Marotta-Wurgler & Taylor on Changes in Consumer Standard Form Contracts

Florencia Marotta-Wurgler of NYU and Robert Brendan Taylor of Kirkland & Ellis have written Set in Stone? Change and Innovation in Consumer Standard Form Contracts for the Seventh Annual Conference on Empirical Studies.  Here's the abstract:

This article studies the rate, direction, and determinants of change in consumer standard form contracting. We examine what changed between 2003 and 2010 in the terms of 264 mass-market consumer software license agreements. Thirty-nine percent of contracts materially changed at least one term, and some changed as many as fourteen terms. The average contract became more pro-seller as well as several hundred words longer. The increase in length is not due to the use of simpler language: contract readability has been constant: the average contract is as readable as an article in a scientific journal. Younger, larger, growing firms, and firms with in-house counsel were more likely to change existing terms and to introduce new terms to take advantage of technological and market developments. Contracts appeared to respond to litigation outcomes: Terms that were increasingly enforced by courts were more frequently used in contracts, and vice-versa. The results indicate that software license agreements are relatively dynamic and shaped by multiple factors over time. We discuss potential consumer protection implications as a result of the increased length and complexity of contracts over time.

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