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Tell HN: Legally, building a product sucks for minors
5 points by aConcernedMinor 1664 days ago | hide | past | web | 7 comments | favorite
I reside in the United States. It's pretty well known the age to have the legal capacity to enter a contract is 18.

However, after a glance of the legal bit of the many services I use, almost all of them require you to be 18, in the US. The consequence for many of the services discovering your breach of the TOS is an immediate termination.

For SoftLayer, they explicitly state you must be at least 18 at the time of your contract, otherwise your services will be terminated.

Amazon AWS, Linode, 6sync, also follow the same patterns, although they may be lax on enforcement.

This is just a friendly reminder to the minors on HN, and for me. Don't host anything you cannot afford to lose on those services and others.

As for me, I prefer to stay anonymous with my ventures and personal information online. I cannot afford having my parents signing up on behalf of me.

Probably not directly applicable to you, but I thought I'd share my experience:

"The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. The new rules spell out what a Web site operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online."

One of the reasons I didn't become a web developer in grade school is that when this bill was first written, Geocities decided to comply by modifying their TOS, and then unilaterally terminating edit access to a 12-year-old's account. After turning 13, they refused to reinstate or accept another signup from the same email due to TOS violations. The site remained up, though thankfully without any personal info on it. You can imagine the countermeasures I took after that against a similar attack. Teaching the children that they have to lie and ignore contractual/legal restrictions to do anything useful becomes a standard very early that continues through their contact with music, games, movies, pornography, filesharing, alcohol, drugs, and hookups. "Protect the Children" is an easy, cowardly rallying cry for a Joe Lieberman or a Tipper Gore, but teaching them that all the good stuff happens behind an adult's/corporation's back robs them of their free will within the bounds of the law, and of their respect for anything the powers that be are trying to do.

It is my contention that internet pseudonymity / anonymity is a treasured part of our culture, and part of the way we route around damage. It is essentially required of our minors due to the way we disenfranchise them while simultaneously requiring an online presence for a lot of personally & socially beneficial activities. The hideous notion recently brought up of criminalizing a TOS violation and tying it to jail-time would largely shut minors out of the Internet altogether, by any reasonable cautionary standard. A constellation of laws which requires broad criminality, and is completely selectively enforceable, brings the status of rule of law itself into question.

On this November 6, let's say this: I don't think minors would be in quite so dire of a position if we could all (read: All American Citizens) vote.

I remember my parents being really perplexed that I had to fax (long-distance!) in permission forms to Neopets when COPPA was introduced. Most sites didn't bother getting consent from parents and just locked out minors entirely, which was extremely frustrating to my (then) eight-year-old self.

Your post reminded me of this other young kid I know and his friends who hunted for bugs for a tech company in exchange for online resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates#Early_life

I hope that inspires you in your current and future career!

This includes YouTube/GMail/Google+, and Facebook accounts (!) -- I have heard of minors having their accounts terminated when the company found out, even if their parents consented to the account (or, for that matter, worked for the company in question).

I wouldn't worry about it. I had an AdSense account at 13 and a server with SoftLayer at 16.

That's one of my concerns. One of their clasues state "Termination for Breach. [...] if Customer is an individual, Customer was not at least 18 years old or otherwise did not have the legal capacity to enter into the MSA".

Note the "was" and "did", I assume your account can be terminated right now. Whether they enforce it or not is another question.

The reason for this is minor's can't be held liable for any contracts they sign, that and companies have boiler plate legal speak that is intended for 99% of their customers.

That being said, there are plenty of ways to get around that limitation, and may well land you in a grey area. On the flip side, because your a minor you can also get away with a lot more.

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