Nuclear Weapons and Extra Credit

Despite the frequent frustrations that many users experience while working with a computer, there’s always the reassuring feeling that no matter how badly you may mess up your desktop PC there’s little chance of doing something as drastic as say…..accidentally launching an ICBM. Or is there?

A humorous, yet revealing post from the New York Times Freakonomics Blog back in June pointed out an interesting clause from Apple’s EULA for iTunes:

From the department of curious legal precautions: Apple’s iTunes licensing agreement — which you have already agreed to if you’ve installed the latest version of the popular music software — contains a clause which prohibits anyone from using the program …

… for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear missiles or chemical or biological weapons.

Apparently, many companies include what the Freakoonmics post calls the “nuclear clauses” in their End User License Agreements; you know, those long, boring documents you have to scroll down through before installing a new piece of software. Agreements for new computer components to anti-virus software include the clause, and it got me thinking. How litigious and concerned over covering our own butts that we want people to sign legal agreements that they won’t use their music software to hack into secured military hardware?

And then I thought, how much fun would it be to give this question to those students that always seem to be done early, are often disengaged because the work is so simplistic, and really need an intriguing challenge. What an engaging hook to tell a teenager that Apple is concerned they may use their iPod to launch World War 3, and then give them the task of finding out why. It’s definitely an independent study type of activity, and would require a student capable of advanced internet and database searching. Heck, I don’t even know if it would be possible to do wtihout some well placed calls to a few companies or interviewing some legal types, but I know if I had the time it would be an interesting challenge to take up for myself. Until then, I may just file this thought in my “extra, extra work” folder.

Freakonomics Blog Post

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