Follow TV Tropes


Obvious Rule Patch / Real Life

Go To

It's often said that behind every rule is an event which caused such a rule to be required, and as seen here, that is very close to the truth.

    open/close all folders 

    Contests, Promotions, and Awards 
  • The International Obfuscated C Code Contest added a rule in 1995 that required all submissions to have source code at least one byte in length. Why? In 1994, "the world's smallest self-replicating program" won an award for "Worst Abuse of the Rules" by being zero bytes in size. Another rule, banning machine-dependent code, was added after the first winner in 1984 wrote the entire main program as a block of PDP-11 machine code.
  • The World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction is an extremely prestigious award intended for short stories, but was originally only defined as "speculative fiction under 10,000 words". That is, until 1991, when the judges selected Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' "A Midsummer's Night Dream" issue of The Sandman, which is a comic book. Comics use pictures to do what would have to be done in narrative text, so they are able to tell longer stories than other media for the same word count. The World Fantasy Convention changed the rules almost immediately, relegating any future graphic novel submissions to the Special Award: Professional category. This means The Sandman is the only comic book that ever has or ever will win this particular award. According to Gaiman, "It wasn't like closing the stable door after the horse had gotten out, it was like closing the stable door after the horse had gotten out and won the Kentucky Derby."
  • In 2011, UK supermarket chain Tesco ran a promotion that if whatever they had happened to be cheaper at its competitor Asda, they will pay you double the difference (e.g., an item that costs 8 pounds but is only 5 at Asda would earn you 6 pounds). However, the difference in prices could be big enough that shoppers would get back more money than they spent. Naturally, many savvy shoppers exploited this by finding products they didn't even need but potentially gave them the biggest profit and using that to do their actual grocery shopping. Tesco subsequently put the difference cap to 20 pounds, then eventually discontinued the promotion.
  • In 2009 a large German electronics chain ran a promotion where you could buy any product without the Value Added Tax (currently 19%). It turned out, however, that a company can't just waive the VAT, they had to pay it nontheless. The products were just discounted by the amount of the VAT. Customers looked at their receipt and found that they indeed payed the tax, so they went back to the markets and got another discount for the taxes. Needless to say they added a clause for that in their next promotion.
  • During the Steam Summer Sale of 2014, Valve held a daily contest for one week where each Steam user was assigned a team color and people could earn points for their team by crafting the event badges through specific cards. Said cards could only be obtained by either getting them for every 3 votes made for the next batch of sales, trading them with other people, buying games on Steam, or buying the cards on the marketplace. The winning team would have 30 random people on that team obtain 3 games on their wishlists. An organized group on Reddit tried to rig the contest in a way that would allow each team to win at least twice before the week was up, which meant that each team would only craft badges on specific days of the week to give their team a massive lead. While it seemed more "fair" for the people participating in the contest, Valve wasn't too happy about it since it meant that fewer people would be buying games and marketplace items, which also meant Valve would make less money. Valve introduced a new rule to the contest that would allow teams finishing in 2nd and 3rd place to win games as well in order to encourage people to spend more money and compete against each other.
  • In 1944, Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his work in Going My Way (he won Best Supporting Actor... his co-star Bing Crosby won Best Actor). The rules were subsequently changed so that an actor could only be nominated in one category for a performance.
  • The Academy Award for Best Original Song has undergone a few of these since its introduction in 1934:
    • Originally, the only rule was that a song simply had to appear in the film. This was changed after the 1941 ceremony, where "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good won. The song's original composer, Jerome Kern, was displeased that it won, since he had not written it specifically for a film, and successfully lobbied the Academy to patch the rule so that a song must be specifically written for the film to be eligible. This also disqualifies covers, remixes, and samples. A song can be released before the film and still be eligible so long as it is verified the material was written for the film. For example, Glen Hasgard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly" for Once was available on two albums prior to the film's release, but the Academy determined the long production of Once was protracted enough to keep the song eligible.
    • Since successful theater musicals have an inherent advantage with a film adaptation — namely that the musical presumably has songs great enough to warrant an adaptation — the rule also means that all the existing songs from a musical adaptation are disqualified. This is why many modern musical adaptations now include a new song written specifically for the film.
    • While a film scoring two nominations is not unheard of, only four have scored three nominations in a field: Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King (1994), Dreamgirls, and Enchanted. However, when the latter two dominated their fields in the 79th and 80th Academy Awards at the expense of other movies, the Academy swiftly patched the rule starting with the 81st Awards with a nomination cap of two per film. Ironically, this came despite both Dreamgirls and Enchanted ultimately losing even with their combined six nominations.
  • The Power Metal band Sabaton is based in Falun, Sweden, but its frontman Joakim Brodén is half-Czech: his mother emigrated to Sweden during the Communist era. In 2016, Joakim entered the Czech music competition Český slavík (similar to the American Grammy Awards) and came in fifth place. The next year they changed the rules so that only artists who primarily perform in the Czech Republic could enter, and booted Joakim off the list.
  • Robot Wars had a number of weapons on their combat robots that were not allowed, but tinfoil was not one of them. American competitor Tentoumushi (which on the outside looked like a ladybug, hence the name) used this to great effect: In the form of a large plastic shell lined with tinfoil on the inside, it would cover the opposing bots, jamming their signals from their operators and effectively shutting them down. As said combat is done over a pit on all sides (albeit with a short fence) and one in the middle, Tentoumushi would then shove the opposing bot into the pit to win by Ring Out, or, if a Ring Out was not possible, then via incapacitation as the opposing bot cannot move. The Robot Wars staff decided this had gotten out of hand when Shunt, a Purposefully Overpowered House Robot four times its weight, took on Tentoumushi and was defeated, and banned tinfoil and other such jammers from then on.
  • Its American counterpart, BattleBots, had a few such incidents:
    • Blendo was the first robot of the "full-body spinner" class, introduced in 1995. Its weapon was a dome-shaped spinning shell made of steel, but it was unable to start on its own—rather, Jamie Hyneman (who would go on to be a co-host of MythBusters) had to enter the arena, then stick a power drill into the hole on the top to start it. The safety issues of doing this did not go unnoticed, and from then on, robots would be required to be able to start on their own, with the humans safely behind protective walls, though Blendo was grandfathered as an exception until it was retired in 2002.
    • A bot during its Comedy Central run, Spare Parts, was coated in ablative armor, a type of protection that works by having fragments chip off any time it's hit. In this case, some of the armor would disintegrate into a fine powder. It caused such a mess in the arena, with cleanup taking so long, that ablative armor was banned from then on, despite it being extremely rare outside of space travel and science fiction. Ablative armor was made legal again in 2019, though the kind that turns into a fine powder is still banned.
    • Initially, any robot with a means of locomotion other than wheels was deemed a "walker" and was allowed to go over a weight class's weight limit by a particular amount to compensate for its speed and balance disadvantages. Even with this bonus, walkers struggled a great deal, rarely making it past the first round. In came Son of Whyachi, in Comedy Central's Season 3.0, a robot with a rapidly spinning canopy lined with hammers. Son of Whyachi walked, but took very small but rapid steps, allowing it to scoot along the floor much faster than other walkers, and because the steps were so small, always remained perfectly balanced. Son of Whyachi proceeded to rip apart all of its competitors, thanks to the weight bonus, and defeated The Dreaded Biohazard to become the heavyweight champion. Once the competition was over, both BattleBots and Robot Wars revised their rules, deeming robots with Son of Whyachi's means of locomotion as "shufflebots" and designated them as wheeled robots, thus prohibiting Son of Whyachi and any would-be imitators from the weight bonus from then on. Son of Whyachi entered the following year, unchanged, in the next weight class up. It didn't do nearly as well, and Son of Whyachi would be rebuilt as a fully-wheeled bot after that.
    • In 2015, nets were not on the list of banned weapons, despite them being present before. This did not escape the eyes of Derek Young, builder of Complete Control, who covertly put a rope net into a sealed cardboard box covered in gift wrap and attached it to the front of Complete Control before its fight with Ghost Raptor. Despite it looking obviously like a trap, Ghost Raptor drove straight into the box, causing the net to come out and jamming its spinning blades. In one of the fastest cases of this trope, nets and other entanglement devices were immediately banned once more, and the match between Complete Control and Ghost Raptor was restarted, except with no net for Complete Control.
    • Two robots entered the 2016 competition that were discovered to be so unsafe that new rules were written to prevent them from happening again:
      • HellaChopper had the fastest-moving weapon in BattleBots up to that point, a pair of spinning flails that maxed out at over 300 mph (over 480 kph). When placed in the test box for functionality and for safety, HellaChopper was discovered to be so destructive that not only was it forming air vortices around it that would pull anything nearby towards it, the protective walls of the arena could not safely protect the staff and spectators from it. From there on out, the rules cap a weapon's top speed at 250 mph (402 kph) while HellaChopper was disqualified.
      • Invader did compete, but because its spinning weapon's default state was "on," a situation occurred in which its signal from the operators got cut off and it was unable to move about, yet its weapon, a spinning shell that envelops the entire robot, could not stop. The safety commissioner deemed that the only way to safely remove Invader from the arena for the following match was to let its battery drain out until it stops moving, which wound up taking three hours. From 2017 and onwards, all robots are required to have their weapons defaulted to "off," though a malfunction to fellow full-body spinner Captain Shrederator four years later caused it to spin uncontrollably in place too.
    • Team Whyachi would force another rule change in 2020, during which Hydra, in order to fight HUGE, had its weapon, a launching arm, replaced with a wall made of steel rods specifically to prevent HUGE's weapon from reaching it. Due to neither robot being able to actually fight the other,note  the rule stating that every robot must have an active weapon, which was originally created to ban weaponless robots, was revised to also include a penalty to any robots that never actually use that weapon.
  • Eurovision Song Contest:
    • At varying points in its historynote , Eurovision had a rule that each entry must be performed in an official language of the country it represents, but in the 90s, things started bursting at the seams as the breakup of Yugoslavia and the USSR led to more countries and more languages being represented, not to mention the heightened fluency in English as a second language among viewers. This caused Ireland to nab a total of four wins in the 90s, three of which being part of a win streak, and the UK taking another win immediately after Ireland's last victory. (Another song in this time period also won by having the barest minimum required amount of singing, essentially being an instrumental otherwise.) To level out the playing field, entrants in the contest can sing in any language they please starting in 1999.
    • There hadn't been any rules on what to do in the event of a tie in the earliest years of the contest because they didn't think of the possibility. Then 1969 ended in a four-way tie. They quickly made rules providing for it after that.
    • A rule was preemptively patched when Promoted Fanboy Australia joined the contest: to avoid the possibility of Australia winning and everyone having to travel there for the contest (which would be an expensive and logistical nightmare), it was decided that Australia would jointly host with a European country of their choice (Germany and the UK being touted as possibilities), should they ever win the contest.
  • Every year, the National Cartoonist Society gives out the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonists of the Year. For a long time there were no rule against repeat winners (Charles M. Schulz, for example, won the award twice in 1955 and 1964). The rule was changed in the 1990s due to two of the repeat winners, Gary Larson and Bill Watterson, never showing up to receive their awards (both cartoonists are notorious reclusive artists). Today, each individual can only receive one Reuben Award in their lifetime.
    • Note that this only applies to the Cartoonist of the Year award. The Silver Reuben division awards have no such restriction.
  • Hal Mohr won an Oscar for Best Cinematography for the 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream despite not being nominated. He won the award due to a write-in campaign. The following year the Academy made it a rule that they will no longer accept write-in votes.

  • A very significant and serious example is gun laws in the United Kingdom. The most significant pieces of firearms legislation in the last thirty years have been introduced as a piecemeal response to rampage killings - for instance, the banning of semi-automatic long-barreled firearms in a calibre greater than .22 rimfire, and shot-guns with a capacity of more than three shells, following the Hungerford massacre, and the criminalizing of nearly all handguns following the Dunblane school massacre. Whether these were proportionate responses seems to depend on what side of the Atlantic you live on. Suffice it to say that each measure had cross-party and public support at the time of its enactment.
  • In many places, there are obsolete, oddly specific, and/or downright weird laws that are still on the books, many of which are clearly patches created due to some Noodle Incident:
    • One has to wonder what prompted lawmakers in San Francisco to prohibit elephants from strolling down Market Street unless they're on a leash, or wiping one's car with used underwear.
    • It's illegal to drive more than 2,000 sheep down Hollywood Boulevard at the same time. (So exactly 2,000 sheep is fine, but 2,001 sheep and you're in trouble.)
    • In Canadian law, it's illegal to give alcohol to a moose. They are surprisingly destructive creatures and do get drunk quite frequently (most commonly by consuming fruit that has started to naturally ferment). A drunk Moose is enough of a problem without someone giving them a free swig because they think it's funny and/or cute...
    • It is illegal to enter Wisconsin, from the Minnesota border, while wearing a duck on your head. Begin Wild Mass Guessing...note 
    • In Arizona, it's illegal to allow your donkey to sleep in a bathtub. This came from a case in 1924, where a man let his donkey sleep in a bathtub and, when there was a flood from a dam breakage, a lot of effort and money went into rescuing the poor equine (as can be read here under Number 4). Not surprisingly, a law was made so this sort of thing wouldn't happen again.
    • Probably done to pre-empt an incident, California required Google to include manual controls (steering, brakes, throttle) on their self driving cars before being allowed on public roads. After all, technology can still fail.
      • Also not allowed is Silly String (and its competitors) on Halloween, at least in the Los Angeles region. This very specific law came about because Halloween was the day that these cans were used the most by far, and the substance used to make the stuff, as it dries, is incredibly flammable. As California is very vulnerable to wildfires, Californian law, at every level, is very harsh on actions likely to accidentally start a fire.
    • Thanks to a farmer objecting to a publicity stunt pulled by circus owner P.T. Barnum, in North Carolina it's against the law to plow a field with an elephant.
    • According to Danish law, if the sea between Sweden and Denmark freezes and a Swede crosses over the ice, one is allowed to, and encouraged to, beat them with sticks. This stems from an incident from the 17th century in which the Swedish army took advantage of the sea freezingnote  to take the Danes by surprise and win the war.
    • The Constitution of Wisconsin allows the governor to veto only part of a bill by deleting portions of it before signing it into law. In April 1990 they had to amend the constitution to add "the governor may not create a new word by rejecting individual letters in the words of the enrolled bill" after then-governor Thompson repeatedly did exactly that. In April 2008 they amended it again to prohibit "using the partial veto authority to create a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences".
  • If stating what a law does sounds ridiculous (such as "you can't put an ice cream sandwich in your back pocket"), it's probably one of these. The given example came about because of horse theft, which is a crime (understandable, since it's theft). If an animal wanders onto your property, it's yours. So if you want a free horse, all you have to do is bait it in a nonobvious manner (such as allowing it to smell the food in your pocket), and walk home, allowing it to follow you.
  • The U.S. Constitution was designed to allow these, because the framers realized they couldn't flawlessly predict every possible circumstance that might face the country going forward.
    • Article II, section 1: "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President". Well, it would be a bit inconvenient to wait thirty-five years for the first natural-born citizens to meet the age requirement, wouldn't it?
    • Older Than Radio: The 11th Amendment was passed to fix a loophole in Article III which allowed residents of one state to sue other states in federal court when states were normally immune from suit. The people suing? The State's creditors.
      • That was the second rules patch. The first patch was when, after Chisholm (the creditor) got a judgment against Georgia (the state) in federal court, Georgia passed a statute declaring that anyone attempting to enforce the judgment would be "guilty of a felony, and shall suffer death, without benefit of clergy by being hanged."
    • The 12th Amendment changed the way people ran for President and Vice President after the elections of 1796 and 1800, which exposed multiple flaws with the old balloting system. Previously, a bunch of guys ran for president, and whoever got the most electoral votes became president, with the runner-up becoming VP. The 1796 election led to members of opposing political parties (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) becoming President and Vice President, respectively, while the 1800 election was deadlocked on partisan voting. After the 12th was ratified, members of the electoral college vote separately for President and Vice President.
    • The 14th Amendment was several obvious rule patches baked into one amendment: In the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, where the Supreme Court effectively ruled that African Americans could never be citizens. The 14th amendment redefined citizenship so African Americans were citizens. It also quashed the ability for former Confederate government personnel from being elected to Congress, and stated the US never had to pay a dime of the debt incurred by the Confederacy.
    • The 15th Amendment: Attempted to prevent Southern states from blocking voting rights to former slaves. Unfortunately it didn't work, in large part because said states were masters of My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. This has also resulted in many states of the former Confederacy having their own Obvious Rule Patches, in order to maintain their existing social structures without running afoul of the Federal Courts.
    • The 16th Amendment. Federal income taxes had always been permitted under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, and had even been ruled to be "indirect" taxes not subject to apportionment as early as 1875. However, one really really wonky 5-4 Supreme Court decision declared taxes on income derived from property (e.g. from renting land or from holding and selling stock) to be equivalent to a tax on the value of the property itself, and therefore a direct tax subject to apportionment. The 16th Amendment was drafted specifically to plug that loophole and re-classify all income taxes as indirect taxes regardless of the income's source.
    • The 24th amendment: Another attempt to stop people from being denied the right to vote, making it illegal to require people to pay a tax before they could vote.
    • The 25th Amendment: In 1967, after several presidents had died in office and their vice presidents assumed the office of president, this amendment finally made the succession official. Previously, if president was unable "to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President," with some ambiguity about whether the office of president came with the duties. Note that the 20th Amendmentnote  provides a procedure for a president-elect dying before being inaugurated or an election not being settled before Inauguration Day, but not his dying afterwards.
    • The 27th Amendment patched a rule that was so obvious, the Amendment to fix it was submitted in the late 1700s. Basically, Congress can vote itself a pay raise, but the raise will not take place until after the next general election. On the other hand, this rule has itself had unintended consequences, namely that it applies to all laws that change Congress's pay, including laws that lower it. So Congress can't immediately stop itself from being paid during a government shutdown, or give itself extra motivation to reach some goal by cutting its own pay if a bill doesn't pass.
    • The 5th Amendment, the one that allows witnesses to refuse to answer questions that would incriminate them, was later revised to apply to both the federal and the state level rather than just the federal level. This is because people were getting caught in no-win situations in which if they answered the questions, they would get convicted at the federal level via the information given, but if they refused to answer the questions, they would get convicted at the state level for contempt of court.
  • In 2008 when the State of Nebraska tried to implement a Safe Haven Law, it neglected to notice that their law did not define the term "child", thus defaulting it to the regular definition of "anyone younger than 18". 36 teenage children were driven in from out of state and abandoned at Nebraska hospitals, and the law was patched to include only infants later that year.
  • In the 2016 presidential election, ten members of the Electoral College attempted to vote for someone different from the candidates they were pledged to, in which several of them were fined. The faithless electors appealed to the Supreme Court, but the justices unanimously agreed that states can penalize "faithless" electors. In fact, many states have a "faithless elector" law, which requires the electors to vote for the person they stated they would when nominated. Failing to do so has happened only a few times in history (and never seriously affected the outcome of the election), but most states now prevent this particular loophole from occurring.
  • Prior to the 1970s, no U.S. state had a law saying two men or two women couldn't get married. Then two gay activists from Minnesota, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, walked into a district court and applied for a marriage license. The clerk turned them down on the grounds that they were both male, so Baker took the case to court, pointing out that under the letter of the law, this was not grounds to deny them a right to get married. Baker's suit failed, but crucially the Supreme Court simply dismissed his case because they didn't consider it a federal issue, rather than setting any precedent. Cue social conservatives all over the country rushing to bring in laws explicitly banning gay couples from marrying. This caused a conflict with previous civil rights laws (especially the 14th amendment) and was resolved in a 2015 Supreme Court decision that found those laws unconstitutional.
    • On the contrary, Baker v. Nelson did set precedent which was cited by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in upholding state-level same-sex marriage bans.
    • Even when the federal law was struck down, many churches patched their official documents outlining their beliefs to specify marriage as between a man and a woman only; if the pastor turned down a request to officiate a gay wedding while the church charter didn't have this clause, the couple could potentially sue the church.
  • In 2010, the polar bear was granted the status of Threatened under the Endangered Species Act...with a rider attached by Secretary of the Interior stating that the bear's new status couldn't be used to sue companies for greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental activist organizations that had planned to do just that were not amused.
  • The RCRA Mixing Rule for hazardous waste. Most hazardous waste determination is based on properties (flammability, corrosivity, or reactivity) or concentrations (0.2 mg/L of mercury means that it is toxic). Some genius had the idea that if you take oil and mix enough sand in it, it will not be flammable, and it won't exceed any concentration limits. Voila, a giant pile of non-hazardous waste to cart off to landfill. This led to the infamous mixing rule. Anything mixed with hazardous waste is hazardous waste no matter what its actual properties are, so mixing oil with sand gives a giant pile of hazardous waste that must be properly incinerated.
  • The British "Constitution" (see British Political System) has one obvious rule patch when Edward VIII decided to Abdicate the Throne in 1936. The Act of Settlement 1701, which regulates royal succession in the UK, pretty much stated the most senior descendant of a granddaughter of James VI/I would automatically be the monarch, but nothing was said about abdications. So when Edward signed his Instrument of Abdicationnote  on 10 December 1936, it meant nothing — the law defined the king by the royal family tree, and said king's opinion in the matter was irrelevant. Parliament was quite eager to see him go, though, and had to pass a law to make this work. The law said three things: (1) At the time His Majesty signs this piece of paper, in terms of royal succession he is as good as dead; (2) No matter what any other law says, His Majesty and his descendents cannot become monarchnote ; and (3) We're not going to stand in the way of his marriage to Mrs. Simpson any more.
  • Ireland has a lot of constitutional patches.
    • At the time of the Edward VIII abdication crisis, Ireland was still a Commonwealth Realm which means they have to have the same succession rules as with the UK, etc. But Taoiseachnote  Eamon de Valera hated the British monarchy in general, and had been planning to remove the word "King" from their constitution (while retaining the King as the head of state so that they're still in the Commonwealth—Ireland was too dependent on Commonwealth trade). Edward VIII's abdication gave him a good chance to implement these plans, and he immediately tabled a constitutional amendment which did just that.note  Somebody told him immediately afterward, however, that the large body of laws that existed before Independence meant the King had more powers than those listed in the Constitutionnote , and removing most of the constitutional powers of the King does not mean the post of Governor-General is abolished. A law that was passed in the following year immediately declared that the aforementioned amendment covered all laws describing powers of the King, and assigned those powers instead to the Cabinet.
    • Ireland has delegated the power to issue adoption orders to an Adoption Board in 1952. Only some 25 years later the realized since the Board is neither a court nor filled with judges, any of their adoption orders may be constitutionally shaky. It's why the Sixth Amendment existed; it pretty much means "any adoption order made after 1937 pursuant to valid laws cannot be invalidated merely because it did not come out of a court or signed by a judge."
    • Due to the extremely strict interpretations of the government's and the legislature's treaty powers, constitutional amendments need to be passed, by referendum, every time when the government wants to enter into a treaty that causes some governmental powers being delegated to a multinational party. This include the EU or its predecessors (3, 10, 11, 18, 26 and 28), the International Criminal Court (23), or even just with North Ireland (parts of 19).
    • Some other parts of 19th amendment also leads to some citizenship issues, as it declares "It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland." This is originally used to placate those who wanted an unified Ireland, and is used to grant Irish nationality to people in Northern Ireland if those people wish to, but when Ireland itself became the center of birth tourism because that line is similar to the US Constitution's birthright clause... 27th Amendment it goes.
  • When Westboro Baptist Church announced their plans to picket the funerals of the Sandy Hook Shooting victims in 2013, Anonymous launched attacks that included a petition to have the church's status as a legitimate place of worship revoked, removing their protection of separation of church and state. While this was deemed unconstitutional, the Justice then added that, though he couldn't do that, it was possible for protesting to be illegal within a radius of certain events on a state by state basis. Cue several states that had suffered the WBC's obnoxious hatred banning protesting at funerals for several miles, effectively gutting the church's most infamous way of drawing attention to themselves.
  • Grandfather Clause. When whites regained control over the governments of Southern states after the American Civil War, they proceeded to set up many roadblocks to prevent freed slaves from voting. One of these roadblocks was the literacy test; if you failed the test, you were not allowed to vote (naturally it was almost always rigged so prospective black voters would fail). However (as noted in this political cartoon), many poor white voters also failed the tests. So the Southern governments added rules saying that anybody whose grandfather could vote before the Civil War would automatically be allowed to vote...which, naturally, never applied to black voters since almost all of their grandfathers were slaves.
  • An old Israeli fishing law had several clarifications added, including redefining "fish" as "any water animal, whether it is a fish or not a fish, including sponges, shellfish, turtles and water mammals".
  • The ATF used to define a machine gun as any firearm that shoots more than one shot per pull of the trigger. This was quickly changed to define a machine gun as any firearm that functions automatically after some enterprising rules lawyers tried to make machine guns with no triggers.
  • In most jurisdictions, the penalties for fraud are less than the penalties for selling drugs, inadvertently encouraging people to try selling Beat Bags. Some jurisdictions patch this by specifying that selling fake drugs carries the same penalty as selling the actual drug would have, and in some cases is even considered the same crime.
  • Arkansas used to permit (or more specifically, not ban) adopting families to "re-home" their adopted child without ever contacting the Department of Human Services. This quickly changed in 2015 when a case of this resulted in one of the children in such a situation being raped by their new foster-father, and was certainly not helped by the fact that the person to do the re-homing was a state legislator at the time.
  • In the U.S., it was at one point common for a divorcing couple to avoid the Divorce Assets Conflict by settling all the money stuff right away...only for the person making payments (usually the husband) to skip down over to the federal courthouse to declare bankruptcy. This would wipe out a good portion of equitable distribution, among other things. Congress therefore patched this by banning the practice in 2005.
  • In most US states the age of consent is 16 or 17, so anyone who has relations with a partner under the age of 18 risks jail - unless the age difference is small. Per Wikipedia "Some jurisdictions have passed so-called "Romeo and Juliet laws", which serve to reduce or eliminate the penalty of the crime in cases where the couple's age difference is minor and the sexual contact would not have been rape if both partners were legally able to give consent." So an 18 year old who is dating a 16 or 17 year old doesn't risk jail.
  • It has been tradition for a U.S. president to serve only two terms since George Washington... until Franklin D Roosevelt ran (and won) for four terms. Soon after FDR died early in his fourth term in office the 22nd Amendment was put in place allowing only two terms per president.
  • The city of Hialeah, Florida outlawed animal sacrifices in order to prevent practitioners of Santería (a Caribbean religion that, among other things, uses animal sacrifices in some of its ceremonies) from opening a church. This one was so blatant that the law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was religious discrimination.
  • Enough enterprising law school graduates filed for bankruptcy to discharge their student loans that Congress changed bankruptcy laws to make student loan debt non-dischargeable. There is now a movement to change the rules back, or even to abolish tuition at US public universities altogether, because of how much many students are having to borrow to pay for college. (Note that in most Western countries, tuition is indeed free.)
  • The nation of Israel has a law that foreign lawyers are not permitted to appear in their courts. When infamous Nazi Adolf Eichmann was tried, the courts realized that no Israeli lawyer would defend him, and made an exception for capital cases. This law was only used for Eichmann himself, as he was the only person ever to receive the death penalty in Israel.
  • In the United States of America, the legal age of consent varies between 16 and 18, depending on the statenote . According to U.S. Federal Law, taking a minor into a state where the Age of Consent is lower for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse if the minor in question is under the Age of Consent in their home state is considered statutory rape.
  • For the longest, the Americans with Disabilities Act didn't define what a "service animal" was. Cue a lot of people (with disabilities or otherwise) bringing their whatevers into public places, claiming them as "service animals". After a long time of this, in about 2010, ADA was changed to define "dogs and miniature horses" as recognized service animals. Unfortunately, while it did help in some circumstances, people with service animals still face the fallout from before the rule patch.
  • The abdication of the Japanese emperor Akihito in 2019 also required a one-off law, and it is far more complex than its British counterpart. This is because:
    • Akihito abdicated on good terms (the reason is at 85, he's too old and frail for a constitutional monarch), so there's a necessity to create the position of Emperor Emeritus, which was abolished during the Meiji Restoration to avoid Just the First Citizen. A lot of the law deals with establishing the positions of Emperor and Empress Emeritus, their legal treatment, and their government grants;
    • Naruhito's heir is his brother Fumihito. Technically, Prince Fumihito is only heir presumptive, since Naruhito could theoretically have more children, one of whom could be a son and thus displace Fumihito in the succession; Fumihito thus cannot be made Crown Prince, since that title is reserved for an heir apparent who cannot be displaced. However, as Naruhito was 59 at his accession, has only one child (a daughter), and is extremely unlikely to have any sons (given that his wife was also in her late 50s at accession), Fumihito is de facto the heir apparent—in the reasonably likely event he outlives his brother (Fumihito is five years younger), he will be the next Emperor. The current law, while allowing this succession, does not say anything about the treatment of a de facto heir apparent who is not a Crown Prince. The law established Fumihito will be treated as if he was the Crown Prince.
    • Tax laws already provides an inheritance tax waiver for the transfer of the imperial regalia as a result of a demise of crown. But in this case, Akihito is still alive, which means those are gifted to Naruhito instead, which causes a new tax trouble. The law provides this act of gifting is also free of the Gift Tax.note 

    Other Rules 
  • The children's game Tag never had many rules in the first place. But if there's one rule that does get applied, it's going to be "no tag backs", meaning that you can't tag the person who last tagged you if you're "it". Considering most games of tag tend to descend into anarchy anyway, this only helps so long.
  • Even science and math have been known at various times to have Obvious Rule Patches. A couple of the famous ones:
    • Euclid's Elements, which was the geometry textbook for 2,000 years, begins by assuming some axioms and postulates that are obvious enough to make a solid foundation — with one exception. Euclid's fifth postulate is clumsy and not at all self-evident. Countless mathematicians over the years tried to derive the "parallel postulate" from the others instead of assuming it. But the old Greek's intuition was right. The postulate can't be proven or disproven that way; if you choose a contradictory postulate, you get a "non-Euclidean" geometry that's perfectly consistent but describes some surface other than a flat plane (to which Euclidean postulates apply). Attempts to deduce the 5th Postulate did lead to the discovery of a number of equivalent postulates that, when added to the other four, also produce the normal Euclidean results.
    • Bertrand Russell essentially broke set theory with his paradox: is "the set of all sets that are not members of themselves" a member of itself? To escape this paradox, mathematicians had to put restrictions on what constituted a set. The current system basically says no set can be a member of itself — anything big enough to do that is too big to be a set, and has to be a "proper class" or some such. Some mathematicians find this unsatisfying, and the debate over whether there's a better solution continues. The underlying nature of Russell's paradox unfortunately indicates that any better solution will also need to be logically "patched".
    • Should the number 1 be counted as a prime number? There's a case to be made either way, and in fact it was widely considered prime for a while, per the classic definition ("a number whose only factors are itself and 1"). But 1 doesn't act like a prime in most of the ways we need primes to act; in particular, it has to be left out if we want the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic to work. Thus we now define primality in ways that are less intuitive but exclude 1, such as "a number with exactly two factors" (and hence, 0 is right out).
    • The cosmological constant was an obvious rule patch in Einstein's Theory of Relativity, originally added to hold back gravity from crunching space-time, because Einstein had a personal preference for a static universe. Later it was discovered that the Universe isn't static at all, but is actually expanding - so the constant was patched again, this time with good reason! Except now the universe's expansion seems to be accelerating, and one proposed solution is at least very similar to the cosmological constant.
    • This is essentially why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. In 1992 when the Kuiper belt was discovered in the same region it became apparent that Pluto was not particularly special compared to many of the other objects close to it and defining Pluto as a planet would mean many more objects would also have to be classified as planets. This is actually the second time this has happened; in 1801, Ceres, a planet between Mars and Jupiter was discovered, but fifty years later several other planets where discovered in the same region, leading scientists to rename them asteroids and the region the asteroid belt. Classifying Pluto as a planet would at the very least mean reclassifying Ceres as a planet, but also probably most of the dwarf planets in both regions.
    • Thermodynamics has a First, Second, and Third law...and later they added a Zeroth Law.
  • Caltrops are banned in all barracks on Fort Benning, Georgia.
  • "Catapults, Trebuchets, and Other Siege Machinery" are banned in the dormitory areas at Texas A&M University.
  • The White House website under Barack Obama allows people to post petitions (the "We the People" system), and if a petition garnered 25,000 signatures, then it would get an official response. After people started posting obvious troll petitions (Such as "Build a Death Star") as well as divisive and somewhat disturbing ones (e.g. "deport Piers Morgan" or petitions to secede from the Union) but with enough signatures, the White House required 100,000 signatures for a response.
    • And of course one of the first petitions under the new rules was to reduce the number of signatures required to consider a petition back to the old limit.
    • Incidentally, the White House's official response to the Death Star petition was amusingly tongue-in-cheek, making points such as "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that could be exploited by a one-man starship?"
    • Hilariously, the petition by Americans to the Obama administration demanding the deportation of Piers Morgan led to a petition by British citizens to their own government demanding that they refuse to accept Piers Morgan back.
  • Happened even in Ancient Greece: Plato was trying to come up with a definition for "man", and eventually settled on "a featherless biped", a definition that many of his peers praised him for. Diogenes, seeing a flaw in the logic, proceeded to pluck a chicken, bring it to Plato and declare "Behold! I have brought you a man!" Plato's definition was quickly updated with "...with broad, flat nails".
  • "Kickstarter Projects cannot offer genetically modified organisms as a reward".
  • The Oxford Union, the student debating society at Oxford University, does not allow dogs, but is not permitted by law to prohibit guide dogs or police dogs from entering the premises. This is the reason for Rule 51: "Any Member introducing or causing to be introduced a dog into the Society's premises shall be liable to a fine of £5 inflicted by the Treasurer. Any animal leading a blind person shall be deemed to be a cat. Any animal entering on Police business shall be deemed to be a wombat. Any animal that the President wishes to exempt from the Rule shall be deemed to be a mongoose." There was an attempt a few years ago to have this rule removed on the basis that it discriminated against the blind, but the motion was overwhelmingly voted down by members in the best-attended debate of the term.
  • The Villains Wiki is supposed to be website about villains, but many users kept adding characters that are not really villainous but just jerks so they could complain about characters they don't like (some such characters that made it onto the wiki include Patrick Star, Princess Bubblegum, and the Titans from Teen Titans Go!). As a result, these articles eventually ended up getting deleted and the mods added a new rule that only truly villainous characters are allowed in the wiki.
  • Billboard has done this many times to its flagship chart, the Hot 100, to reflect changes in airplay, single purchases (obviously adding in downloads when they first took off), and later adding in other Web factors such as streaming, YouTube, and Spotify. One of the more notable changes was in late 1998, when songs were allowed to chart even if they did not have physical singles; this had previously resulted in many songs ranking high on the Hot 100 Airplay chart despite being ineligible for the Hot 100.
  • Billboard also changed the Hot Country Songs many times:
    • In 2004, both "Somebody" by Reba McEntire and "Girls Lie Too" by Terri Clark were involved in payola schemes, where several stations played the songs incessantly during the dead of night to force them to the #1 position on Hot Country Songs (which succeeded). Once Billboard found out about the manipulation, the chart formula was altered to determine audience listener impressions proportionate to each spin of a song, instead of just counting the spins themselves.
    • The rules for songs entering recurrent rotation (i.e., being taken off the charts after a certain threshhold) were constantly tweaked over time. For most of The '90s, songs over 20 weeks old would be removed from the charts if they were below the #30 position and decreasing in airplay, which was generally not a problem due to the charts moving much faster back then — almost no songs before about 1998 spent more than 20 weeks on the charts, and it was not rare for a former Top 5 hit to be well below #40 by the time its 20 weeks were up. But over time, slower radio turnover often resulted in massive chart logjams, as former Top 3 hits would often linger in the mid-20s on their way down, thus preventing lower songs from ascending more quickly. One of the first such examples was "Just to See You Smile" by Tim McGraw, which took nearly three and a half months to descend from the #1 position (stretching from February-June 1998) before finally going recurrent. The problem of songs lingering near the cutoff range persisted even when the range was raised to #25 starting February 20, 1999, #20 on January 13, 2001, then to #15 in 2003, but raising it to #10 in 2006 finally seemed to do the trick. In addition, a spate of rapid ascents and descents in 2008 (most prominently "Should've Said No" by Taylor Swift and "All I Want to Do" by Sugarland, both of which climbed and fell so fast that they were near the #30 range by their 20th week — runs that would've been far more common in the mid-90s) resulted in the recurrent rule getting a further amendment: songs below #10 that fall for three consecutive weeks are now taken off automatically, regardless of how old they are.
    • Several other changes were made starting with the January 13, 2001 chart. After a ton of album cuts swamped the bottom of the charts in 2000 (most notably, "Let's Make Love" by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill racked up so many weeks as an album cut that it actually passed the 20-week threshhold and fell off before re-entering upon its official single release), the number of positions shrank from 75 to 60 and as a result, songs had their tally of total weeks on the chart refactored to count only weeks spent at #60 or higher (a rule that particularly benefited Gary Allan's "Right Where I Need to Be", as knocking its total number of weeks from 23 to 16 allowed it to keep climbing and eventually reach Top 5). Also, due to a vast number of Christmas songs flooding the charts at the turn of every year (nearly everything below #30 on the first chart of 2000 was a Christmas song), the rules were changed around the same time so that Christmas songs could only chart once, ever.
    • The bigger change came in 2012, when the country chart and a couple others were refactored similarly to the Hot 100: into a "main" chart factoring in downloads, streaming, and non-genre-specific airplay akin to the Hot 100; and one that kept the "old" formulation of only tabulating genre-specific airplay. This has been a Broken Base for chart watchers and music fans alike, especially in country, where the "new" charts are dominated by heavy hitters such as Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Sam Hunt, who set new chart records constantly despite doing so in ways that are in no way congruent to the previous record holders. To their credit, Billboard still treats the airplay-only chart as its own entity (still ranking new chart records and acknowledging songs that top it), as opposed to treating it like a little-known component chart like Hot 100 Airplay/Radio Songs. Also, American Country Countdown switched back to using the Country Airplay chart in August 2017, having previously switched to Mediabase in 2009.
    • In November 2016, another patch was made to the recurrent rules on Country Airplay, due to more complex reasons. Billboard and Mediabase have significant overlap in the stations surveyed for their country airplay charts, but each publication has different rules on how positions are determined, and when songs can fall off. As the Mediabase charts are easier to manipulate, this means that many songs get a massive push to #1 on that chart, then freefall the next week (songs on Mediabase have to fall for three consecutive weeks before they are removed from the charts, regardless of how old they are). On Billboard, such pushes usually translated to either a.) the song hitting #1 and then plummeting to the #8-#10 range the next week, or b.) the song only getting to #2 or #3 and then falling completely off the charts the next week. But when Justin Moore's "You Look Like I Need a Drink" became the first song ever to fall off the Country Airplay chart from the #1 position, Billboard changed its rules so that songs can no longer fall entirely from the #1 position, and songs that "have a bullet" (i.e., are gaining in airplay) in the #2-#5 positions cannot fall entirely off the chart if they completely freefall the next week.
    • In 2003, for the first time, a song had to be put back on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart because it had suddenly gained in airplay after disappearing from the charts. Specifically, it happened to "Almost Home" by Craig Morgan: the song decreased in airplay after its 20th week, and was thus taken off the charts after only peaking at #33. However, stations suddenly started playing it again, so Billboard had no choice but to put it back on the charts three weeks later, a move which allowed it to ascend to #6 over the next few weeks. Since then, Billboard has reinstated songs that have a sudden gain in airplay after disappearing, but only in a couple of cases has it been beneficial in the long run.
  • Insurance companies specifically require that bank vaults have alarm systems before insuring them against theft, in response to a bank heist that worked specifically because the bank and the insurance company had thought there was no need to put an alarm on a supposedly invulnerable bank vault.
  • In October 2018, Microsoft discontinued the SAM Lock Tool, also known as "Syskey". The utility was originally meant as a security measure, but was rarely used for legitimate purposes and instead used almost exclusively by tech support scammers to lock out their victim's computers.
  • During a Tough Mudder mud run event in 2013, one participant died after jumping into a pool of water. While it remains dubious as to how he died, most obstacle course races took steps to correct the possibility of such a death happening again. If a course features water diving at all, a rescue diver will be wading in the pool to pull up anybody who doesn't come up fast enough. In addition, if a course has water that's not deep enough, racers will be told not to dive in. And in all cases, if a racer dives headfirst into water, regardless of why, they're disqualified; the companies that run these courses don't want anyone to get ideas.
  • In response to people trying to weasel out of deals that involve signing multiple forms (like closing a mortgage) to close because their name is written out slightly differently in one of them, it is not unheard of for an additional form to be included that states that for the purpose of this business deal, "John Smith", "Jonathon Smith", "John H Smith", "John Henry Smith" (and various other possible permutations) are the same person.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: