Public Notice regarding devices being disabled if new terms of purchase and service are not agreed to

Please read comment at bottom before replying

PUBLIC NOTICE: On September 21st, Glowforge unilaterally disabled my Glowforge laser cutter without any advance notice or any explanation offered. Unless I “agree” to new “Glowforge Terms of Purchase and Service” (hereafter, TERMS) presented to me, my Glowforge essentially becomes a brick, without any recourse. As clearly stated in the TERMS, this is is an attempt to retroactively change the terms of a purchase I made five years ago (“These Terms of Purchase and Service are a legally binding contract between you and Glowforge regarding your purchase of any Product from Glowforge and your use of the Service”).

Glowforge has not provided any explanation as to the changes in the TERMS from any prior agreement that I agreed to (if, in fact, I agreed to such an agreement — I have no record that I did). Glowforge is providing no recourse to the new TERMS. To wit, the TERMS state “IF YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE, OR DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS, THEN YOU SHOULD NOT PURCHASE ANY PRODUCT AND YOU DO NOT HAVE OUR PERMISSION TO USE THE SERVICE. YOUR PURCHASE OF A PRODUCT AND USE OF THE SERVICE, AND GLOWFORGE’S PROVISION OF ANY PRODUCT OR THE SERVICE TO YOU, CONSTITUTES AN AGREEMENT BY GLOWFORGE AND BY YOU TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS.”

At the bottom of the disabling dialog containing the TERMS, it states “By checking the box and clicking “I agree”, you are agreeing to the above terms of service and have read, understand and agree to adhere to the user manual operating instructions”

In other words, the only recourse to continue using my Glowforge is to travel back in time and not purchase the device that I bought and fully paid for FIVE YEARS AGO and received almost three years ago (after waiting through two years of delays). This is not reasonable by any stretch of the imagination.

Over the last ten days, I have tried to get Glowforge support to fix this problem, to allow me to continue to use my Glowforge without having a new agreement forced upon me. This has been completely unsuccessful and there does not appear that there will be any resolution.

To be clear, I DO NOT AGREE to be bound by these TERMS. I only agree to be bound by prior terms (if any) which I agreed to.

Later today (October 2nd), I will click the “I Agree” button so that I can use my Glowforge again, but I am considering that button and the text adjacent to it to be incorrect. I am interpreting it to mean “By checking the box, I agree that the above terms of service do not apply to me, that I will continue to be bound by the prior terms (if any) which I have previously agreed to, and that I am clicking the button labeled “I agree” only so that I may continue to use the device which I bought and fully paid for five years ago.”

IN NO WAY SHALL MY CLICKING THE “I AGREE” BUTTON BE CONSTRUED TO MEAN THAT I ACTUALLY AGREE TO ANY NEW TERMS.

I also hereby explicitly state that I do not agree to binding arbitration and that I opt out of any such provisions in any and all agreements with Glowforge.

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I am posting this as a public notice, not because I am looking for feedback. Please don’t argue with me or give me advice, or “explain” to me that the new terms of service are no big deal. That’s not the point. I do welcome a response from Glowforge representatives.

I am sad that I have to post this. I’ve always been a fan of Glowforge, since before they were even announced. I know two of the three founders (Dan and Tony). I don’t love the idea of the cloud service, but it has generally not been a huge problem. I think the Glowforge has some really brilliant design mixed in with some really bad decisions. And I think this is one of those really bad decisions. I hope Glowforge cleans things up.

What is it that you are objecting to in the new terms? Not trying to argue, just don’t see you stating that part.

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Glowforge staff don’t read/monitor the discussion forums, with the exception of dropping in on cool projects in the gallery section, and of course support tickets opened by posting in Problems and Support.

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It is an understandable question. I am deliberately not stating any objection to any particular term. I am objecting to the process — the idea that they can unilaterally disable a machine unless a customer agrees to new terms. Although I am not a lawyer, I do not believe they have a legal right to do this, and it definitely goes against what they have publicly promised.

If I did have particular objections, it wouldn’t matter. After ten days of back and forth with Glowforge support, I’m basically at “have a nice weekend.” Their attitude, unfortunately, is that they are in total control. Even if all of the changes this time are acceptable, allowing them to claim that they have total control means that they can make any changes they want in the future — institute monthly fees, charge a percentage of sales, limit hours of use, limit what you can make, require the use of “Proofgrade” material (which I don’t use at all), etc.

I am also unable to compare the terms with the terms I agreed to (if I agreed to any). There is no record of any terms that I agreed to. I do not have a copy of any terms that I have agreed to. I was able to do a quick comparison with a version from February 2018 (3 months after I got my machine). There are 9 new sections plus 10 sections which are substantially new or significantly changed, plus many minor changes. All sprung on customers with no warning and no explanation. If Glowforge believes these changes are completely minor, the onus is on them to make that argument.

I know that GF may not respond here. That’s ok and why I put this in Everything Else instead of Problems and Support. I sent this message to Glowforge Support first (after ten days of back and forth). I posted this notice here and on Facebook to serve as a “public notice.”

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Well, you did say:

So I was just pointing out that is unlikely to happen by posting here.

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Did you? I mean I guess I’m not sure what your goal is here.

Why tell us any of this?

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If I remember correctly the original terms of service pretty much said the company can do what they want, including not provide you service. Any dispute had to go to arbitration, not to a court, etc. I whined about it 3 years ago. I don’t know what has changed in the new TOS and agree that those terms are always slanted toward the companies and legally questionable. As I see it the only real new worry would be if they changed what they could do with your designs and intellectual property. Anything else, for me, is kind of like yelling at the TV at this point.

You want something to worry about? Here it is… Every company could either fold or be sold to a larger company. There is pretty much zero legal requirement or recourse if the new owners decide to walk away from supporting your machine. Both have been done before on cloud supported consumer products. None of us really know whether the chance of that are zero or a real possibility. I already have a couple years with an operational machine so at some point my costs and interests have been satisfied. Every product that requires support has a level of risk, some more than others.

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Hi Roy,
I read a lot of contracts for a living. They do have the legal right to do this…it was in the first Terms of Purchase that we all agreed to. We’re actually buying a service here, not a machine, although we need the machine to use the service.

Pertinent section in the original agreement (from 2016) is here:

I read both the version of the Terms before this one, and the current one. (They have made several changes and re-writes to the Terms of Service over the years as they started selling Internationally and as changes that impacted them in international law were introduced. They have always had the right to do so. The burden is on us to keep up with the changes if we are concerned about it.)

I know that if this is the first time you have looked at the Terms since you got your machine, that it looks significantly different from what you agreed to at first, but most of those changes have been in there for a long time, and you just didn’t notice. I’ve read the Terms a dozen times over the last few years while helping other people to understand them. The parts that changed this time were the parts that pertain to the new Prime Subscription service that they are about to offer to us, and they rearranged it a little to make it easier to read, and to clarify some terms and Acts of God disclaimers. (All of these are standard in this kind of contract.)

Other than that, nothing that impacts us changed. Nothing that impacted you changed. You do not have to pay for the Prime service, it is optional, and offers additional benefits above what they agreed to provide to us when we bought the machine. The arbitration agreements were already in there, and have been there from the beginning. I just read and signed the new Agreement and went on using the machine as usual.

I would suggest that you print out a copy of the current Terms of Service to read carefully and keep in your files, and the next time they make modifications to it, you will have them for comparison. (They’re not required to use up their time providing comparison charts for us either.)

I certainly didn’t keep all of them, but have read them several times, and was aware of the changes. So it was less of a shock. This was nothing untoward or unusual. Since they added something that impacted us (the Prime subscription service) they required a new agreement from us per the original Terms of Service. They are just doing what they are supposed to do. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Have a nice weekend.

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I bet you are a lot of fun at a dinner party.

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Does this stand up in court? I could really use a new car.

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This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

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If you had read the entire TOS carefully, you would have read the part that says you can opt out w/in 30 days, just follow their simple instructions.

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I’m no lawyer either, but I’m pretty sure clicking “I agree” legally means you agreed, just like it did when you clicked “I agree” with the earlier TOS that talked about arbitration and GF having the right to change their terms of service at any time.

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I don’t really want to engage in debate here, and I absolutely want to keep things civil. This is not an anti-Glowforge post. I like my Glowforge and hope to continue using it for a long time. It is a post about one thing that I believe they are doing wrong and that I hope they will change. Here are some responses and clarifications:

I felt it was important to post this somewhere as a “public notice.” I also sent it via email to support and am sending it via postal mail to Glowforge legal.

I have no follow-up actions planned. I like my Glowforge and am happy to continue using it under the terms of the prior agreement. I am doing this to guard against anything that I don’t like in the future. I do not want to allow Glowforge to argue that they can unilaterally change the terms and that I have previously allowed them to do so. I hope that they will change but, after ten days of not being able to use my Glowforge, with no assistance from support, I felt this notice was the best way to proceed.

I don’t have a copy of any terms that I might have agreed to either five years ago, when I bought my Glowforge, or three years ago, when I received it. I also have no record of having agreed to any terms. The earliest version the Wayback Machine has is dated 3 months after I received and started using my Glowforge (and archived 7 months afterwards). It’s here: Glowforge Terms of Purchase and Service, archived June 8, 2018

Dealing with this potential problem in advance is an example of something that Glowforge did a good job of. They made a public pledge to put all code in escrow, so that if the Glowforge service ever became unavailable, the code would be released. It’s unclear what triggers this? What about a significant material change in their terms of use that makes devices unusable?

Just because it is in the contract, it does not mean they have the legal right to do it. Companies put illegal clauses in their contracts all the time.

If you take this too literally, they could change the agreement to require you to pay 50% of all gross income you receive by selling things you make with the Glowforge and we would have no recourse. They could disallow all non-Proofgrade material and we would have no recourse. You could argue they wouldn’t do those things, but the question is: do they have the legal right to make such changes?

Also, as noted immediately above, if they make a change which effectively bricks their customers’ machines, does that trigger a requirement to release the server code in escrow?

I would dispute that. We are absolutely buying a machine not a service. Glowforge uses the term “purchase” in their agreement. The fact that it requires a service they provide (for free) does not make it not a purchase.

Glowforge could have sold the device as requiring a paid service, say $10/month. TiVo does this. They chose not to do that. Maybe they thought that Proofgrade materials would be a great profit center, the old razors and blades model, and have discovered they were wrong. I do not object to the idea of the Premium Subscription. They vaguely promised that they’d be adding new (free) capabilities over time, touting that as an advantage of the service, but I don’t think that precludes them from also selling premium services.

But I bought a Glowforge and it should continue to work, as promised.

As noted above, the earliest contract I’ve seen is from 2018. I bought my Glowforge in 2015. I don’t have any contract from 2015 or 2016. I’d love a copy of what you have.

Interestingly, the 2016 terms you posted say “…upon 7 days’ prior notice.” They are in violation of that. They disabled my machine, with zero notice, until I clicked the “I agree” button.

They changed many more things than just about their Prime Subscription service, and they did not have to change this agreement for it. They could have added a separate agreement for the Prime Subscription service. Perhaps they wanted to make it crystal clear that they could offer add-on services that they charged for. I did not think this was unclear. I expected the included free service to include everything they promised when I purchased my GF and I don’t need anything more (and I think they’re getting close, after five years of development).

Personally, I’d like a way to hide the Prime Subscription things I will never use, especially the thing on the right that obscures my artwork and can’t be moved.

Yup, it’s being sent by postal mail.

Glowforge is claiming that they can unilaterally change the terms in any way, without prior notice, without explanation, and without recourse. I am claiming that I did not agree to any new terms. Should there be a need to resolve this dispute, it would be up to a court, not me, not you, and not Glowforge. (Or maybe an arbitrator if, in fact, I previously agreed to that, but there is no record that I am aware of that I did so.)

In conclusion…

The most likely result right now is that Glowforge will simply ignore this and it will not matter until and unless Glowforge does something objectionable. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Despite this misstep, I think the folks at Glowforge are smarter than that. And, like I’ve said repeatedly, I like my Glowforge and many of the things that the company is doing.

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Well we agree on one thing.

I don’t think any of this will give you any legal protection/leverage nor will it make any difference to their business plan.

At least you got to rant about it, so hopefully you at least feel better.

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You missed the part that reads "… until and unless Glowforge does something objectionable. Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen. If it does, you’ll be thanking me.

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Seems a little unusual to post in a forum and then state you don’t want to engage in any debate.

The Glowforge is the only device I have owned that has the issue of owners thinking the company is conspiratorial. If you truly believe something nefarious is afoot, don’t accept the TOS and get a different machine. It has been my experience that Glowforge is changing in positive ways.

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I don’t suppose you own a Wink home-automation hub, do you? They unilaterally changed the terms of service for their device from “free” to “subscription”. After I already bought the device, and after I’d been using it for 3 years, to continue to use it I had to agree to pay a monthly fee. Sucks, but nothing to be done about it. They reserve the right. Only way to address is to vote against this with my wallet when I decide I need to update my system. It won’t be with a new Wink hub. But I’ll keep using this one for a bit since it’s already set up and working…

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Discussion and debate aren’t quite the same thing. You might notice some hidden posts from people who don’t understand civil discussion.

On your later point, do you own an Apple device? A Google device? Anything from Microsoft? Every one of those companies has customers claiming conspiratorial behavior. In this case, that’s not what I’m saying — I’m saying it’s unacceptable behavior.

I do not have the option, as you say, to simply “get a different machine.” I paid thousands of dollars for the one I have. I expect it to continue working.