raving about them. Kim had raved to Graham, “The best hotdog you’ll ever taste!” And that was probably the worst thing Graham had heard.
But the county fair didn’t come around more than once a year, and this time, Graham was determined to get one. And maybe a cool beer or 12 to go with it.
He set off for the county fair, paid the admission fee, and started wandering about the fair grounds looking for “Frank’s Dogs”. Rides, games, food booths, crafts booths, farmers’ produce booths, preserved goods… All manner of fun was there to be had.
Passing “Ryan’s Relish” and then “Marvin’s Mustard”, Graham spied “Frank’s Dogs” and made a beeline for it. The line was a bit longer than he really wanted to bother with, but, “What the hell,” he thought, “I’ll at least be able to say I tried one.”
Graham waited and waited. The looks of sheer joy on people’s faces as they left with their hotdogs only made him hungrier.
By the time he got to the booth, he was pretty hungry. “One hotdog, please,” Graham asked of the young woman behind the counter. “Here you go. That’ll be $15.” Graham’s jaw fell slack. “What the…” he stopped himself before screaming out several profanities, then figured that he’d waited so long that he might as well just pay the exorbitant price. “Here you go,” said Graham, handing the woman a $10 and $5 bill. Glancing up, he saw the menu consisted of only 1 thing: Hotdog $15.
Stepping aside for the next person in line to get to the counter, Graham looked for condiments, but found nothing at the booth. There was an odd pay machine though, and it looked like it accepted coins. Examining it closer, Graham saw the sign, “Napkins $4″. A glazed look overtook his face with his jaw still slack. “Damned if I’ll pay $4 for a napkin,” he said out loud. A few people turned and gave him scornful looks. Amongst the murmurings of the crowded line, Graham thought he could make out something like, “Pfft, cheapo!” and “If you can’t afford Frank’s dogs, don’t buy them.”
Walking back the way he’d come in with his hotdog from Frank in hand, Graham thought to himself that there was no way he was going to spend $15 on a stupid hotdog and not have some decent mustard on it at least. Some sauerkraut or onions would be nice, but mustard was a must!
Stepping up to the counter at “Marvin’s Mustard” he saw a plethora of mustards. Hot. Spicy. With horseradish. Creamy. All manner were available. Graham sampled a few, then settled on “Marvinelously Mild” and asked for a medium sized jar that would still fit in his pocket, even after a few pints of beer that he fully intended on having. After all, having spent $15 on a hotdog, what was another $6 for a nice sized jar of gourmet mustard?
The clerk at the counter handed him the jar, took his money, and seeing that he had a hotdog, offered him a flat, wooden popsicle stick to spoon out some. “We don’t have any plastic knives. I hope this is ok,” the clerk remarked. “Works for me,” replied Graham, “And where can I find a beer tent around here?” The clerk began to give Graham directions as Graham popped open the lid of the mustard, scooped out a generous portion, and slathered it on his hotdog. Putting the mustard jar in his jacket pocket and thanking the clerk, Graham turned around to go grab what would probably be more than a few beer.
Graham took a step towards the beer tent, and looked down at his hotdog, satisfied that he had finally gotten his “Frank’s Dog” after years of hearing people blather on about them.
No sooner had he tried to raise his delicious, but expensive, treat to his mouth, than someone grabbed his wrist, yanked it forward, and wiped the mustard off Graham’s hotdog.
“I’m sorry sir. But that’s not a regular hotdog. You’re not permitted to accessorize it with condiments that aren’t pre-approved by Frank.” Incredulously, Graham slowly looked up at a young man wearing a “Frank’s Dogs” shirt.
Graham protested, “But it’s my hotdog. And let go of my wrist!”
The man let go of his wrist and continued, “I see that you have some of Marvin’s Mustard there. Please note that you are in violation of the Frank’s Dog’s eatery agreement, and you must now eat your hotdog in front of me as you’ve already been found in violation. Any further attempt to put unauthorized condiments on this Frank’s Dog will force me to call the police.”
“Huh?” Graham couldn’t believe his ears.
The man in the Frank’s Dogs shirt continued, “Listen, just eat your Frank’s Dog. I don’t want to have to call the police, but I will if I have to.”
“Yes. The police.”
“What for? I should call them on you!” Graham stood stunned in disbelief.
“Sir, you cannot simply use any condiment that you want on a Frank’s Dog. There are rules and policies that you must follow.”
“Policies?!?” Graham was simply paralyzed by what he heard, and hadn’t even noticed that once the man had scraped the mustard off from his hotdog, had also let go of his hand.
“Yes sir. You see, you don’t actually own that Frank’s Dog. It belongs to the Frank Company. You merely are paying for the limited right to eat it as it is delivered to you. No more. No less.” The man motioned with his hand for Graham to eat his hotdog.
“Wait a second… I paid $15 for this f***ing hotdog, and I’ll g*****n well eat it as I f***ing see fit!”
The man sighed, as though he’d heard that before. “Hey, I’m just doing my job here. This isn’t my fault. I need food on the table just as much as you do, and, well, this is doing it. I can only tell you what I’m allowed to tell you, and I will have to call the police, and they will put you in jail. Please just eat your Frank’s Dog.”
Graham heard the desperation in the man’s voice and eyes. He wasn’t kidding. “How the heck do I go to jail for putting mustard on this?”
The man sighed and responded, “The product is the exclusive intellectual property of Frank’s Dogs and subject to the terms and conditions of use. Any violation of the terms and conditions of use will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Graham’s eyes had now focused across the way at “Frank’s Dogs” where he saw another sign that was much larger than the menu, and began to wander towards it. The man followed along-side him. Stepping up to the edge of the counter on the left side of the line, he read the heading, “Terms and Conditions”. The text below was in a much smaller font, and barely readable. Graham grabbed the counter and leaned over it to see that the wide sign extended down to the grass on the ground.
Spinning around to face the man, Graham exclaimed, “You mean that this isn’t my hotdog?”
Sighing again, the man responded, “No. It does not belong to you. You have the right to eat it as explained by the ‘Terms and Conditions’ listed behind you. And amongst those terms and conditions are restrictions on the condiments that you can garnish your Frank’s Dog with.”
“It’s a hotdog!” Graham exclaimed. “Who cares?”
“Sir, it’s a Frank’s Dog, and special conditions apply. Please just eat your Frank’s Dog so that I’m not forced to call the police. The recipe and method of cooking are the proprietary property of Frank’s Dogs, and your purchase of a license to eat a Frank’s Dog is implicit acceptance of the Terms and Conditions.”
Graham looked blankly at him and asked, “So, I suppose you’ll be adding drinks with special terms and conditions as well?”
“Actually, we already have, it’s just that today we ran out of the kool-aid.”
I hope you liked the story, and more so, I hope it helped to cast some light on some current issues with intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, licensing, etc.). There are attacks on your freedom right now, and they are not significantly different than those in the story above. If you think that the above story is outlandish or an exaggeration, well, I really am sorry, but it isn’t. These laws already exist. Please stand up for your rights. Stand up for freedom.
The following is a short list of some excellent web sites where you can find out more about the issues: