This is a term used with increasing frequency as corporations attempt to lure new customers in with grandiose promises while detracting from their very basic rights. It is most often applied to computer software and other items in digital format such as digital music (Windows Media comes to mind) and eBooks.

The implication of the statement is that the large print

"FREE MUSIC DOWNLOAD, LISTEN WHENEVER AND WHEREVER YOU WANT!!"

often doesn't correspond to the small print

"You grant us permission to access, extract and upload (i) Music-related data as part of the listening-enhancement process and (ii) data relating to any program that we, in our reasonable discretion, determine interferes with the proper operation of officially licensed software for the decoding of the downloaded audio stream(s). You may not use this audio stream except with officially licensed software nor may you transport this data off of the original device to which it was downloaded. You may not share this data with anyone nor produce any copies. All copies of this digital music are owned by us and your license to retain a single copy of this digital audio may be revoked at any time. This digital audio cannot be listened to by anyone other than the licensee. Violation of this agreement can result in five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, for each infringement."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act now makes it completely legal. The sad part about this is that the EULA which limits your rights usually cannot be read until the item has been purchased and used in some manner that would void the possibility of return. The end result is that persons who do not agree to the terms have no recourse.
I searched the 'net for this quote, and I'm surprised at how many people have attributed it to "anonymous". I recognized it immediately as a line from the 1976 Tom Waits song, "Step right up", from the "Small Change" album. I'm not sure he's the first person to have said it, but it seems a good bet.

The song is an indictment of advertising ploys which reflects Tom's personal anti-commercial music philosophy. In fact, he won a 2.6 million dollar lawsuit against Frito-Lay for using an imitation (including a singer who did a fair impression of Tom's raspy singing style) of this very song in one of their television commercials.

The Large Print Giveth...
... and the small print taketh away.

Example:

The sign above the soda pop advertised "5 12-PKS. for $10.00" . There was some smaller writing underneath but I figured that was just a notice that I would have to use my card. I picked up a pack of root beer and a pack of ginger ale. When it was totaled at the checkout I noticed that I'd been charged full price. I'd used my card so I asked her what was going on.

She informed me that I had to have a coupon from the local newspaper and the sale didn't start until Saturday. I said, "Forget it then, I don't want it." Then I added, "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away."

I had always wanted to use that line since I had heard it. She cocked her head to one side and looked at me with a puzzled look and then put the 12-packs under the counter. I looked back at the customer behind me for a response but I was met with a blank stare. Subtle body language told me to move it along you cheap punk. On my way out I checked the small print under the sign and she was right.

Morals:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There is no free lunch.
Live and Learn

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