Brow Beat

Visiting Westworld Seems Like a Pretty Bad Deal, From a Legal Standpoint

“Getting run over by a goddamned train” is covered under section 2(b).

John P. Johnson/HBO

HBO has set up a fake website for its upcoming series Westworld, which gives users a standard sales pitch to “Live Without Limits” by visiting Delos Destinations’ premier simulated Wild West resort. It’s the standard high-end hotel template: a booking section (no vacancy), slick photos, and slogans like “Fall in love, or plunge into lust. In Westworld, there are no safe words” that suggest Delos hired the ad agency that does those Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas spots. But there’s one section worth studying closely: the Terms of Delos Destinations, a dense block of legalese that makes expansive claims not even the worst Silicon Valleyautocrats would dream of. (There’s no way to link to the terms of service page directly, but from the main page, click in the “Enter Your Email” box and a link to the “Terms of Delos Destinations” will appear.) Here’s a quick rundown of some of the lowlights:

Some of the Limitations of Liability Are Disturbingly Vague: Section 2(e) of the document states that Delos won’t have any liability to guests if they are unable to offer the service due to “circumstance beyond our control,” which is a pretty common claim to make. But along with the usual boilerplate—acts of God, storm, fire, strike, civil disturbance, etc.—is “Host malfunction,” i.e., robot uprising, which seems like the kind of thing that would, ideally, be under their control.

Some of the Other Limitations of Liability Are Disturbingly Specific: Fine, Westworld has more exposure to buffalo stampede death lawsuits than most resorts; put it in the contract. But what kind of a company feels the need to explicitly state that it’z not responsible if you die from autoerotic asphyxiation? (Excluding rope manufacturers.) What about self-cannibalism? Would you go to a resort where deaths from self-cannibalism were a frequent enough problem that it’d make it to section 2(b) of the terms of service?

You Can’t Take Your Own Pictures: Section 3(e) rules out all photography in a blatant cash grab:

You are allowed to utilize the in-park Host character PHOTOGRAPHERS, whose narratives allow for you to take Delos-approved photographs. These photographs will reflect the time period and location of the park narratives you are playing. No other photography is allowed.

Fine, it’s a business. But “written recording” is also expressly forbidden—so no diaries!

The Intellectual Property Clause Is Extremely Aggressive: Section 3(c) starts off with some bland language about being considerate of other guests. But buried right in the middle is a stinger:

Please note that while utilizing the Mesa Bar, you may interact with Delos, Inc. employees; any ideas pitched to Delos, Inc. employees automatically become the property of Delos, Inc., in perpetuity.

Didn’t work for the Toast, isn’t gonna work for Westworld.

Someone at Delos Is a Real Creep: Section 7(b) explicitly gives Delos the right to keep your poop. The terms state that once you enter Westword, the company “controls the rights to and remains the sole owner of, in perpetuity: all skin cells, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, hair samples, saliva, sweat, blood, and any other bodily functions not listed here.” What’s more, it reserves the right to “use this property in any way, shape, or form in which the entity sees fit.” If I ran Delos, I’d have some tough questions for the company’s creepiest lawyer about how this clause ended up here.

There’s No Danger From Yul Brynner: The one risk you want Westworld to explicitly washit hands of—death at the hands of Yul Brynner—is conspicuously missing. Without Brynner, is it Westworld at all?

Audiences will have a chance to accept Delos’ terrible, terrible contract on Oct. 2, when the show premieres on HBO.