Ever wonder what you agree to when you click on the terms and conditions for iTunes? Read R. Sikoryak's Terms and Conditions and be awakened.
Terms and Conditions: The Graphic NovelPublisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Length: 108 pages
Author: R. Sikoryak
Publication date: 2017-03
I’m a great admirer of Apple products -- in fact, I’m writing this review on a MacBook Air -- but I’ve never been unclear about the fact that Apple is a multinational corporation dedicated to making money. For that reason, I’ve never understood the idolatry surrounding Steve Jobs, nor the shock expressed by some people when they discovered that some Apple products are made in Chinese factories under working conditions that would not be acceptable to Americans. Business is business, as the saying goes, and expecting anything else is setting yourself up for disappointment.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that to use Apple-related software, you have to check a little box that signifies your agreement with all kinds of legalese that you probably haven’t bothered to read and wouldn’t understand if you did. The advantage is all with the company, since by checking the box you’ve agreed to follow their rules, and it’s no defense on your part to say that the rules are ridiculous or that no one actually reads that stuff. Of course, Apple is not the only company to play this game, but it's the company singled out for attention in R. Sikoryak’s Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel, which is also billed as “complete and unabridged” and as an “unauthorized adaptation”.
The text for Terms and Conditions is that of the iTunes terms and conditions as of 21 October 2015, while the art is drawn by Sikoryak, based on a number of pre-existing comics and graphic novels. Sikoryak uses one existing page for each of the pages in this book, with specific citations for the source inspiring each page listed in the back of the book. Jobs is a recurring character, easily recognized, thanks to his beard and black turtleneck, while the other characters and backgrounds for each set of panels is taken from the source material. Some of the pages are in color, while some are black and white, presumably to match the source material.
This is such a genius idea it’s a wonder no one did it before. Even when broken into many speech balloons and enlivened with characters and backgrounds, the 20,000+ words of the text are pretty much indigestible, although Sikoryak has done his best to highlight phrases that sound particularly threatening (“In order to access and retain your electronic records, you may be required to have certain hardware and software, which are your sole responsibility”) or just bizarre in a cover-your-ass sort of way (“Apple is not responsible for typographic errors”). In fact, those two statements pretty much sum up the whole approach to such agreements: everything is the user’s responsibility, and nothing is the company’s responsibility.
Well, whatcha gonna do? You want to play music on your portable devices, and iTunes is pretty much the way to do it, so you will continue to click on those boxes and agree to things you might be later horrified to realize you’ve agreed to. It’s sort of like medical care in the United States (Canadians, Europeans, and anyone who lives in a country with a real national health system, feel free to laugh at us): When seeking care, the first thing you have to do is sign a paper agreeing that you accept full financial responsibility for paying whatever the doctor or hospital decides to charge you, without knowing what that may be or whether your insurer will live up to its obligations.
There are so many great pages in this graphic novel that it’s hard to pick just a few to highlight, but these give you an idea of the range of sources Sikoryak employs. The cover draws on an Uncanny X-Men, from 1986, with Jobs as a glowering Wolverine, his adamantium claws piercing an iPod displaying the text “To agree to these terms, click ‘agree.’” Part B of the terms and conditions opens with a splash page from Riyoko Ikeda’s shojo manga The Rose of Versailles, with Jobs as bishi boy Oscar lighting up the big sparkly eyes of Marie Antoinette. Midway through Part C, Jobs appears as Scott McCloud, explaining everything with the assistance of a black-and-white pyramid. The Simpsons make an appearance in Part D, with Jobs as a beer-chugging Homer (the beer can carries the Apple symbol) while Marge and the kids react with alarm as he piles on the threats (“…may subject you to civil and criminal penalties, including possible monetary damages…”).
Because every page uses a different artistic style, things never get dull in Terms and Conditions, which may encourage some people to actually read the text. A similar theory lay beyond Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón’s 2006 The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, although that book suffered from some of the dullness of the report itself by relying too much on clipart-style illustrations. The mere existence of this adaptation may make the strongest case for the implied argument that such terms and conditions are ridiculous, as is the premise that any average person, who just wants to access some software which they paid for, would actually read and understand them. But it’s Apple’s world, and we just live in it, so we continue to click and agree without thinking about what we are actually agreeing to.