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Unreadable Disclaimer

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The Krusty Krab money back guarantee. It's there if you know where to look for it.

If a commercial requires a disclaimer, usually for legal reasons, the people creating the ad will put it at the bottom of the screen in tiny, low-contrast text using a hard-to-read font, and then leave it up for only a split second.

In theory this is so that the viewers won't be distracted from their desire to buy the product by any nagging doubts the content of the disclaimer might raise.

It is usually impossible to read the entirely of the text without pausing the video. In some ads, particularly those viewed in standard definition, the text may be so small and the resolution so low that it is rendered illegible entirely.

For the auditory equivalent, where disclaimers are read inhumanly fast, see Rattling Off Legal.

See also Read the Fine Print.


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  • There are many commercials where the disclaimer text will be 1 point font, low contrast, up for all of three seconds (as the narrator says "terms and conditions may apply"), but covering literally almost 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire television screen as colorful and distracting images zoom by on top of it.
  • There was a car commercial which had so much 1 point font, low contrast text that it had to scroll to prevent it from taking up more than 1/3 of the screen. Between the scrolling speed and low contrast, it would be difficult to read even with the ability to pause the ad.
  • Commercials for the arthritis medication "Celebrex" feature a narrator trying to persuade viewers that even with all of the complications (including heart failure) that can arise from using the drug they should still ask for a prescription for it. What really takes the cake, however, are the visuals which consist entirely of rotoscoped scenes with the lines being made of fine print of the drug's consequences!
  • Related: Under Dutch law of the time, car commercials had to show a table when mentioning financing. The law didn't say anything about the table containing interest rates. One commercial had the tiny table contain nothing but dots and lines. Maybe they intended to make it even more difficult to read by putting it in Morse Code.
  • There is a commercial with disclaimer text advising whoever reads it to go send their mother flowers or ride a bike instead of staying inside all day playing with the VCR. Fake or added bonuses in the disclaimer is probably not too uncommon.
  • You know those late night commercials for personal injury lawyers? Many US states require that lawyers' ads post a disclaimer saying something like, "The choice of an attorney is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertising." Of course, they flash the warning in itty-bitty blur-font for a half second.
    • Most state bar associations require these commercials to disclaim whether or not they use real lawyers or actors in their commercials.
    • One humorous billboard says in fine print that the lawyer is not licensed to practice law in the state.
  • There used to be an ad that pushed "no fine print." While they said that, there was fine print on the screen that basically said "This is fine print, this is what we don't have" stretched out to fill half the screen at 1-point font.
  • Spoofed in one of Apple's Mac/PC advertisements. PC appears and starts praising himself, only to start being covered by barely readable legal copy. When he states that he's now "100% trouble free," the fine print covers the screen.
  • At least in Germany, ring tone subscription providers and their ilk actually enlarged their fine print to be legible after taking heavy flak for exploiting gullible minors.
    • In New Zealand, a court case ruled that the fine print on their TV ads was unreadable on a normal TV, and thus not legally binding.
  • Due to an ad agency screw-up, one mid-2000s Ford commercial had a disclaimer that began "DISCLAIMER COPY GOES HERE" followed by descriptions of the various fonts to be used in the commercial. Apparently, even the people who write the disclaimers don't read them. Made funnier by the fact that Ford's slogan at the time was "Look Again!"
  • Brilliantly (or fiendishly) exploited by a Norwegian ad for a cell phone service that advertised itself as being able to find info on anything by simply typing in a word into a text message, no key terms required. The disclaimer at the bottom of the ad specifically stated that their service did nothing more than do a search of That Other Wiki on whatever was typed in to it and fetch back the info. In other words, the application made you pay an unrelated party money every time you wanted to search Wikipedia.
  • parodied this in a parody of a Ford ad. The "disclaimer" was just a message stating that, like every ad, that one had something written in such small letters it was almost unreadable but worked as a defense if somebody sued the announcer stating, "Hey, that I didn't know!"
  • Brazilian mega-retail chain Casas Bahia uses this in every advertisement. Every product and price tag will have a small mark explained in the disclaimer (which is displayed in 1-point font that lasts a fraction of a second). The disclaimer will usually explain that the product might not be available at that color/quality in your area, the price may vary depending on your state or payment conditions, and that that price is only applied if you purchase the showcase items that cannot be returned and might have imperfections.
  • A computer advert played with this trope by showing a magnifying glass focused on the end of the line of text making a claim about their prices, with the caption "Yes, there's no asterisk".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lampshaded: when the DVD of Fight Club is started, the Unreadable Disclaimer contains a Tyler Durden rant.

  • In the small print of a debt contract in the first Red Dwarf book, the clause stating the daily interest rate of eight hundred percent is hidden in a tittle over the "i" in the name of the Loan Sharks.
  • One of The Stainless Steel Rat novels by Harry Harrison has the titular hero being forced to do something by showing a contract he signed, which he actually read. He claims that the contract contains no such clause, at which point the other party pulls out an electronic microscope and enlarges a dot at the bottom of the contract, revealing a whole paragraph there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pretty much the entire point of the Chuck Lorre Productions Vanity Plate shown at the end of Dharma & Greg, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly.
  • Parodied in Big Time Rush with "Zom-B-Gone" a liquid for fending off zombies, the disclaimer is a bunch of letters in a black square. The advertisement itself reads "Don't get eaten. Don't get undead. Don't Read below".
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, "The Forsaken", Quark tells Bashir and Lwaxana Troi that his bar is not responsible for the theft of lost items and tells them that the rules are written on a sign above the door. Neither one noticed it until he pointed it out and Bashir complains you'd have to stand on a chair to read it.
  • 31 Minutos: During a flashback to the news team's previous exploits on a 5 AM contest program, while the cast is suffering, an extremely tiny disclaimer can be read beneath the scene.
    Disclaimer (translated to English): Cost of the call does not include sales tax, general taxes or surprise surcharges. Customer service at fax 444-444-CUÁ. Only humans with developed judgement may participate. Bases invalid if presented before a notary. Contest only valid for legal residents of Swaziland. Games may not have rational and/or logic solutions. Value of prize has no relation with reality. Prizes will be paid in Gran Santiago money. Frequent or prolonged exposure to this program may cause irremediable damage to one's health.
  • Doctor Who. While preparing to fire an illegal temporal cannon, the Judoon give some kind of legal disclaimer that's drowned out by everyone else talking.

    Print Media 
  • The legal text of EGM magazine, near the end of said magazine, always contains some sort of joke.
  • Hiding jokes and so on in the flannel panel or legal disclaimers of a magazine is reasonably common. The legal bits for just about any magazine usually ends up being an unreadable disclaimer, they're needed but no-one reads them (except for people looking for the hidden messages), so they're printed as small as possible.

    Video Games 
  • Parodied in a promo for Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, where a disclaimer pointing out that the game won't actually "literally leave your Wii console a smoldering crater" is unreadable not because it's in tiny type, but because it's been written out in sloppy hand-writing as part of a "Powered by The Cheat" animated sequence.

    Web Animation 
  • Brazilian website chargesdotuoldotbr once parodied it with a Ford advertisement parody. The disclaimer stated that, like every ad, it has something written on a small and almost unreadable font that serves as the advertiser's defense if someone sues by saying "Hey, that I didn't know".
  • Doctor Lalve's "Tiny Desk Engineer" videos parody this with disclaimers written in Wingdings and Rattling Off Legal. Amazingly, YouTube commenters have managed to decipher them.

    Web Comics 
  • The entire spoken contract to become a Being's Master But I'm a Cat Person consists of "I, [your name here]." The written version has never even been seen (and wouldn't be in English if it were).
  • Parodied on Laser Feet with a disclaimer on the about page.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: The Disclaimer said, "If you can read this, you're too close."
  • This is parodied in a Father of the Pride episode. When the family "gets" an HDTV, they find they can actually read the disclaimers. Larry then wonders what "anal leakage" means.
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents!. In "Fairy Idol", a disclaimer for an impromptu commercial races across the screen as a souped-up voice reads it.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Pickles", Bubble Bass demands a $2 refund on the Krabby Patty he ordered due to it lacking pickles, citing the microscopic disclaimer on the overhead menu that Mr. Krabs was obviously hoping no one would notice; he offers every excuse he can think of to avoid paying to no avail. He then angrily tells SpongeBob he's taking the two dollars out of his paycheck.
    • In "SpongeBob in RandomLand", SpongeBob and Squidward return to the Krusty Krab from a delivery to find the customer, who they were supposed to make the delivery to, complaining that he never got his order. SpongeBob gives him the order, but Mr. Krabs cries and points to a microscopic disclaimer reading "If it's late, it's free".
  • Parodied in the short Not Without My Handbag from Aardman Animations. The fine print in a washing machine payment contract states that "On non-payment of any installments, the contractee shall go to hell without further notice."

    Real Life 
  • This joking disclaimer takes fine print to micron levels.
  • This is the MO of Soho clip joints, which display their prices (several hundred pounds for a drink) on low-contrast menus printed in a gothic font in dimly-lit rooms, relying on threats of legal action and/or physical violence to persuade victims to cough up the money.
  • In the events surrounding the conquest of Sweden by the Danish king Christian II in 1520, a number of Swedish notables were "asked" to sign and seal a document supporting Christian's claim to the throne. According to legend, bishop Wender Brask placed a note reading "Härtill är jag nödd och tvungen" ("Unto this I am forced and compelled") under the wax when putting on his seal. When Gustaf I Vasa drove the Danes out and began hunting down Christian's supporters, Brask broke his seal and displayed the note, which led the king to pardon him for his involvement. How much of this is true and how much is legend is up for debate, but the document exists, Brask's seal is missing from it, and we know from other sources that Brask survived Gustaf's extremely thorough purges.

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Video Example(s):


"Your Guarantee"

Bubble Bass points out a "money back guarantee" clause in the Krusty Krab's menu, which is very tiny.

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Example of:

Main / UnreadableDisclaimer

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