My god, what’s this? Is it…could it be? Yes, yes it is time to open up the kennel and spread wide all those SPHs, because it’s InkedFur.com’s Furry Friday on Lawyers & Liquor once again. Hold on, let me dig into my Closet of Shame and put on the badger head again before we get the ball rolling.
Alright, so, last time I really pissed some people off by talking about how every single one of you are idiots for the manner in which you do business in re the contracting for and payment for fursuits. I was advised, while enjoying a glass of “Don’t Give a Fuck,” that more than a few fursuit makers were upset because I suggested things like “progress payment plans.” The largest complaint I heard was “We have to make a living! That means we need the money now to complete other projects and pay our expenses!”
Two things: 1) you’re running a business, maybe on the side but still a business, and you shouldn’t be counting on future funds to pay for past projects and 2) I get it. I really do. This shit isn’t inexpensive to do, and that’s why you need to be more careful about accepting commissions and maybe engaging in smaller work to build capital on the side and get a good reserve of money in before committing to doing this stuff for all or a majority of your income. Businesses need start-up funding. Trust me guys, solo lawyers run into the same damn problem all the time, and we do the same thing. Despite the product, your business model is not unique.
But today’s post is really for the fursuit makers and may piss off some of the other members of the fandom, and to that end I say: “Let me pour another glass of ‘Don’t Give a Fuck’ before I get rolling.” Because today? Today I’m going to tell all those awesome fursuit makers out there how letting anyone under the age of 18 order a fursuit from them is a really fucking bad idea business wise and legally.
You pricks done howling in outrage yet?
Awesome, let’s play fetch with your emotions.
First, A Little Recent History.
Cool, so, last time I really lit into the payment and delivery method with Fursuit Contracts, talking about how this was a system rife with the possibility for abuse. And then I made a promise to sort of talk about some other shit this time on the same topic. Frankly, I wasn’t going to talk about minors and fursuit contracts (yet), but holy shit wouldn’t you know it, the second I started talking about shitty deals with makers and the need for greater consumer protection the furry gods reached down to remind me that assholes exist on both sides of this equation.
Back in July I was fervently following the Fiasco of the Stolen Suit [Note: That is free to use as a con theme, guys. You’re welcome] that the poor seller, Strawberrysomethingsomething (I can’t keep track of your names, guys), a really talented artist whose Twitter you can totally find right here, went through. In summary, someone bought a fursuit they were selling off of them, got the suit, then immediately ran a chargeback because they were using their mother’s stolen credit card. I was a bit chagrined to find out the purchaser wasn’t a child, because quite frankly it’s a whole new level of “shitty” to steal from your parents as a goddamn adult, but hey. This was an adult who did adult things, and they’re goddamn lucky neither StrawberrySorryIDon’tRecall nor the parents considered the option of criminal charges (which likely would have been totally fucking available).
Then, recently, I became aware of the Littlest Fraudster who was running around trying to commission (and pay for) a fursuit under the impression they were an adult and while using their parents’ fucking PayPal or bank information! What I’ve been hearing is at least three different makers were receiving commission requests from this person, who was in fact 12, and some of them were actually receiving money before suffering through a chargeback on PayPal when the parents found out.
[Quick Note: If your parents aren’t locking shit down the first time you try to defraud a person and steal thousands of dollars from them, your parents sort of suck.]
This has kicked off a whole lot of shit about how fursuit makers can protect themselves when accepting commissions from minors.
So, I mean…here’s your general answer: You can’t.
Oh Cool, Nice to Kno…WHAAAA?
Yeeeeah. Kids ruin fucking everything.
First, my standard disclaimer: I’m talking about general common law principles here, and the law in your state may be really different. There’s simply no way for an attorney not in your state to know exactly what the law says there or how it applies, because we’re not familiar with it. So what I’m talking about today may not be applicable to you, but there’s a good chance it is because, with the exception of Louisiana (never fucking trust Louisiana), the rest of the country uses some variation of the common law rules. To find out how the law of contracting with minors works in your specific jurisdiction, you need to go to an attorney licensed there and put a little kibble on the counter, so to speak.
Okay. So, here’s the thing: the law presumes that certain people lack the capacity to enter into a contract, and therefore cannot be held to the terms of those contracts. This is a common law principle literally called “Lack of Capacity to Contract.” It includes those who lack mental capacity period, those who are so drunk that they literally do not understand what is happening, and…minors. Minors, by the way, in this instance, is “anyone below the legal age of majority,” which is 18 years of age in pretty much all the states.
So, I mean, that’s the first thing to understand: If you’re below the legal age of majority, which is likely to be 18, you cannot legally enter into a unilaterally enforceable contract with someone. Full stop for the most part. That’s not really up for debate. However, I mean, there are some exceptions!
So There’s Hope!
Sure, if the kid turns 18 and then approves of the contract again at that point. We call that ratification of the contract, and it turns the thing that wasn’t enforceable into an enforceable contract.
There’s also the fact that the contract is voidable and not void. Those sound like they’re the same, but they absolutely fucking are not the same thing. It’s like calling a raven a jackdaw or some shit.
See, void contracts were never valid to begin with. This would be, for example, a contract that requires someone to do something illegal. We say it’s void ab initio, not valid from the very start. It’s never enforceable because it was never an okay contract.
Voidable contracts, though, can be valid if they’re not challenged. See, voidability simply means that the contract, if brought to court, is subject to pretty much an absolute defense if that defense is asserted by the person who has the right. In this situation, it would be the minor who has the ability to declare the contract to be void the moment you try to enforce it against them.
So…Fursuit Makers Have To Hope A Minor Doesn’t Void the Contract.
Well, I mean, yes and no, because there are exceptions to even this rule.
Alright, so a contract “for necessaries” with a minor is completely enforceable and is neither void nor voidable. But that’s a really narrow type of contract, you know? I mean, literally, it’s pretty much consistently limited to food, clothing, and shelter. Courts sometimes expand the definition of necessaries to cover things that the minor reasonably requires to live based on their specific situation, but even then it’s narrowly done and limited solely to what is absolutely required for the minor to earn a living. Like a minor who receives absolutely no support from their parents may have a contract for the purchase of a car enforced because it was a necessary, if they absolutely have to have it to earn a living.
Can you imagine someone trying to argue that owning a fursuit is an absolute necessity for their continued survival?
There’s some logic behind this, though, because courts want to make sure people are willing to enter into contracts with minors when the contract is for something a minor absolutely has to have in order to live. But the courts, much like my parents, wag the finger and say “There’s a difference between need and want, my tiny pup.”
This sort of seems like the whole system is rigged towards helping the minors.
Yep. That’s pretty much the gist of it. The courts assume merchants fucking know better than to contract with minors in the first place.
But on the internet, anyone can be a minor…
And on the internet, anyone can be a six foot tall ill-tempered mustelid. It doesn’t change the associated law.
What if they lie about their age?
See, that’s the right question, because it really gets into the meat of the matter: What can I do when this shit happens to me?
The answer is: it depends.
Most jurisdictions say that if whatever you gave them still exists, they have to give it back to you. If they don’t, well…they don’t get to avoid the contract at fucking all. Being a minor doesn’t mean you just get to randomly commit theft, assholes. I want to be clear, because kids are dicks…you have to give that shit back.
But, like with fursuits, what if the contract hasn’t been fulfilled yet? Well, you’re obviously released from your obligation to finish the suit, but at the same time you don’t have a claim to keep any of the money. The law places pretty much all of the risk on the maker for contracting with a minor in the first place!
Then there’s a whole question of what you get back. In some places, they make the minor pay the difference between what has been returned and the “benefit of use.” For instance, if Glitters the Underage SparkleDog gets a suit from you, then reverses all of the charges, they have to give the suit back. In a jurisdiction that requires a minor to pay “the benefit of the bargain” still, though, they’d need to pay up any depreciation in the value of the suit.
A lot of places, though, say “Tough shit, Sherlock the Ferret Detective.” You get back whatever the minor still has, and not a damn thing more. This, by the way, applies even if they, like, set the fucking suit on fire vaping or something. I don’t know what kids are into these days.
But back to the initial question: “What if they lie about their age?” The answer is…it depends. In some states, the misrepresentation may make Glitters the Fraudulent Underage SparkleDog liable for any damage/depreciation to the product but still allow them to void the remainder of the contract. In the vast majority of states they won’t be able to disaffirm, but can still raise the lack of capacity in order to have the contract voided in any action brought to enforce the contract. In a minority of states, though, the intentional fraud/misrepresentation will be enough to completely bar the minor from escaping the contract liability at all.
But…that’s a minority of the states.
What about the parents?
This is really going to piss you off:
Unless the parent has some separate form of liability, like negligence, fraud, or a guaranty on the contract with the minor, you generally can’t hold parents liable for the voidable contracts entered into by their children.
I know, it sucks. If it helps to soothe your rattled nerves and keeps you from burning every fucking foam base in your shop, though, please know that this law applies in a lot of things, including intentional torts (like assault).
“Is…Is there a way to protect ourselves?” cry the Fursuit Makers.
Don’t fucking accept orders of any sort from minors.
I know, that shit is easier said than done, because it isn’t like they’re coming into your commission slots all “OWO, I’m 13! Make me a suit pwease!!1!!” Even if they did…I’ve seen some of your goddamn RP logs. You may not realize they’re serious, you may think they’re really dedicated.
So, I mean, how can you protect yourself?
Well, step 1 is verify verbally. You want a contact number and you want to call fucking everyone that gets a commission slot from you to speak to them one-on-one. Believe it or not, you can identify kids pretty easily over the phone. At least, the guys at Prodigy knew I wasn’t my Dad when I tried to get shit written off the bill on a monthly basis.
Step 2 is verify visually. The easiest way to do this is a copy of the driver’s license clearly fucking showing the name on the identification matches the name on your commission information and payment information. If they try any “Oh, X is my nickname” bullshit, step back and demand the submission of documentation showing all this shit, or don’t take the commission period.
Step 3 is verify in writing. This would be like a contract or statement signed in front of a verifiable notary. Seriously, it costs like $5 to have someone notarize something, demand they do it and send it back to you…and you know, while you’re at it, make that “something” a fucking contract, which I’ll talk more about why makers need contracts at a later date. And yeah, I have heard the “they’ll just fake the notary signature!” thing before…so here are my responses: 1) All notaries have and should be using a stamp or seal when they sign shit; and 2) In most states, it’s a goddamn crime to fake a notary seal. If the little shits do that, you now can refer the matter to a district attorney.
Step 4 is wait for the funds to clear. Seriously, wait for it. I know you may need the money right now, but you shouldn’t be in a cash bind where you have to immediately take cash out to cover living expenses in the first place. Refer back to the part where it’s a business and you need to be treating it as such. Be explicit on this, too. “Work will not begin until funds have been in the account 30 days” or something like that…enough time for a person whose card was stolen (or a parent) to notice the huge goddamn charge. It prevents a huge cash pinch when the worst happens.
[Note: This won’t stop fraud or chargebacks, guys…but it will help you avoid the immediate emergency of having an account go into the negative if the worst occurs].
They’re a minor but the parent is okay! Huzzah!
Stop. Look, it’s great in this circumstance the parent is “fine paying for the suit,” but you want that shit in writing and in an enforceable guaranty then. So you need to still follow steps 1-4 AND get a signed and notarized personal guaranty from the parent! Or, better yet, have the agreement and contract be with the actual parent after verifying.
Boozy, we’ll still get tricked.
Yep. Kids are assholes. However, the more verification steps you do, the harder you make it for a kid without any assets to actually meet the requirements. A kid may be able to impersonate their dad, and may be able to get you a copy of dad’s license, but will the kid be able to fake a notary seal or stamp AND keep dad from noticing the missing money for so long? Probably not. The steps aren’t foolproof, and when you make a better mousetrap you get a sexier…I mean smarter…mouse, but that’s how life works. Your goal is to make it hard enough that kids can’t do it, but not so hard that adults will throw up their hands and go elsewhere. You know. Like pill bottles.
What if I think a minor will pay me? I really want to help these kids.
I commend you heartily. I also hope you’re willing and able to “donate” that fursuit to the little shit when they back out and make collection on the debt completely unavailable to you, especially if the parents have “My Little Angel” syndrome regarding their kid.
So that’s it, that’s all, that’s the end of the whole thing for this installment of InkedFur.com‘s Furry Friday! Go over to their site and buy some of the really neat shit they have, considering they pay for these posts and, as far as I know, aren’t minors.
Now take off the fursuits and get the hell out. I have respectable people coming over.