Can companies absolve themselves of all legal accountability?‏

All my life I’ve seen disclaimers supposedly absolving companies and individuals of any liability from their daily activities. Can companies really legally declare they’re not responsible for any damage, injury or negligence on their part simply by posting a sign on their property or a phrase in their contractual agreement? As an individual, could I disclaim my accountability for, say, a fender bender by displaying a bumper sticker saying I’m not responsible for any fender benders? It seems to me these are really only scare tactics designed to fend off lawsuits from people without legal backgrounds. I know that when it comes to the law nothing is absolute but it seems to me you can’t avoid liability simply because you say you’re not responsible. Am I naive or is there inherent binding accountability built into the daily affairs of business?

You have seen the granddaddies of the “Magic Words” which make you immune to criminal law, taxation, etc.

That disclaimer at the parking garage: “Not Responsible, yadda, yadda” works about as well as the “Free Man on the Land” nonsense.

You are responsible for whatever a court finds you responsible.

Some magic words work.

“EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.” is valid. It disclaims warranty in a way a court actually cares about. Practically all software comes with this verbiage.

“ALL COPYRIGHTS ACKNOWLEDGED” or similar is not valid. It does not make it legal for you to do things which would be illegal without it. Acknowledging copyrights is, from my fairly close scrutiny of copyright law, a complete no-op: It doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on what would actually happen if a copyright owner came after you.

“NO COPYRIGHT INTENDED” is just gibberish. It can’t do anything because it doesn’t mean anything. (It isn’t a public domain dedication, BTW: It’s an attempt to get around the part of copyright law which restricts redistribution. Yes, that even restricts non-profit distribution. No, your oh-so-original objection is not valid. No. Wrong. Sorry. Next case.)

“ALL TRADEMARKS PROPERTY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS” is also not valid. (I’m willing to be convinced, but only by actual case law or similar.)

The upshot is, some “Magic Words” have been endowed with a modicum of legal effect due to statute law or custom upheld by case law or similar. Most of the formulae you see online, however, are just pointless incantations which wouldn’t do anything worthwhile in court.