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Loophole Abuse

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And they say math is hard. note 
Image by Wade Clarke. Used with permission.
Q: Explain Newton's First Law of Motion in your own words.
Calvin: [writing] Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz. [aside] I love loopholes.
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Someone — typically a Rules Lawyer — does something outrageous by finding a loophole in the rules, which were too narrowly written to consider such possibilities. This allows the agent to get their way while claiming they were technically following the rules.

Sometimes the loophole doesn't really exist, but the competitor is convinced it does based on his own misinterpretation of the rules. If the loophole's existence is explained, one justification sometimes is that when the rule was designed, the Loophole Abuse seemed absurd enough that no one would ever be stupid enough to try it. This is a form of Refuge in Audacity. The Comically Wordy Contract will often contain these, especially if a Deal with the Devil is involved.

In games, this may often be the result of some kind of oversight by the creators. A programming oversight can cause someone to do something they did not intend, such as killing a mob intended to be invincible.

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In Real Life, this is more difficult for two simple reasons: First, loopholes are quickly closed once discovered, sometimes by an Obvious Rule Patch. Second, many systems have Rule Zero: some designated referee, judge or authority figure has the absolute final word and can simply throw the argument out wholesale, usually by claiming that the "spirit" of the rule never intended to allow what the "letter" of it seems to say. On the other hand, some "loopholes" were actually exceptions put in the rule for a reason and as such are (or have become) part of the rule.

Also note that before you add an example here (especially under Real Life), loopholes are different than exemptions and provisions. These two are intentional exceptions to the simplified version of a law. For example if a government taxes pools and a pool manufacturer starts manufacturing large hot tubs to get around it, that's a loophole. If that same government decides they don't want to tax hot tubs, they will add a provision that says hot tubs are not pools. The former pool manufacturer is now using a provision to manufacture hot tubs and is following both the letter and spirit of the rules but this may not be readily obvious to an outside observer.

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Several examples refer to the old name of this trope, Ain't No Rule (named for a specific situational loophole). Compare No Man of Woman Born and Puzzle Thriller.


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  • This Segata Sanshiro commercial. Apparently there's no rule against grabbing a guy off the sideline and hurling him at the ball to score a goal for your team. Subverted when the referee gives Segata a red card.
  • In the Spock vs Spock Audi commercial, Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy have a race to the golf course and the loser buys lunch. ZQ in his Audi wins the race but as Nimoy points out "Technically we're not inside yet" and subdues him with a Vulcan neck pinch.
  • Underoos brand underwear first got around the de facto taboo about showing a bunch of kids gallivanting in their underwear on TV by calling their product "costumes" instead of underwear.
  • Hasbro commissioned Marvel Comics to create a G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Comic Book and advertised it on TV for a special reason. Namely, animation featuring a toy on a TV commercial is strictly regulated, but the regulations were much laxer for an advertisement on a literary work. Thus the advertisements could feature their toys in full animation because it is officially the comic book itself that is being advertised.
  • In Sweden, it was once illegal for domestically-run commercial broadcasters to air commercial breaks during programs; they could only do it between programs. So what did TV4 (an OTA network which, unlike its cable-based competitors who broadcast from outside the country, was subject to said rules) do? They split a program with an interstitial, thus allowing them to air ads "between" programs.
  • The famous Apple MacIntosh 1984 Commercial is often stated to have only aired once, during the 1984 Super Bowl on Jan. 22 1984. However in order to qualify for the prominent Clio Awards it had to air at least once in 1983 so they purchased time to run it on a small station in Twin Falls, Idaho shortly before midnight on Dec. 31 1983. It was likely only seen by a few hundred people at most. This was way before social media could spoil it so the result was the ad made it’s impact and is often regarded as the Greatest TV Commercial ever.

    Podcasts 
  • A couple from Mission To Zyxx:
    • As a diplomatic mission, the crew do not have clearance to carry weapons of any kind. Dar's ion blaster is thus filed as spare droid parts, since it was originally part of a destroyed droid.
    • Nermut attempts to negotiate a nonaggression contract with the tornada (one of his race's traditional predators). When it claws the bottom line in a struggle, he successfully argues that the claw mark constitutes a signature (like an illiterate person's mark) and enforces the binding contract.

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Alternative Title(s): Aint No Rule, No Purple Dragons, Air Bud Clause

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Stone Ocean - Miraschon's bet

Despite Miraschon rigging her bet to make sure Team JoJo loses and has to donate their organs to her debt-collecting Stand, Marilyn Manson, Jolyne still wins on a technicality due to a loophole stating that she needs a betting partner, which she did not have and therefore last-minute used an innocent warden via pickpocketing his baseball using Stone Free to win the bet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

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