How the iTunes Terms and Conditions Agreement became a best-seller

iTunes Terms and Conditions book, by R. Sikoryak
A New York cartoonist has turned the lengthy legalese into a comic book, and managed to work in X-Men

By Stephanie Philp

On Thursday April 6th, 2017


It’s guaranteed: when you’re drafting a contract or legal agreement, the funny pages aren’t on your mind. R. Sikoryak, a New York cartoonist, might change that.

Two years ago, he started to adapt the iTunes Terms and Conditions into a graphic novel. At the time, Sikoryak had no plans to sell what became a 100-page book, narrated with all 20,000 words from the agreement. But that’s what happened: the book came out this spring.

Not one to read much before he clicks “agree,” Sikoryak was amused, and somewhat alarmed, at some of the clauses he found buried in the legalese. This passage, on page 78, stood out: “You also agree that you will not use these products for… the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons.”

“It was not a fluid reading experience,” he says, adding the document is one that very few people have read.

As an artist, Sikoryak often borrows text and visuals from other sources, a practice known as pastiche. Several of his projects pair dense texts with familiar animation. For example, he once illustrated an abridged version of Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray using characters from Little Nemo.

To create his latest book, Sikoryak lifted about 14 pages of the agreement at a time into his design software, InDesign. He would then choose a sequence from a popular comic (anything from X-Men to Family Circus) and replace the dialogue with legal jargon from the iTunes agreement.

iTunes Terms and Conditions book, page 10

Sikoryak says that any connection with illustration and text is mostly coincidental, even this blurb on page 10, in which one character kisses another while referring to “compatible hardware.”

He made no effort to use visuals that matched the content of the agreement. But, even though the book contains no story, Sikoryak wanted to tie the pages together. He settled on using Steve Jobs, the face of Apple, as his hero. “I realized he had a uniform that was very iconic.” And so, Jobs is on every page. Throughout the book you’ll see Snoopy, Homer Simpson and even Shaggy from Scooby-Doo adorned with Jobs’s signature beard, round glasses and black turtleneck.

Sikoryak didn’t ask Apple for permission. “I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I couldn’t do it,” he explains. What began as an exercise in endurance lead to a level of attention Sikoryak’s never had.

Since publication, the cartoonist has been interviewed by the New York Times and the Guardian. He also sat on a “Comic Law Con” panel at the Cordozo School of Law in New York. Currently, he’s adapting the non-sequiturs of President Donald Trump into a longform comic. “And I should mention I do all my work on an iMac,” he says. The iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement has since been updated and the word count sliced more than 50 percent.